I wasn’t going to breastfeed.
I wasn’t sure it was for me.
So when I learned that the birth center where I was planning to have my son required breastfeeding, I felt a familiar, “No one can tell me what to do” rise up within me.
But I really loved and respected my midwife, so I reluctantly started reading the copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding she had loaned me. (I intended to give it a ride around in my car and return it at my next appointment with a thank you, no thank you. I’d do my obligatory nursing at the birth center and switch to formula once I got him home.)
Almost immediately upon opening the book, I learned that breastmilk is unique and was something only I could give my baby. I discovered breastmilk has nearly magical properties, that it changes depending upon the needs of the baby during each feeding and at different times of the day. I was so taken with the idea that my breastmilk would respond to the unique needs of my baby, unlike formula, which never changes.
Fewer allergies, better digestion, and immune system support through the milk while the baby’s system was still developing sounded like a great plan. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding made breastfeeding sound rather empowering, rather than another new parenting “should.”
Breastmilk is biologically what babies are designed to eat. Most of us have grown up seeing formula feeding and bottle feeding as the norm. Most of the charts used by pediatricians have been normed to formula fed babies, even though what is biologically normal for human infants is human milk.
We can be aware of all the good reasons to breastfeed, yet still have a really difficult time getting started breastfeeding. In fact, my son and I had a miserable time breastfeeding for the first 6 weeks or so.
Crying in the middle of the night (me), bleeding nipples (again, me), screaming baby (that would be the baby)… It wasn’t what I thought it would be. And then I had supply issues and ended up needing to pump after every feeding for weeks at the advice of the lactation consultant I saw. (Faith Ploude, that’s you. You are amazing!)
Did I mention that I’m a little stubborn sometimes?
Finally the magical day arrived when we were nursing without pumping, nipple shields, or even the nursing pillow I carried with me everywhere. I honestly thought that would never happen. It wasn’t all a bed of roses, though. We still had our struggles with allergies, colic, reflux, and other fun stuff. But I can’t imagine what it would have been like for us had I not breastfed my boy.
I was so amazed by the power of breastfeeding that I later became a La Leche League leader so I could offer mother to mother support for women who wanted to breastfeed. I spent six years helping moms to find what would work best for them and offered support for their journey, understanding that their relationship through breastfeeding was the beginning of a long journey together. When those early relationships start well, it often continues on that track.
This week on the Consciously Parenting blog, we’ll be looking at different aspects of breastfeeding, including the cultural conditions and barriers that make it more difficult to breastfeed in the United States, the kinds of things that get in the way of breastfeeding, and what we can do to make it easier for parents to feed their babies human milk. I’ll be sharing some really cool science and along with some of the most current research with you, as well.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing with you some of the latest research about breastmilk and breastfeeding. It is truly amazing what they’ve discovered about it and I can’t wait to share it with you! Here’s a hint: breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby in really cool ways.