“Thanks for the Mammaries”
I remember being a toddler. Breastfeeding was nowhere on my radar. At ages three to five (and before and beyond), I had no awareness of any of my peers being nursed at home or elsewhere.
I didn’t breastfeed at age three. I also didn’t breastfeed at age three hours or age three months, not unlike the majority of my generational comrades. My own home was a warm and attachment-friendly one of course, but breastfeeding was never part of it.
By the time I learned about this breastfeeding thing, I was simultaneously confronted by my society’s belief that kids are inherently incorrigible perverts. That as soon as they realize the female human body is sexual as well as maternal, they stop seeing their mothers as nurturing beings.
These are my own “memories of breastfeeding” that hoped to forever tangle up my understanding of my body’s power; my ability to provide this kind of nurturing to other beings; this confusing dichotomy between the allure of a mother in the eyes of a baby and the allure of her in the eyes of a slightly older child, as demanded and invented by my culture.
Yet these are not the accepted truths of a person who spent time on a mother’s breast.
The older a child is when he finally weans, the more likely he’ll have memories of breastfeeding. Children who talk about their remembered nursing moments later on usually do so with wistful nostalgia, happiness, and gratitude. They don’t forget the associations made with mother’s breast — those of nurturing, comfort, security, and love.
One day MaiTai and I will both outgrow this particular expression of our bond; we’ll no longer breastfeed together, but I imagine the sentiments of admiration, respect and connection will costume themselves in other areas of our relationship. I hope what is generated by this nursing energy won’t vanish, it will repurpose elsewhere.
Where the memories will go, I cannot predict and may never actually find out. But if breastfeeding amnesia exists, I’m sure we’ll be just fine with that. After all, breastfeeding doesn’t teach about the foresight in knowing — it teaches about the grounded art of being.
What MaiTai (aged 2-3) has said about breastfeeding (“nanoo”):
“Doggy wants nanoo, too. Mama, nanoo doggy!” (And every other stuffed animal and truck and Duplex lego…)
“Nanoo is nice. Nanoo is for boys and girls and babies!”
“It’s wiggly! That is funny.”
“Nanoo milk is breast milk and almond milk is not breast milk. I like almond milk.” (Then resumes nursing)
“This side is yucky, and this side is NEW!” (When my milk changed in early pregnancy).
“This one is Mega-Mega and this one is Biggie Biggie!”
(Whispers in my ear) “I…want… naaanoooo.”
“This side tastes like strawberries and that side is like bread milk.”
“Last night, and yesterday, I had two nanoos. One nanoo, two nanoo, three nanoo… oh, not three nanoo.”
“Thanks, Mom and nanoo. I LOVE you, Mom and nanoo.”
At the time of this photo he’d been interested in helping us pay for things with “his pennies.” Usually when I asked what he wanted to buy with his penny, he said “Nom-noms!” (snacks). Before I snapped this picture he answered “Nanoo!” I told him it’s free and he doesn’t need to pay me for nanoo. He threw his head back in laughter, said “Okay mama!” and told me to hold his penny, then latched on.
Read more on this topic in my child-led weaning awareness series:
- Pt. 1: Weaning Before Age One
- Pt. 2: Common Weaning Concerns
- Pt. 3: Nursing Older Infants & Toddlers
- Pt. 4: What People Say
- 10 Differences Between Nursing an Infant & a Toddler