You can read my new column at Inside Catholic: Talking Frankly About Ecological Breastfeeding.
But before you do, a few things:
- I was invited to write a column explaining the benefits of a form of breastfeeding known as ecological breastfeeding (EBF) a long, long time ago after I mentioned the term “ecological breastfeeding” in my first (and rather infamous) breastfeeding column over at Inside Catholic. However, I’d had enough debate over breastfeeding for one day (for one lifetime, really) and wanted to broach other topics before tackling this one.
- Still, the column idea kept nagging at me, especially since someone had emailed me after my original breastfeeding article. She was intrigued by EBF and its connection to NFP and wanted to know more. I like sharing “what works for me” tips with other moms (generally only when solicited in real life, but I blabber on this blog), and this form of breastfeeding has always worked very well for my children and me. In fact, I can’t imagine an easier way. Parenting becomes more complicated for me when I can no longer nurse a child to soothe or entertain or feed or distract her. Breastfeeding serves many functions in our home and definitely isn’t just about nutrition. But it’s not because I’m some uber mom. I’m actually rather lazy when it comes to feeding and hate starting solid foods since nursing is so much easier (and less messy). Likewise, I can be pathetically uncreative when it comes to diverting a tenacious toddler (I recently found Todzilla standing in a toilet – yes, standing!) and just freely offer the breast when in doubt (or when in desperation; it’s the only way to get said toddler to be still for oh-five-point-three-minutes or so).
- But that doesn’t mean EBF will work for you or your family or your child (my second daughter was not as avid of a nurser as my other two; reflux made gulping down my generous milk supply uncomfortable at times). And that’s perfectly fine. Don’t even try it if you don’t want to. I say all of this because when I started to snoop around a bit more about EBF after first hearing about it from my Catholic midwife, I learned that it’s one of those topics that can cause people to get a little defensive (which was another reason I kept putting off the article).
- I determined it was finally time to piece together some words and share my experience with EBF – not because I believe it’s the only way to parent or a superior way to parent but because it has blessed my life and helped me to live more in unity with God’s plan for my family (I hope anyway).
- Allow me to go on the record as saying EBF is not about morality. It’s not even one of those gray areas I mentioned here. It can, however, be a beautiful way to complement NFP for some women. But just because I happen to be a fan of EBF doesn’t mean I’m judging women who aren’t. Please, please remember that.
- As I’ve examined some of the EBF backlash, it seems to me that a big source of some of the negativity is self-inflicted. Moms’ favorite go-to accessory is guilt, and they layer it on every chance they get. If a woman tries EBF and it feels like a burden or it doesn’t help to naturally space her babies, the guilt seeps in. She may feel like a failure. She then blames all those obnoxiously happy, EBFing moms who are telling everyone how all their children are spaced exactly 2.5 years apart, and nursing on demand is like heaven on earth for them. Non-EBFers shouldn’t feel like failures (and EBFers shouldn’t portray themselves as poster children for successful, natural mothering), but I understand the temptation to doubt your maternal propensity. I can remember with my first trying desperately to follow the wisdom from so many moms I admired to get her to sleep better and every time she’d wake up or refuse one wink much less forty during naptime, I’d wonder what the heck was wrong with me (or her) instead of appreciating our unique situation and her freaky, superhuman ability to not need sleep all day. Moms sometimes take things personally when they shouldn’t. Or at least I do.
- A lot of EBF proponents say things like it’s a natural way to mother. I’ll stand by that statement. It is a natural way to mother a baby. But if you don’t choose to embrace EBF, this doesn’t imply you’re an unnatural mother. Remember that, too.
- Besides, “natural” doesn’t always mean better. Belladona (more appropriately called deadly nightshade) sprouts naturally from the earth, and it’s highly-toxic. My roundabout point being, if you find yourself morphing into an absolute mombie trying to do EBF, then forget about it. It doesn’t matter how “natural” it is if robs the joy out of mothering for you. (Bear in mind, the term “natural” to me has become more about following God’s will for the way I mother and listening to my God-given instincts than being all green or crunchy.)
Okay, there’s my rapid fire bullets of defense before I even need any. (It’s so nice to have my personal own soapbox.)
Oh, and by the way, since writing that article I’ve started to night wean Mary Elizabeth (who is almost 18 months now) because I need sleep. There are some moms I know who can nurse their babies without waking up at all. Unfortunately, I wake up with each mew, each hand reaching for me, every toe snaking its way up my nostril. No martyrdom for me. It’s time.
And I don’t get those daily naps with my sweet girl either but, oh, how I wish I did.
At any rate, I do hope my column sheds light on the beauty of EBF without piling on guilt for any moms out there. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. I just remember wishing someone had told me more about EBF sooner.
I hope you’ll enjoy the article and the (charitable, I hope) dialogue it inspires. Comments are closed over here, but please do chime in over at Inside Catholic.