Before I write this post I just want everyone to know this isn’t some rant about what’s been going on in the news about breastfeeding or a response to the Time’s article. This is just an expression of gratitude and awe about how a woman’s body is created.
One of my favorite parts of early motherhood is being able to breastfeed. My mom nursed all of my siblings so the idea of breastfeeding was a natural one and I never assumed I’d do anything but that. While I was pregnant with Avery and researching everything about pregnancy, breastfeeding, infant care and postpartum I found myself a little worried by all the statistics and horror stories. I hoped and prayed I’d be able to breastfeed but couldn’t help the anxiety in the back of my mind.
After a few months of this I decided not to let it get to me. I was determined to make breastfeeding work and looking back at the history of all mankind it didn’t seem likely that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Our population has done nothing but grow and I can tell you right now, they didn’t have powder formula a thousand years ago.
Breastmilk is more than just food for our babies, it’s loaded with the mother’s antibodies to protect the baby until their immune system develops, it has all the vitamins and minerals the baby needs to grow brain cells, bones and promote muscular health, it has the perfect fat/calorie ratio and cannot be even remotely replaced with any substitute.
I researched other substances in case I’d need to supplement or if my milk didn’t come properly at first and found that formula wasn’t the top option. Even coconut milk had a healthier make up!
However, my body pulled through for me and Avery latched within a minute of birth and we had an incredible fifteen months of nursing. At that point my pregnant body gave the infant I was growing precedence and I lost my milk supply.
The miracle of pregnancy is already so mind blowing but producing milk is similarly incredible. The way the hormones ebb and flow to create the perfect cocktail to turn on the milk supply after birth, and to sustain and maintain it as the baby grows and needs more is something that no medically formulated supplement could imagine coming close to. The complexities run deeper than the actual production and nutrients though.
A special thing happens when a mother is able to fully sustain her baby on breastmilk, mainly, the bonding. Nursing releases oxytocin, the love hormone, and the incredible sense of happiness, fulfillment and pure, unconditional love is something that is impossible to describe. It’s the thing that made me crave nursing so badly during the five months between when Avery stopped nursing and Eli was born. I know that when all my kids are past that stage I will truly miss it. Obviously the freedom that comes with not having to be constantly available to a baby/toddler is nice but there is nothing like supplying your child with your own life source.
There is a responsibility to nursing though, that involves commitment on several levels. The first level is being constant availability. If this means wearing a v-neck shirt and no bra for two months, so be it. If it means you have to take your infant everywhere with you because they have to eat every hour, so be it. If it means you have to live without sleep for a while, so be it. You can’t skimp on this one at all.
The next level is nutrition. In order for you to maintain your milk supply and stay healthy yourself you need to eat the proper diet. Whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies and healthy fats. I struggle most with this one. I tend to eat inconsistently during the day and find it very hard to incorporate healthy fats. Something I definitely need to work on.
The third level is lifestyle sacrifice. Most women who choose to exclusively breastfeed sacrifice greatly in many areas of their lives. In this country many work places don’t support women who need to pump frequently and breastfeeding in public is very looked down on and discriminated against. There is always the smaller sacrifices like avoiding alcohol and cold medicine as well. I was able to avoid the issues with work places by becoming a stay at home mom but because of that, there were also financial sacrifices that come with going from a two income home to a one income home. I don’t regret that decision in the least and would rather live super frugally while raising my kids than make more money to let someone else care for them during the day.
As I look down at my snuggly little boy, who is still latched but in a sleepy milk coma I can’t help but hope that every mother can experience this.
I do know that there are women who suffer one or another complication that keeps them from being able to breastfeed despite determination and desire and it makes me wish more of us blessed with plenty of milk would support them. I have had the honor of donating milk to a friend who adopted an infant and I will begin pumping soon (once my supply regulates) and hope to be able to contribute to someone in need.
And so those are just some thoughts on my mind during this beautiful time of nearly constantly feeding my newborn:)
Edit: I couldn’t find any decent photos of me nursing so I’m afraid this will be a picture-less post!
Question: What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?