The morning cry is the same each day: “Mommy! Milky! Milky! Mommy!” comes the sweet demand from my almost-3-year-old on the baby monitor we still use. I sleep heavily, so my husband first answers the wake-up call. He hurries across the house to our daughters’ room, to the crib to get our little one in hopes that her big sister, 4-1/2, will sleep another half-hour. As dad and daughter return to our room, I wake just enough to snuggle up with my wee one for her morning milk. Mother Nature’s snooze button works like a charm, and the house goes quiet awhile longer.
We did not plan for this extended breastfeeding, at least not this extended. To nurse for about a year simply seemed the norm when my husband and I began this parenting gig.
My oldest nursed til 14 months, when I got pregnant again. I joked that I was a “one-user system,” and we wrapped up our nursing relationship as my belly grew round with Baby #2. There was no struggle around ending our nursing relationship when we did. But sometimes, I feel a little pang that she has no memory of her milky time. She knows her little sister still gets milky, and sometimes she’ll ask me if she can have “pretend milk.” I snuggle her in my arms, close to my heart; she closes her eyes, purses her lips in the air, and makes a little suckling sound. My heart breaks open at the sweetness of it. I tell her stories about the times she nursed, and those conversations–along with a little pretend milky–feel like just the right way to nurture our connection with each other.
Now, with my toddler, it feels just right that she will decide when our nursing relationship is complete. Milky is only in the morning, and some days she is more interested than others. On the rare occasion that I’m not home when she wakes, she moves right along to her breakfast yogurt. And so I have the sense that any day could be our last nursing day. That makes milky in the morning feel like a precious, even sacred, bond between us.
At our house, there’s nothing radical about nursing a toddler. There’s nothing political about nursing a toddler. At its most practical, our extended breastfeeding is a means to steal 20 more minutes of sleep in the morning. (And dear me, I need the extra sleep!) So I was surprised by the recent news that lawmakers in Forest Park, Ga., had put an age limit on breastfeeding in public. Two, it seems, is too old for some folks’ taste.
Over at iVillage, I wrote a post about the details of the ordinance and today’s resulting nurse-in. The short version is this: Lawmakers attempted to carve out an exception for breastfeeding when they drafted language for an ordinance against public nudity. Giving some protection to public breastfeeding seemed like a good impulse, even if setting an age limit seemed a little misguided. After all, by age 2–the limit set by Forest Park and other nearby communities–the vast majority of children in our country no longer nurse. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization do, however, encourage breastfeeding well into the toddler years, so Forest Park council members are out of step with current medical advice there. But still, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Then today, as I read coverage of how more than 200 mamas peacefully and respectfully protested the Forest Park ordinance (nicely done, mamas!!), I came across this quote:
“This ordinance allows any lady that is breastfeeding a child up to 2 years old. After that of course, we might want to have a discussion with them, but it doesn’t affect that type of conduct at all,” City Manager John Parker said after the vote.
“We might want to have a discussion with them.”
That’s where you lost me, Forest Park, and your benefit of the doubt. A mother, feeding her child–what could there possibly be to discuss?
Lawmakers still have a chance to get this right. They meet to finalize the ordinance on June 6 … which also happens to be the date of the next Forest Park nurse-in.