Actress, scientist and my fourth grade fashion messiah who liberated me from a hatless, boring life free of mismatched prints and oversized blazers, Mayim Bialik made news earlier this month after she announced that she was no longer breastfeeding her four-and-a-half-year-old son, Fred.
Bialik wrote the following on Jewish parenting website Kveller:
All of you snarky mamas who glared at me nursing my 3 1/2-year-old on the NYC subway, prepare to be amazed. And to all of my family and friends who wanted to chastise me about nursing a walking, talking, thinking, laughing little man named Fred, thanks for holding your tongues. Because we did it. Fred isn’t going to nurse on his way down the wedding aisle or at his high school graduation…Because we did it: Fred weaned.
I admit that when one of the amazing HelloGiggles editors suggested that I cover this story, I did the – Ew. I just tasted something nasty. What is this? – face. My tendency to have such a quick, knee-jerk reaction to things that I may not understand but consider gross anyway is something that I know I need to work on. It’s also something that’s problematic to me because it’s completely in conflict with my general attitude that, for the most part, we all need to mind our own business, and we often have a real hard time doing so.
While I’m a firm believer in CHOOSE YOUR CHOICE rhetoric – what’s best for you may not be best for me and that is fine – the temptation to judge is also fierce. I’m sure that it’s almost entirely connected to our culture of socialization and conformity and the behaviors that we are taught to designate as either “normal” or “not normal,” even if there is no foundation of evidence for why one or the other is absolutely correct.
There’s also, of course, the Justice Potter Stewart “I know it when I see it” school of thought (the origin of which is from the Jacobellis v. Ohio Supreme Court decision that held that The First Amendment protected a movie theater owner from being prosecuted for possessing and showing a film, French film The Lovers, that was not obscene. You might need this for trivia someday.) But it’s important to ask why some of us may apply this to how we view extended breastfeeding. This culture of socialization absolutely contributes to the fact that many people might see a walking, talking, little man latched on to his mother’s breast sitting across from you on the train into work as a bizarre behavior or practice. And it’s why I made The Ew Face when first reading about Blossom breastfeeding a four-and-a-half-year-old, despite there being research showing that extended breastfeeding can be beneficial for both mother and child.
I’m not a mother. I’ve never breastfed. I’m unsure if I have an interest in either. And this is perhaps irrelevant to this conversation, because the choices that I make with my hypothetical child are mine, just as Bialik’s are hers. This was working for this particular mother and this particular child, and when four-and-a-half-year-old Fred decided that he was done drinking “nummies” (no judgment!), whether you or I thought that it was weird that he was still doing it in the first place doesn’t matter. So do you, moms and babies and toddlers. It’s none of my business.
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