Language and Labels
Parents today are inundated by a lot of language about birth, breastfeeding, and parenting. While knowledge is power, a little bit of research or dipping your toes into online parenting groups quickly reveals a whole new world: nursing in public and #brelfies, attachment parenting and baby- wearing, baby carriers, sleep training and cosleeping, extended breastfeeding and baby-led weaning, skin-to-skin and breastfeeding on demand. I’m pretty sure I did some variation of all of these things, but reading just the names makes it all sounds so complicated and difficult! There are so many things to do, and ways to do them… and so many ways to screw it up!
The Pre-Internet Days, the Good and the Bad
I had my first baby before the Internet as we know it, and in some ways I have mixed feelings that I couldn’t Google mastitis at 2 am, or read endless clues on dairy sensitivity, or post a picture on Instagram nursing my toddler at The Museum of Natural History like a #badass. (Actually, the looks I got from my fellow museum- goers while hunkered down in front of the T. Rex with a big-booted two and a half year old attached to my breast may have been the last straw in our “extended breastfeeding journey”. And by “extended”, I mean I was lazy, OK?) I like using the Internet for community and information about parenting for my younger kids- my digital natives- but in a lot of ways, ignorance was blissfully low-pressure.
So I nursed my first until he was almost three. Did I think I was doing something called “extended breastfeeding”? Nope. I read just enough in my trusty Womanly Art of Breastfeeding book to know it was normal, and probably good. He also slept in our bed until he was pretty old (I’ll never admit how old in writing, for the sake of his pride). Did I cosleep? Technically, yes. But at the time I thought of it as survival and what worked for us. Unplanned, one night I got him from his crib to nurse in our bed, and when I woke up in the morning, there he remained…. sleeping like a baby. Angels wept, and so did I, as I instantly saw a future where I spent most of my night topless, but topless in my own bed. It was good, but also fluid and flexible. I had the opportunity to be creative.
There is No One “Right” Way
So many of the questions I hear from families are about the “right” way to eat, labor, birth, feed, sleep, potty-train, wean, get more sleep, vaccinate, discipline. Often their questions are based on a parenting trend that resonates for them in some way. Now, I’ve got some clue. I can troubleshoot and offer strategies, resources, and sometimes (with luck) a concrete solution, or a good explanation of the science behind the very common sense notion that you probably should pick up your baby if they are crying. But what I really want to do is help you ditch the burden of the label, and wear your baby for fun and convenience, keep nursing your baby until it goes from awful to amazing and back again, find an online tribe, and then ignore 80% of what you read. Cherry-pick everything…because you’re the mother (or father) and that is personal, powerful, and imperfect. Believe me, eventually your baby will realize that you’re human and they will love you anyway, maybe even more.