Reflections on Breastfeeding

I am grateful that my little one got over “mama” (mom’s breast milk) so quickly, even though it is still a big deal for me, emotionally.

As I was reflecting on this wonderful bonding gift that I gave myself and my son, I spotted this article in the guardian.co.uk. I found it because the local radio stations made such a big deal out of it : Salma Hayek breastfed a malnourished African baby while visiting Sierra Leon. The article above links to the actual video. Most commenters agreed that it was so beautiful and natural, but of course to the westernized world this is such a big deal. One commenter even mentioned the dangers of cross-breastfeeding. In Middle Eastern and Islamic culture the practice is not so unusual. So much so that there is a degree of kinship resulting from breastfeeding in Islamic tradition.  A woman who breastfeeds a baby becomes “a mother by nursing” and the child becomes a sibling “by nursing” to all her biological children because he or she was fed from the same breast.  Children who nursed at the same breast are not allowed to intermarry even if they are not biologically related.  I find it interesting that Islamic tradition recognizes the importance of nursing and the kinship that result from it, especially if  you consider that the same culture does not recognize step-brother or step-sister as a valid relationship.

In my family I became a little bit of an oddity, because I breastfed Robert for almost 18 months.  The Islamic tradition recommends two years until weaning, but in my mother’s days the practice was in sharp decline. It was considered somehow less than modern to extend breastfeeding beyond six month. Yes, there were those moms who nursed for much longer, but they were mostly uneducated housebound moms from conservative religious families. I do not know what the practice is like in my birth country today, but it has returned to favour in the west or at least here in South Africa. Even in my playgroup I was not the only mom who chose to extend breastfeeding. Salma Hayek is still breastfeeding her daughter at 12 months, so I am not such an oddity, I am glad.

In the past 17 months I enjoyed almost every aspect of nursing: the closeness, the bonding, and the carefree relaxing time with my son. I failed, however, to appreciate what it physically endowed me with: A perfectly womanly hourglass figure. In the absence of their primary function my breasts have shrunk to their pre-pregnancy size, and I realize with dismay that I am very small, blast that.

Check out this funny video of Salma Hayek in a talk show, talking about insecurities on this particular issue.