Some mothers choose to breastfeed their children for longer than a year. They do it to connect with their children. A photographer from Florida wanted to focus on these mothers with her new black and white series.
Natalie McCain’s collection shows her subjects breastfeeding toddlers and even elementary school aged children. The series is called, “We are Not “Still” Nursing, We are Just Nursing”. She includes stories from the parents who talk about the backlash they received, but also about their bonding experience with their children.
The series “We are not “still” nursing, we are just nursing” shows mothers who choose to continue breastfeeding after their child’s first year.
The photographer, Natalie McCain, is the creator of The Honest Body Project which celebrates women’s bodies and aims to help them to be happy and comfortable in their own skin.
One mother said:
“From the outside, breastfeeding a child who isn’t a baby anymore may seem strange. But as the mom nursing a child this long, I can tell you it just feels like another stage of nursing following the one before it. I’ve held this child and nursed her day after day since the day she was born and though over time she has gotten bigger and heavier and nursing has changed she is still my baby girl and it still feels just as right as it did the first time I nursed her.”
Natalie nursed her own children until they were toddlers and she hopes that her photos will teach people not to be judgmental of the mothers who choose to practice extended nursing. Nursing past 12 months is called extended nursing and it is a controversial topic even though doctors will agree that the practice has no negative effect on the child. The American Academy for Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continue offering breast milk with solid foods for the first year.
For some mothers, they choose to breastfeed for years. Natalie wants to show others that extended breastfeeding is natural.
Natalie says, “I personally nursed my children while they were toddlers and I can speak from experience when I say it is a very natural, beautiful thing. It’s time we support one another. What works for one family may not work for [another], but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.?”
“My hope with this series is that it will open the eyes of many who are wrongfully judgmental towards extending nursing, also knows as full term nursing,” she added.
“Find something you’re passionate about that will make a difference in the world. Fight a good fight. Work for a good cause. There are so many other things that energy could be used towards that could make this world a better place. Being offended by a child breastfeeding is not one of them,” urged one breastfeeding mom.
“Nursing has given my children and I special bonds that I hope we carry with us forever. We have made memories that I think will last a lifetime and we’ve made some health benefits that will also last a lifetime,” this mother explained.
Doctors will agree that there are no negative health effects on children who breastfeed past the age of one.
“Normalizing breastfeeding is important because no parent should feel ashamed or judged about how they are nourishing their child. With that being said, normalizing formula feeding is also an important issue. No parent should feel like they need to hide, cover, or sit in a bathroom to feed their child,” another mother shared.
Breastfeeding for one year will reduce breast and ovarian cancer in mothers and boost immune systems in children. Adults, who were breastfed as babies, are less like to be obese or have type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding also promotes bonding between the mother and the child.
“Extended breastfeeding is something that has empowered me to stand up for my beliefs,” said one mother.
“Sadly, many women who choose to do this find themselves having to hide or defend their decision. There is nothing more natural than a mother breastfeeding her child, and the fact that THIS is something people choose to get worked up over, despite all the other horrific stuff going on in the world, will always baffle me.”
“Since I have started the weaning process, I have been experiencing severe anxiety,” said still another mom.
“I feel so ready to have my body back and to find myself again as a woman who is also a mother. To cut that sweet nursing bond and move on to the next phase of mothering. If I think about what it will be like when I am not breastfeeding my son anymore, my chest starts to get tight, my heart races and I feel like I can’t breathe. Full on panic attack symptoms. It stops when I tell myself that it is okay to nurse him. That we won’t wean for another week. For now, we are down to once a day or every other day. He has gone two days without nursing and he is totally fine, but I am a wreck. Multiple times a day, everyday for two years I have had a wonderful boost of oxytocin released into my brain every time my son nurses. Weaning is a big adjustment, for both of us. We will keep slowly and respectfully weaning.”
“I never in a million years imagine my son would be three and a half years old and still asking for ‘milks’ daily. There are some mornings he wakes me up in a very loud abrupt manner, and the selfish side of me just wants him to leave me alone. But there are more times when he wakes me up in such a sweet loving way, snuggles up next to me, and in the cutest voice ever, tells me he can smell my milk and asks if he can “please pretty pretty pretty pretty please have milks”. He could be in the worst of moods but as soon as I let him enjoy his milks, all is well in his little world and it sets a much more positive tone to his day,” this mom explained.
“The question that bothers me the most with full term nursing is, ‘When are you going to stop?’ Why do I have to stop? Do we have to have a date in mind? My child feels comforted, she is smart, confident, and independent so nursing isn’t holding her back in any way! She loves to nurse, she loves to be close to me. Let’s face it, all these cute little faces are going to be teenagers one day and want nothing to do with their parents,” one mom stated.
It keeps the mother and child close.
“Last night as I was laying with my almost-22-month-old and he was so excited to “go lay down” and have “milkies”. He started giggling with a giddy joy that you could only smile at. I mean what kid actually looks forward with excitement for bedtime? He starts to rub my arm with such tenderness, as his way of asking me to rub his back. We have developed such a sixth sense of communication through our breastfeeding journey. Then, he unlatches and says with a big smile, “Other side!” As I was laying there I began hearing voices and stories I have heard so many mothers tell: “My mother-in-law keeps saying if they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old for it.’ And I began to wonder as an adult what communication looks like between that mother and her son. I know my husband only calls his mother when I tell him to. I hope that by establishing positive communication early on, my sons will always want to tell me everything. Whether I want to hear it or not, I will always listen.”
Another mother revealed, “It bothers me to hear people say, ‘When they can ask for it, they don’t need it anymore.’ Children ask for nourishment from the second they enter this world. A newborn asks by crying, sucking their lips, and putting their hands in their mouth. An older baby might ask by tapping your chest or signing. And now my toddler asks by yelling “MILKIES” and pulling at my shirt! They ask from day one. They’ve just learned different and more evolved ways as they get older.”
The mothers stressed that they are not forcing their children to breastfeed. Most of the children will decide on their own when they are ready to stop.
“My second child weaned herself,” said one mom. “It was quite a shock too. I was eight months pregnant and looking very much forward to tandem nursing. We were cuddled up where I was reading her a book and nursing her before her nap. She unlatched and sat up abruptly. She looked at me and said, ‘I don’t like it anymore.’ Like that, she was done.”
Another pointed out, “There will be a day when he will no longer choose to nurse, and I trust my son enough to tell me when that will be”.
“When I notice my daughter starting to get worked up, we practice deep breathing and I offer her some mama’s milk. Together they help her feel a sense of confidence that she can tackle the emotions that she is feeling,” said one mom.
Another mother explained that she knows that one day her son won’t want to nurse anymore – and she is happy to wait for him to tell her.
One mother shared her experience:
“Being a single mom, my two sons don’t see the male role in breastfeeding and support. I hope that I have done enough, answered enough, and normalized breastfeeding enough for my sons to be the best breastfeeding-supportive dads they can be. My initial goal for nursing was to just get over the first two weeks which I’ve heard is the biggest hurdle and to go from there. As our nursing journey progressed, I set some milestones, like six months and one year. Once my son reached a year it, dawned on me – why do I have these “goals” for how long I feed and nourish my child? We are almost three years into this breastfeeding journey. I never once had the thought of, ‘I’m going to stop nursing at such and such age.’ Self-weaning is what is working for us. When my son feels he is done is when we are done.”
Still another disclosed her experience with tandem nursing:
“When my son, now two years old, had just turned one, we found out that I was pregnant again. While pumping for my first born, I was always stressed that I wasn’t making him enough milk. He nursed so much when I got home. I wanted to be sure that baby number two had a healthy milk supply, and I wanted to be sure my first born didn’t feel left out, so I decided I would continue nursing and tandem nurse once both babies were here. (My husband was and is 100 per cent behind my breastfeeding goals and desires.) Nursing while pregnant was challenging, it was uncomfortable, sometimes painful. I made less and less milk, and he nursed less, but first thing when I came home, he would come to me, snuggle and suckle and then continue his playing. Once his brother and the full milk arrived, he began nursing more and more. Now we tandem nurse. Sometimes it is too much, I feel all touched out, but then my two-year-old holds his brother’s hand as they nurse and I can’t imagine doing anything different.”
Some children enjoy the close connection with their mothers. One child was even worried her mother’s milk would run out.
“I remember one time we were bringing groceries in and I dropped a carton of milk on the floor – it exploded everywhere – and when my toddler walked in I explained that I spilled a little milk,’ she said. ‘She ran over to the puddle and then ran up to me and held onto my chest. She asked me, “Mama is your milk OK? Did you spill it ALL?” I did my best to explain but she was so worried about my milk being safe that she kept coming back and patting my chest for most of the day after that. It was so sweet to see how much my milk being safe meant to her.”
No woman should be judged for how she chooses to feed her child. Natalie McCain wants to empower women to feel good about themselves and the way they look. The Honest Body Project gives women an outlet to flaunt their figures and share their stories.
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