While playing at the playground, our daughter fell and started crying. To soothe her, I scooped her up, sat down and gave her the breast.
This mom from Cameroon looked at me and said, “now I see why your daughter is so strong and walks so good.”
She said, back in her country wombmen nursed until two.
Of course, I wanted to learn so much more.
She came to the U.S. two years ago on a lottery, expecting to live in a country “close to heaven.”
Instead she was slapped in the face by our freezing cold weather.
I asked her what it’s like raising children in Cameroon.
She said, it’s easy to have 6 or 7 children because everyone helps raise them. She chatted about the culture, the organic herbs, the fresh food (especially palm oil) and the 4 to 5 languages that many of the residents speak.
She’s not the first person from the Mother Land who celebrated my breastfeeding journey.
I was in a program with an Ethiopian mother who looked overjoyed to see me nursing our one year old. She whispered, “you nurse?” as if it gave her permission to nurse her son.
One day our 3 year old was kicking and screaming on the library floor. The security guard (from Kenya) asked, "what’s the matter with her?" I said, “she wants the breast.” And he firmly but politely encouraged me to, “give it to her.”
If you’re not from the states, these reactions may not surprise you. But they are in stark contrast from typical public responses.
In fact, just a few weeks ago I was reprimanded by a father while on my morning walk. Our youngest (who might have been teething) wanted to nurse. So I let her dangle from my breast, while I pushed the empty stroller. He felt it was very inappropriate, especially in front of his two children.
My heart ached as I wondered about the mother of his children. What she might have gone through? And what message he was sending to his kids.
I concluded that, he doesn’t know any better.
Have you had similar experiences? Have you been publicly celebrated or scolded for breastfeeding? How have other cultures responded to you nursing your children?
Until next time...
Love the journey,