“The sweetest thing I ever knew.”
The first time I saw a toddler breastfeeding I was in my twenties, and sitting shiva after my father passed away. A friend of my stepmother’s came by the house with her two-and-a-half year old twins, and nursed them on the living room sofa. After they left, someone commented that she found it strange for children that age to be nursing. Then Albert, a man born in New York City in 1921, spoke up. His story stayed with me, so I do my best here to reproduce it from memory. I will let his words stand on their own:
You think it’s strange? Well, I’ll tell you something. My mother breastfed me until I was three and a half. That was normal. In those days, everybody in our community did. They were immigrants. They were poor. They had no money for baby food or formula. And they had no birth control. Breastfeeding helps with that, it does.
And you know, I’ll tell you something. If every child was fed that way, that long, there would be no domestic violence. Because when a man has had that kind of relationship with his mother, he can never be abusive to a woman.
I’ll tell you one more thing. My mother had several abortions. It was common, that’s how it was, I told you, they had no birth control. But the last one, she got an infection, and she died. If she could have gone to a doctor, she could have lived another forty years, but that’s how it was then.
I was fourteen when she died, and not a single day has gone by that I didn’t think of her, because she was the sweetest thing I ever knew.”