My first son refused the bottle. He was tiny and hungry and nursed round the clock–for months! It didn’t matter if I was at work or out of town–he would only receive nourishment from me (and lucky me, he’s 7 and still just about that stubborn!). My second son was just the opposite: we didn’t know in his early months that he had low muscle tone due to having Fragile X Syndrome, but he would almost exclusively want a bottle and refuse to nurse! He would only snuggle up to my breasts in the middle of the night–a moment I loved and hated at the same time but ultimately learned to cherish.
Breastfeeding ended abruptly for me: my younger son was about to turn 1 when we detected a milk allergy so we quit cold turkey (easy for him, but painful in many ways for me!). And of course, my relationships with both of my boys continued, deepened, and matured as they have grown. I do not regret my breastfeeding choices or circumstances and I do not begrudge or judge anyone hers.
But I do take issue with the man who wrote about breastfeeding from his wife.
While I understand that partners may be curious to try breastmilk, I’d like to go into it a bit more to share why a recent piece on Kveller by a dad talking about his wife “nursing” him is just too much sharing. I’ll respond to his points:
1. It’s oddly sexual. Ummm, NO. Mommas, is this not what we’ve been fighting against for years? Breastfeeding is feeding our babies! Nourishing them! If he calls it sexual we have gone 10 steps backward in our fight to feed our babies in public. Further, Judaism teaches us to be private and to keep what happens in your bedroom in your bedroom (or kitchen floor, couch, or wherever, I’m not judging).
2. It blew up the boring parent routine. I’m not quite sure what to say to that other than, buddy, teach your kids to swim, take them to synagogue to explore their faith, or do just about anything else. Trust me, there are other ways to not feel bored. And if it’s your relationship with your wife that needs to be spiced up, try just about anything else. I’d suggest going out on dates, or cooking a romantic Shabbat dinner (followed by “dessert” – it’s a double mitzvah to have sex on Shabbat!).
3. It made me a better person. Even he’s not so sure about that. I’m all for empathy with his child and an improved relationship with his sibling, but I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do to be better people with this information.
Breastfeeding is a holy and intimate act between a mother and her baby. I cherished my years nourishing my children. I marveled at the awesomeness of my body that it was able to sustain another human being, even if just for a year. Judaism encourages mothers to breastfeed, if they are able, until their baby is 5. And for the rest of our lives, we hope and pray that we are able to nurture and nourish our children in many other holy ways.