You Do Make a Difference
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 3, May-June 2001, p. 96
I always knew that I would breastfeed my babies. I was breastfed for about nine months. My mother often told me stories about how great it was and how I was never sick because of breastfeeding. My husband was supportive but knew very little. His mother had never breastfed and in fact, he had never seen a woman breastfeed her baby before! His family seemed curious and willing to learn more about breastfeeding. When Clayton was born, things were great. My father-in-law was embarrassed to see me nurse in front of him but, other than that, nothing was said.
As Clayton grew older the comments started coming. "How long are you going to do that?" "You two need to get out. It's good for your marriage. " "Is he eating any real food yet?' "Is he still sleeping in your bed?" "Why can't he have just one taste of chocolate?" The pressure was on! Even my husband and my mother, my two core support people, questioned extended nursing. Don't count out my pediatrician either. When Clayton was six months old, she wanted him eating solids every day and sleeping through the night. This was a child who still woke every two hours at night and wanted nothing to do with solid food. All I knew was that I was doing what felt right for my baby.
La Leche League provided my monthly re-fueling. I needed that group of women to tell my stories to. I also needed to listen to theirs, so that I wouldn't feel as if I was the only one facing these issues. They helped me to brainstorm ways to answer all of the questions and talk openly with my pediatrician about my feelings. I always left the meetings with books that would help me feel confident in my parenting style. Armed after each meeting with an arsenal of information, I would press on, ready to defend myself at any given moment for my choices.
As the months went by, I started to notice little changes happening around me. My mother called me one day and told me that she had just given a coworker a lecture after she had made a comment about how terrible it was for people to nurse their babies for years. My mother asked her why in our society it is acceptable for babies to carry bottles or pacifiers around for years but not to breastfeed. When Mom told me this story she made the comment that I was starting to "rub off on her."
After that, I started noticing that my husband was making little comments about breastfeeding that amazed me. He would hear about a bottle-fed baby with allergies and say, "She should have breastfed," or he would come home telling me stories about other men that he met whose wives breastfed. This from the man who wanted the floor to open up and eat him the first time that he was in a room with a woman breastfeeding her baby.
My 19-year-old sister-in-law even amazed me one day. We were discussing feeding babies and she told me that after seeing me breastfeed she thinks she might do it when she has children. Even my mother-in-law started to support me. She began asking "real" questions about breastfeeding and even expressed interest in attending a La Leche League meeting to learn more. I've even managed to get my pediatrician to understand my views and support me.
The moral of the story is to stand by your beliefs and follow your heart. Little did I know that something that came so naturally to me would change lifelong opinions of the people in my life. Even in the lives of the people who seem to be your biggest critics, you do make a difference.