I would like to warn you this post is about breastfeeding.
I understand not everyone has the same views on breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public. This post is about something I recently experienced. These are my opinions, and I hope that you respect them, even if you don’t agree, as I respect yours.
At the end of November 2012 our zoo welcomed a new member to the elephant family. This is the second child of two of our elephants, this one a girl named Lilly. Elephants will nurse exclusively for the first three months. After a year the young elephant has the ability to feed itself independently but will still nurse till around three years of age. It is thought that suckling after two years helps maintain growth rate and body condition.
Since Lilly is still less then nine months she is still nursing fairly regular.
The other week the boys and I were visiting the zoo and were inside the elephant exhibit. We have a building where we can go inside to observe them, usually eating and this is where we went.
Also watching the elephants were two women who had at least four children between them, one was still an infant less then three months old. The others were a girl around the age of 10 and two kids about 3 and 5. I don’t know their story, or if there was other kids with them. These are just the ones I saw them interacting with. I do know that the older woman was mother to the three older kids, at least, by the way she was addressing them and the things she said.
This woman, the older one, talked in a very loud patronizing voice. The kind of voice that she thinks she is educating and helping, but really just comes off as condescending.
I couldn’t help but notice these things and think about them while trying to watch the elephants because she was just so loud and made her self known to everyone.
Now, the reason I bring this up is because while sitting there watching the Ian and the elephants this woman exclaims “Look, [someone’s name]! It’s her TEET! The baby elephant is feeding! OH MY GOD! Isn’t it the most beautiful thing? Come look!” She was practically yelling it, and the room echos.
It made me feel embarrassed. And she wasn’t even talking to me, or about me.
My baby is still breastfeeding and is under a year old. I have always thought it very important that babies get breast milk till at least a year old. By the time they no longer need milk as a meal, and their bodies can digest cow’s milk, it is the time to ween them off mother’s milk.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age, and then to breastfeed with the addition of foods until at least two years of age. The main reason for this recommendation is due to the antibodies that are passed from mother to child through breast milk, and to maintain adequate nutrition.
My personal belief, remember this is my opinion, is that it is not necessary after a year. My children get adequate nutrition from their diet and we don’t live in an area with out appropriate medical care. So I have made the decision to completely ween my children off breast milk after twelve months.
That doesn’t mean that on their first birthday I cut them off. It is a gradual process, with Ian it took a two months. But shortly after that we also eliminated bottles, so there was no need for it.
I think everyone who can, should breastfeed their babies. Again my opinion, but I don’t judge those who have decided it is not for them, or who simply can’t. You have to do what you think is best and what works for your family.
I think breastfeeding is great, and wonderful, and yes also beautiful. But I also think it is something personal between a mother and her baby.
This is why I had such an issue with this woman and her drawing attention to the nursing elephant. I wouldn’t want someone to walk by me while I was feeding my baby and shout and point at us.
I agree, that it was wonderful and amazing that the baby elephant was nursing, but I could help but feel that I was invading their privacy. That we were all intruding on something so personal.
OK, yes I understand that elephants don’t understand English, and these ones are used to people standing on the other side of the glass watching them, but that doesn’t mean we have to be evasive of their personal lives. Does it?
I am pretty sure the elephants didn’t notice or minded. But I couldn’t help but think that if I had tried to breastfeed Sid while sitting there, she would have made a big deal of it, or at least drawn attention to the fact. I know crazy thoughts, but what else do expect from me.
We just ended World Breastfeeding Week (Aug 1-7) and it got me thinking about all these issues.
It is hard enough for us mothers to breastfeed that others shouldn’t also make it social awkward for us. Especially if we are nursing in public and accidentally have a some boob showing!