After a child turns a certain age, whenever I leave the West coast I feel pressure and even a certain amount of communal disgust that I would nurse a baby who can eat, walk, hold a bottle, ask for it. It doesn't phase me anymore, and I trust my decisions about what best supports my children's development and the flow of our family life. And I always travel with a scarf or a shawl.
I've also heard gruff reminders that question under their breath the choices I make for the children. "You do give that boy milk, don't you?"
As a matter of fact I do give the children all kinds of milk--cow, goat, almond, rice, soy. And our 3-year-old is now weaned, after a tuxedo-clad weaning party on the farm, replete with strawberry goat milk ice cream.
But the comments do get me wondering. Why is it so strange to see a thriving toddler seek the comfort of cuddling up with her mama, skin on skin, for some warm milk full of nutrients and antibodies, but it's totally acceptable to drink milk another animal's breast? A big, furry animal who mucks around in the grass and mud all day. And at least I'm thinking here of the milk we drink--local, organic, grass-fed cow milk. What about the industrial kind? Cows standing in their own manure, subjected to artificial light, not allowed room to lie down, injected with antibiotics to try to compensate for their living conditions.
Who is convincing us that this is better for our children? It reminds me of the great formula hoax, a marketing coup if I ever saw one. If marketers can sell several generations of women on the concept that a synthetic formula is better for their children than the milk their mammalian bodies (yes, that's right, under all those clothes and personal care products, behind those steering wheels and computer screens, we are animals) naturally produce, they can sell us anything. . . diet chocolate chip cookie biscuits for our dogs, DVDs to make our babies smarter, those nice Coca Cola bottles that feel as wholesome as a Sunday picnic, war.