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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Breasteeding in the Land of Ghenghis Khan by RUTH KAMNITZER

*I DID NOT WRITE THIS ARTICLE, IT WAS IN A COMMENT THREAD FROM CAFE MOM Thread title "breast feeding up through age 4plus. Right or Wrong" started by member mommatink83 on March 23, 2011 at 9:53pm....the article was posted in a comment by member Randi02....I LOVED the article and I wanted to share.*

Excerpt only ...."In Mongolia, there's an oft-quoted saying that the best wrestlers are breastfed for at least six years - a serious endorsement in a country where wrestling is the national sport. I moved to Mongolia when my first child was four months old, and lived there until he was three.
Raising my son during those early years in a place where attitudes to breastfeeding are so dramatically different from prevailing norms in North America opened my eyes to an entirely different vision of how it all could be. Not only do Mongolians breast feed for a long time, they do so with more enthusiasm and less inhibition than nearly anyone else I've met. In Mongolia, breastmilk is not just for babies, it's not only about nutrition, and it's definitely not something you need to be discreet about. It's the stuff Genghis Khan was made of.

Like many first-time mums, I hadn't given much thought to breastfeeding before I had a child. But minutes after my son, Calum, popped out, he latched on, and for the next four years seemed pretty determined not to let go. I was lucky, for in many ways breastfeeding came easily - never a cracked nipple, rarely an engorged breast. Mentally, things were not quite as simple. As much as I loved my baby and cherished the bond that breastfeeding gave us, it was, at times, overwhelming. I was unprepared for the magnitude of my love for him, and for the intensity of his need for me and me only - for my milk. "Don't let him turn you into a human pacifier," a Canadian nurse had cautioned me just days after Calum's birth, as he sucked for hour after hour. But I would run through all the possible reasons for his crying - gas? wet? understimulation? overstimulation? - and mostly I'd just end up feeding him again. I wondered if I was doing the right thing.
 Every time
they make a sound,
they're breastfed.

Then I moved away from Canada, to Mongolia, where my husband was conducting a wildlife study. There, babies are kept constantly swaddled in layers of thick blankets, tied up with string like packages you don't want to come apart in the mail. When a package murmurs, a nipple is popped in its mouth. Babies aren't changed very often, and never burped. There aren't even hands available to thrust a rattle into. Definitely no tummy time. Babies stay wrapped up for at least three months, and every time they make a sound, they're breastfed.

This was interesting. At three months, Canadian babies are already having social engagements, even swimming. Some are learning to "self-soothe." I had assumed that there were many reasons a baby might cry, and that my job was to figure out what the reason was and provide the appropriate solution. But in Mongolia, though babies might cry for many reasons, there is only ever one solution: breastmilk. I settled down on my butt and followed suit.

A Working Boob Hits the Streets

In Canada, a certain amount of mystique still surrounds breastfeeding. But really, we're just not very used to it. Breastfeeding happens at home, in baby groups, occasionally in cafes - you seldom see it in public, and we certainly don't have conscious memories of having been breastfed ourselves. This private activity between mother and child is greeted with a hush and politely averted eyes, and regarded almost in the same way as public displays of intimacy between couples: not taboo, but slightly discomfiting and politely ignored. And when that quiet, angelic newborn grows into an active toddler intent on letting the world know exactly what he's doing, well, those eyes are averted a bit more quickly and intently, sometimes under frowning brows.

In Mongolia, instead of relegating me to a "Mothers Only" section, breastfeeding in public brought me firmly to center stage. Their universal practice of breast feeding anywhere, anytime, and the close quarters in which most Mongolians live, mean that everyone is pretty familiar with the sight of a working boob. They were happy to see I was doing things their way (which was, of course, the right way).

When I breastfed in the park, grandmothers would regale me with tales of the dozen children they had fed. When I breastfed in the back of taxis, drivers would give me the thumbs-up in the rearview mirror and assure me that Calum would grow up to be a great wrestler. When I walked through the market cradling my feeding son in my arms, vendors would make a space for me at their stalls and tell him to drink up. Instead of looking away, people would lean right in and kiss Calum on the cheek. If he popped off in response to the attention and left my streaming breast completely exposed, not a beat was missed. No one stared, no one looked away - they just laughed and wiped the milk off their noses.

From the time Calum was four months old until he was three years old, wherever I went, I heard the same thing over and over again: "Breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby, the best thing for you." The constant approval made me feel that I was doing something important that mattered to everyone - exactly the kind of public applause every new mother needs.

The Lazy Mum's Secret Weapon

By Calum's second year, I had fully realized just how useful breastfeeding could be. Nothing gets a child to sleep as quickly, relieves the boredom of a long car journey as well, or calms a breaking storm as swiftly as a little warm milk from mummy. It's the lazy mother's most useful parenting aid, and by now I thought I was using it to its maximum effect. But the Mongolians took it one step further.

Success rate?
100 percent.

During the Mongolian winters, I spent many afternoons in my friend Tsetsgee's yurt, escaping the bitter cold outside. It was enlightening to compare our different parenting techniques. Whenever a tussle over toys broke out between our two-year-olds, my first reaction would be to try to restore peace by distracting Calum with another toy while explaining the principle of sharing. But this took a while, and had a success rate of only about 50 percent. The other times, when Calum was unwilling to back down and his frustration escalated to near boiling point, I would pick him up and cradle him in my arms for a feed.
Tsetsgee had a different approach. At the first murmur of discord, she would lift her shirt and start waving her boobs around enthusiastically, calling out, "Come here, baby, look what mama's got for you!" Her son would look up from the toys to the bull's-eyes of his mother's breasts and invariably toddle over.

Success rate? 100 percent.

Not to be outdone, I adopted the same strategy. There we were, two mothers flapping our breasts like competing strippers trying to entice a client. If the grandparents were around, they'd get in on the act. The poor kids wouldn't know where to look - the reassuring fullness of their own mothers' breasts, granny's withered pancake boasting its long experience, or the strange mound of flesh granddad was squeezing up in breast envy. Try as I might, I can't picture a similar scene at a La Leche League meeting.

When They're Walking and Talking... and Taking Their Exams?

In my prenatal class in small-town Canada, where Calum was born, breastfeeding had been introduced with a video showing a particularly sporty-looking Swedish mother breastfeeding her toddler while out skiing. A shudder ran through the group: "Sure, it's great for babies, but by the time they're walking and talking ... ?" That was pretty much the consensus. I kept my counsel.

It was my turn to be surprised when one of my new Mongolian friends told me she had breastfed until she was nine years old. I was so jaw-dropped flabbergasted that at first I dismissed it as a joke. Considering my son weaned just after turning four, I'm now a little embarrassed about my adamant disbelief. While nine years is pretty old to be breast feeding, even by Mongolian standards, it's not actually off the scale.

Though it wasn't always easy to fully discuss such concepts as self-weaning with Mongolians because of the language barrier, breastfeeding "to term" seemed to be the norm. I never met anyone who was tandem breastfeeding, which surprised me, but because the intervals between births are fairly long, most kids give up breastfeeding at between two and four years of age."

Please read the rest of this artice on the actual comment thread. I found it to be very encouraging to me and any mom breastfeeding a toddler.

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