The Next Generation of Moms: When Breastfeeding Comes Full-Circle

This Mother’s Day is dedicated to our mothers and grandmothers and the world of women who encircle, influence, love and guide us– whether they breastfed us or they didn’t. This is the third post in our Rebuilding the Circle series for Mother’s Day.

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As a sixteen year old, you might be under the impression that a lot of the choices I make are influenced by rebellion or a desire to be different than my parents.  As I’m searching to define my own values, that might sometimes be true. One of the decisions that I probably won’t be rebelling against any time in my life is following in the footsteps of my mother in my understanding that breastfeeding is normal and the optimal way to feed human babies. I’ve even had a hard time deciding on what to write about it because it’s not something we examine very closely in our house, like breathing, or brushing our teeth in the morning, breastfeeding is a part of our everyday lives.

Ella and her mom, Justine.

Not only were my older brother and I breastfed, but I’ve also experienced the births of my three younger siblings and observed their breastfeeding relationships. My mom is even tandem nursing my three-year-old sister and 18-month-old brother, which certainly has given me a perspective on breastfeeding that may be unique for many people in our culture. My feelings about breastfeeding aren’t simply shaped by hazy memories or soft-focused photographs from the nineties with my mom sporting feathered hair and shoulder pads (although those photos exist and are hilarious).  I’m currently immersed in the realities of breastfeeding, including the struggles and the conveniences of what a real life breastfeeding mother juggles on a daily basis.

An issue that has come up frequently in our family is the fact my mom was not breastfed by her mother, nor was my grandmother breastfed by my great grandmother. Fortunately, both of these women have always been fully supportive of my mom’s choice and have never seen breastfeeding as a commentary on the choices that they made years ago. My great-grandmother even said (quoting Maya Angelou), “When we know better, we do better,” and that’s why this is never going to be a choice for me. I know better. I can’t un-know the benefits of breastfeeding.

I enjoy having a close relationship with my mother, as do my siblings, because of her dedication to breastfeeding– even though it wasn’t easy 22 years ago when she began her parenting journey. She lacked many of the things I will be able to take for granted; I won’t have to learn these things on my own–I already have experienced role models, outstanding support, and plenty of resources.

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23 Responses to The Next Generation of Moms: When Breastfeeding Comes Full-Circle

  1. Katie says:

    This is awesome, thank you so much for sharing this awesome story!

  2. Sheri says:

    Wonderful article! I hope our breastfeeding lifestyle impacts our children as much as it has you.

  3. Katie B. says:

    This was beautifully written, thank you so much for sharing! I also had a wonderful breastfeeding mom as a role model and I fully understand that is the initial reason for breastfeeding my own baby. I’m so proud to share with people that my mom is an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I wonder sometimes what it would have been like if I didn’t know that I would breastfeed since I was old enough to faux nurse my own Cabbage Patch dolls. Would I have been able to research the topic well enough and get accurate enough information to be successful? What support would I have found?
    One of my goals, now, is to be a breastfeeding role model to as many young people as possible. I dream of breastfeeding being the “norm” as well.

  4. Laura says:

    I’m so inspired by reading your article! I breastfed all five of my children (oldest 19, youngest 10) and feel they will also benefit from being a part of the breastfeeding life style. Good for you!

  5. Katy says:

    What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing this. What a sweet girl.

  6. Dou-la-la says:

    Awesome. Just awesome.

  7. Katie says:

    Wonderful! I was an exclusively breastfed baby who is now breastfeeding my own daughter. When I got pregnant there was no doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed and my mother has been a source of support and help many times since our 9 month old was born, particularly since I returned to work. I hope that our little girl will simply know breastfeeding as the normal way to feed a baby, and that some day (not for another 25-30 years) I will be able to help and support her as she nurses her babies.

  8. Selina says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful story. Your wisdom at such a young age is a welcome surprise.

  9. Heather says:

    This is such a great post! I was breastfed as a baby and had my daughter at 19, and she’s still breastfeeding at 9 months old with no end in sight :)

  10. Connie says:

    So many young people are still not educated on the benefits of BF. Thanks for speaking out. I was not a BFer and I think my daughters may be suffering for it. I agree “when you know better you do better” My lovely daughters educate me everyday

  11. What a fabulous article!

    I too grew up in a “breastfeeding culture.” My mom nursed my little brother, who is 13 years younger than I am, in spite of the fact that she faced tremendous struggles at the beginning of his life. My grandmother even tried to breastfeed my mother back in 1957, which was practically unheard of (after a few difficulties, her doctor insisted she switch to bottle feeding, but she did manage to nurse for a few weeks).

    Now I’m happily nursing my own 13-month-old. We faced some real challenges for the first months of his life, but because I was raised with such a strong commitment to breastfeeding, I didn’t just give up and switch to formula. I am so thankful that I had a great example of breastfeeding in my life!

  12. Lorien says:

    What a wonderful perspective and a very well written article :) We need more young people with this attitude!

  13. What a beautifully written piece! Can’t believe you’re only 16! Your mother must be very proud.

  14. melanie thomson says:

    Great article! I hope to be hearing many of the same sentiments from my own children who breastfed for 2 1/2 to 3 years each. It’s wonderful to think that many more children and teens of the next generation will look on breastfeeding as the natural course of child-rearing and not a decision to have to make.

  15. Sandra says:

    Love this!

  16. Johanna says:

    Awesome! I was 16 when my youngest brother was born, so I can relate. When my son was born, there was no question that I would breastfeed him. What a great tribute to your mom!

  17. Malinda says:

    This is such a well written piece, it is hard to believe you’re only 16. Both my brother and I were breastfed, and I assumed I would do the same. We had some difficulties at first, but are still going at 19 months (though hes slowly self weaning). #2 is on the way and hopefully things will continue to work out.
    You have a great role model as did I, but just know that it isn’t always easy at times. Perseverance and dedication are a must. But it sounds like you have that as well as a great support system. You’ll make a great mom some day, but make sure you enjoy the freedoms of being young first.

  18. Nancy says:

    I love how she compares breastfeeding to breathing or brushing our teeth in the morning – it’s just a part of life!

  19. Valerie C says:

    ditto on this being such a well written piece. i love it. Your knowledge can empower others. Please keep sharing it!

  20. Kelly says:

    I so enjoyed reading this – what an amazing perspective you have! It is awesome to see this from the point of view of someone who grew up with breastfeeding as normal – thank you for sharing! :D

  21. Nicholette says:

    Just “the cous” ringing in – finally got around to finishing the article! Yes. Very beautiful, funny, and informative. You really are wise beyond your years :)

  22. Julieanne Hensby says:

    Hi Ella

    Warm greetings from Australia and Bravo! for a beautifully written article.

    Like your Mum, I too am a Lactation Consultant and often become quite downhearted when I see all the mixed messages young women see about their bodies and sexuality.

    I am currently attending the Gold Global Online Lactation Conference together with 1600-plus like-minded people from 55 countries. One of this year’s presenters is Kathy Houng – the co-ordinator of WABA’s (World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action) Youth Initiative. Her talk was about highlighting the importance of building and sustaining youth interest in breastfeeding ie motivate, educate, collaborate, integrate.

    The world needs people like you Ella. If you’re interested, take a look here:
    http://www.waba.org.my/whatwedo/youthinitiative/index.htm

    Kind Regards, Julieanne

  23. Pingback: Happy Mother’s Day! | Hygeia Breast Pumps and Breastfeeding Accessories

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