Thank you for your wonderful post, Amanda!
*Please note: this is one mother’s journey through breastfeeding and mothering and may or may not represent the philosophy or advice of La Leche League International.
Before I became a mother, I knew that I would breastfeed my baby. I believed breastfeeding was natural, beautiful, and healthy for both of us. But, I never anticipated the emotions that it would stir in me. Breastfeeding is more than a nourishment for the baby. It quenches her thirst for mother’s comfort, sense of security, and a closeness between us that will forever set the foundation of our mother-daughter relationship. When I’m at work, I long for her snuggles and smiles. When we are together at the end of a very busy day, I see her sweet face and she turns her head and opens her mouth to drink in the sweet warm milk and my smell as I soothe her by stroking her soft face. We look in each others eyes and relax. We are making memories and enjoying the moment.
Breastfeeding is more than just milk. It’s medicine for the body and the soul. My daughter is a healthy 6 1/2 month exclusively-breastfed baby. We’ve dabbled in “tastes” of solid food after she turned six-months. I’m cooking my baby’s food instead of buying commercial to introduce her to tastes from the family table. I breastfeed in public without a cover because its easier and I’ve learned to be discreet. We cosleep because it helps us stay connected and get more rest at the same time. I carry my baby in a pouch sling and carry her with me where ever we go like walks, the zoo, grocery store, or library. My so-called “granola mom” mothering style is against the standard in the US, which is heavily saddled with the defeating language of not being able to breastfeed their baby for a variety of reasons most of it due to lack of support to the nursing mother. I’m a minority. A 13% sort of minority. That’s the number, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), of babies are exclusively breastfed by 6-months in the US. According to a recent CDC study, 3 out of 4 mothers in the US initiate breastfeeding, but the rates drop due to lack of support at hospitals, workplaces, and communities.
As a full-time working mother, I’m grateful for a supportive work environment not only for pumping milk during the day, but the support of my individual coworkers who know that I run into the Mother’s Room several times a day between meetings to pump while multitasking. Even my male manager understands the nursing relationship because his wife has breastfed their two children. He supports me that I prefer not to travel overnight for work leaving my young baby without her mommy for more than a single work day. My husband is loving and they are bonded, but she just needs her mother to nurse. How would she sleep without her mother there? Moms and babies aren’t meant to be separated biologically, but in modern day of mortgages and college-savings plans, I have to work. I’m so blessed to have a work-life balance that allows me to work from home two days a week to help continue our nursing relationship.
My baby and I fought for this relationship. We are survivors. Breastfeeding did not come easy for us in the beginning. I had flat nipples and my Lactation Consultant/Nurse threw a nipple shield at me for our second time nursing. My doula was right in that my nipples eventually drew out from nursing. Our first night home from the hospital brought me to tears. With the support of my husband and mother-in-law (a long-time LLL leader) helped me for hours try to get the baby to latch. Finally, I pumped and fed her a bottle. She was starving. I learned over the next several weeks to try to nurse the baby with early hunger signs, before she cried. It taught me to be fiercely in-tuned to my baby girl. I knew when she was hungry because of a full breast. Now, my husband and I watch out for our baby’s early hunger cues like a high pitched whimper, head-burying in our chests, and “nursing” our shoulder.
I’m very fortunate to have a high-volume supply of milk. When my baby was only 1-week old, I was so engorged and realized that I should pump. I pumped 4-ounces of milk from one breast! This abundant supply has given me the confidence to donate my milk. I freeze tons of extra milk that I pump while I’m at work and store it for future donation. My baby eats just-enough at daycare and nursing constantly when we’re together. I honored to share my milk with premature and sick babies in need by donating to the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank. So far, I’ve donated over 600-ounces of milk.
People ask me all the time how long I plan to continue nursing. I think to myself, it’s not up to me alone. Nursing takes two. I’m planning to nurse as long as she wants to because that is natural biologically. Babies wean when they’re ready with support and encouragement from their mothers that they’re growing up and ready to take on the world more independently. I blogged in my third trimester about how I prepared my body for having a baby years before, which paved the way for a very healthy pregnancy. I shared that I’ve always seen the cycle of childbirth as four phases: fertility/conception, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and lactation. I feel many moms skip or cut the last step short because of the societal pressures.
Because of my blogging and sharing breastfeeding in my every day conversation, people ask me questions about it. I’m thrilled to have questions from my friends that are not parents. And now my pregnant friends ask me for advice and tips. Support groups through LLL and my hospital gave me immeasurable support that got through the tough 4-6 weeks of nursing. But, as breastfeeding mothers know, you need support all along the way with the changes in the baby’s development. I feel at home with these mothers.
In my house and out of habit, my husband calls bottle feeding “nursing” when he tells me that he fed the baby when I was working late. At daycare, my baby doesn’t hold her bottle, she holds her caregivers fingers as they feed her. I’m proud to be a nursing mother. I’m proud to be Ava’s Mom.
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Photo credit: Shawn Pierce