Angela’s Story – Stepping in to fill a need

BWDBF-Angela002I am a 44 year old wife and mother of five children and grandmother of two grandchildren. My daughters are 22, 20, 19, and 2 years old. My son is 16 years old and my grandchildren are 2 years old and 6 months old, respectively. I teach a Virtual Online English as a Second Language class through our local college (I work from home) and have recently ventured into the crazy world of blogging. I breastfed all of my children for different lengths of time. With my first daughter, I can’t remember why I decided that I wanted to breastfeed. See, in my family, I have this knack for doing the very thing that no one else has done like when I was in the fourth grade, instead of playing the piano like my father wanted me to, I chose to play the violin. When my children became school-age, instead of sending them to public school, I chose to homeschool. So, in keeping with my oh-so-defiant personality, I probably chose to breastfeed because it wasn’t expected. However it came about, once I decided to do it there was no turning back. But I didn’t have the support that I thought I would have from my family. My mother didn’t like the fact that she couldn’t help feed her granddaughter and many people were uncomfortable with me nursing around them, always wanting to send me to the back of the house away from everyone or to the bathroom. After the second, third, and fourth child, my family got the message that nursing was just a part of who I was as a mother and nothing was going to discourage me against it, no matter how uncomfortable it made them feel.

When my oldest daughter became pregnant, it took quite some convincing to get her to try to nurse. I don’t think it was because she didn’t want to but because she tends to be more concerned about other people’s opinion and the thought of having to nurse around people who sometimes criticized it was a little scary. Then, I found out that I was pregnant, too! Can you imagine the hormones going around in our family? It wasn’t a pretty sight, to say the least. But, I had to set aside the first few months of my pregnancy to focus on supporting her through the end of her pregnancy. So, after she gave birth to my grandson, I arranged for her to meet with a lactation specialist to help answer any questions she had and to help her to get comfortable nursing. I know, many may ask, “Why consult a specialist when you had nursed four children of your own?” But, we all know that sometimes the information is received much better coming from a stranger than coming from Mom. Besides, it was more important for me to get her the support she needed than to prove that “Momma knew best”. She did great breastfeeding and became a pro at pumping milk, something I was never successful at doing when they were younger. She decided that she would nurse for a year but I did my best to convince her to nurse longer so that she wouldn’t be tempted to introduce cow’s milk to my grandson…at least not until after two years old, if ever. I’m happy to report that, two years later, she still nurses my grandson!

After I had my baby, it was interesting to have both of us nursing our babies at the same time. The men in our family had to get used to it very quickly, and they did. Then, one day, my daughter wanted to go out with her friends and asked her sisters and I to watch my grandson. When it became time for bed, he became irritable and kept crying. I had already gotten my daughter to go to sleep so I did what came natural to me…I nursed my grandson and he went right to sleep. When I told my daughter what I had done, I was expecting a “Thanks, mom. I appreciate that.” But, NO! That is NOT what I got from her at all. She began to say how weird that was and that she didn’t want me to nurse her son and that it was nasty. I replied, “Are you serious right now? So, you would be more comfortable with me giving him milk from another ANIMAL but not milk from your mother…a HUMAN!” To make a long discussion short (because we still debate about it to this day) she could not get over the fact that her son was nursing from his grandmother. Not because she was concerned about the safety or quality of my milk. Nor was she concerned about him getting confused. She was more concerned at how it looked to other people and the fact that he was a boy. Despite her being a breastfeeding mother, herself, she still viewed a woman’s breast as a sexual object and not what God intended them to be. But like I told her, if I watch him and you’re gone too long and he gets hungry, I’m not feeding him something that I wouldn’t feed my own children so if you don’t want me to nurse him…don’t be gone long.

When my other daughter had her baby, she didn’t think twice about whether she would nurse or not. But as we all know, things never go as we plan them. My granddaughter was born a month premature so when my daughter tried to nurse her in the hospital, she wouldn’t latch on very well and her weight was declining. So, I didn’t even think twice…I would nurse the baby so that her weight would be good enough for us to take her home.BWDBF-Angela-001 I had no doubt that my daughter would be able to feed her baby, but I just did what it took to get the baby home because I knew my daughter would not be able to handle leaving the baby in the hospital. But as confident as I was at making the choice to nurse my granddaughter, I hid that fact from the doctors and nurses. I am not sure why. I think it was twofold. I didn’t want to receive any negative judgment and I didn’t want any pressure placed on my daughter about having to get the baby to latch on. All I was thinking is that once we got home, we could focus on getting the baby to nurse from my daughter. And just as I thought, she started nursing from her with no problems. But that was the least of my daughter’s problems. Her maternity leave from cosmetology school was almost over and my granddaughter would not drink from a bottle. My daughter had to continue school and my granddaughter had to eat. So, for me, there was no other choice but to nurse my granddaughter so that my daughter could finish her education. I don’t think of it as anything special, heroic or even out of the norm. And I don’t do it for any recognition from others or from my daughter. I do it because it was needed…plain and simple. I am not going to pretend that it is always easy nursing two babies at the same time but the demand is no different than what mothers of multiples experience. There are times when I want to just give up nursing because I want my body back. But after I get done throwing myself the best pity-party in the world, I remind myself that 2 or 3 years out of my life is not going to kill me. I will have 40 years or so (God willing) to have my body back but for now, my focus is on the children. By the way, my first daughter, who protested against me nursing her son, has been “caught” nursing her niece while her sister is at school. She did it in the back of the house, not because she was embarrassed. She went in the back so she wouldn’t have to let me feel like I was right. But that’s ok, it’s not important that I be right. I’m just glad that she was willing to overcome her initial feelings to help.

I realize that by sharing my story, that I open myself and my family up for some criticism from those who feel that it’s not natural to nurse children that are not your own. Many of my friends and family members don’t even know that I nurse my grandchildren. But I wanted to share our story in the hopes that it would show the many sides of what breastfeeding looks like. I know that every woman who gives birth will not choose to breastfeed and I know that every woman that chooses to breastfeed will not be comfortable in nursing a baby that is not her own. But we, as a society, should support this natural process instead of making comments and judgments out of a lack of knowledge or familiarity. Let your lack of understanding be an opportunity to have a conversation with a nursing mother/grandmother about why they choose to breastfeed. BWDBF-AngelaTandemSupport the women around you that breastfeed their babies by not giving nasty looks when you see them nursing in public, judging them for nursing another woman’s baby or by not asking them to feed their baby in a nasty restroom. You don’t have to ask her would she like to go in the back to feed her baby or make rude comments because you are uncomfortable with possibly seeing her breast. Instead of doing all of those things, how about just asking her… if she would like a glass of water. I know, after nursing all of the children, I could use one!

 

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14 thoughts on “Angela’s Story – Stepping in to fill a need

  1. Renee says:

    I love this! My family has a long history of nursing one another’s children in the absence of their mother. I shed many tears of joy and pride while reading this blog. I’m so glad that you were courageous enough to share!

  2. Cissy says:

    What an incredible story! Thank you for sharing. My mother was only able to nurse for the first few months for each of her 3 children because lack of information and she is proud that I’m breastfeeding her grandson. I try an educate her on nursing and now she has told me she even encourages new mothers at her job to breastfeed. In my opinion I think what you did your for daughters and grandchild is admirable. What you did sounds completely natural to me. Ive always felt like breastfeeding is a communal affair. We should nurse together, share stories and experiences and encourage one another.
    I’m sure in history families would nurse each others children and it made their bonds stronger. Great post!

  3. stephanie walker says:

    Hello your story is so inspiring to me I joke with my mom whom we are very close if I am gone to long pull out that breast and give my baby some of her powder milk but if she could I would be totally fine with it my son is one month and I have enjoyed this experience to the fullest but my maturity leave will be up and my son will have to take the bottle while I am at and he at the sitter l don’t think that I am ready for that but I have been giving him one bottle a day with breast milk and he takes it will but believe it or not it seems to be hardest thing to do I just wanted to say thanks for your inspiring family story

  4. Mimi says:

    Your story is very hopeful and empowering. I decided to breastfeed my first and only child because I wanted the best for her nutritionally and although I supplement to allow other family members to enjoy in the feeding process I breastfeed 100% when I’m around her and especially when off from work. The bonding time is so special to me as well. It’s an uphill battle with my mother-in-law but she is slowly getting the hint that I’m not budging. I plan to nurse for at least a year. I also plan to nurse all my chiLoren especially if it comes naturally as it did with my first born. I’m four months strong. Pray for me.

  5. Leasha says:

    I love this story. I have breastfed all 7 of my children the longest so far has been 3yrs. I number 7 child was born in Oct of 2014. She is now 6 months. My oldest daughter will be 21 and is going to college and doesn’t want to breastfeed. I told her that I would nurse her baby for her. She seems to be fine with it for now. I just know that women have been doing this since the beginning of time. There were wet nurses back even in the 1800’s also till now they have milk banks. This milk comes from people you don’t even know. At least grandma is a familiar.

  6. Jay says:

    I have to be honest my story is not nearly as inspired as this I simply choose to breastfeed because its free… for practical reasons and its easier … i dont have to worry about storing food when i travel or warming milk up, although i wish people wouldn’t give me dirty looks…. i even use a cover and i try to find a corner but i still get dirty looks

  7. MaShell Terney says:

    Honestly when I read this I was a little confused but I opened my mind and I praise you! I am breastfeeding my first child and it seemedike everyone wanted me to choose formula even my fiancé because he wanted to feed him but I didn’t let anyone discourage me. After reading this blog and this website makes me so motivated to keep going and to nurse my next child! Thank you God bless you and your wonderful family!

  8. Krista says:

    This story is beautiful and inspiring! What a wonderful job you have done nurturing your children and grandchildren. I am a mom of five aged 15-eight months, I have nursed all of them and also nursed my two nieces on occasion. I wouldn’t hesitate to nurse my grandchildren if the need arose! How blessed your family is to have you as their matriarch!

  9. Ashley says:

    I think that’s awesome you were able to feed your grandbabies too . You know what they say “it takes a village “

  10. Shameka Akingbemila says:

    I was wondering, does it come easy for children to nurse on the breast of another women like it does with the biological child once the child has learned how to nurse?

  11. Stephanie Thomas says:

    How amazing you are! Thank God for people with your kind of open mind and perspective. Your motherly instincts kicked in, you did what came natural and it is beautiful. I’m currently nursing my third son who is almost 6 months. With my other boys, I wasn’t able to maintain nursing them past 4 and 6 months due to lack of experience and education- my milk dried up. This time around, I took a different approach and have been nursing, producing and storing thus far and intend to go for AT LEAST a year but hopefully longer. Stories like yours are so encouraging and inspiring. Your love and strength is admirable. ♡♡♡

  12. Micki says:

    Your story is beautiful. Your children and grandchildren truly have a village experience. You are a blessed woman to be healthy and strong enough to nurse despite the negativity that comes from those who should love us the most. Thank you for sharing your story.

  13. Isabel says:

    Whenever I read anything about breastfeeding, especially as embraceful as this story, it makes me proud to still be breastfeeding. My daughter is going to be 18 months, many people around me, including her pediatrician, say I need to detach her because she’s “too old” and no longer receives the nutrition she needed as an infant. She does not want to stop and neither do I, it relaxes us both. It does make me conscious as a mother when everyone says she’s spoiled, or too old to be breastfeeding, or tell me it’s because I’m young (23) and she’s my first so I’m overdoing it….but you breastfed your children, and even your grandchildren! And you talk of it so positively, and I admire that! This story is amazing and gives me pride to even be breastfeeding this long still. Keep up the good work!

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