the truth about breast-feeding

Turns out it’s World Breastfeeding Awareness week.  Who knew?  Well, I certainly didn’t until I spent an extended time nursing my baby a few nights ago, baby in one arm, smart phone in the other, cruising through a few of my favorite blogs.

And so, here I am to chime in on the topic of breastfeeding, with the week almost done, since it feels like breastfeeding is basically all I do lately.

In June our 3rd baby was born, Dominic, and, like all of my other babies, breastfeeding was an assumption.  Breastfeeding is easy for me, thankfully.  Latch has never really been a problem and my babies get chubby quickly (see pic at the bottom of this post).  But, breastfeeding is no small thing.  As any breastfeeding mom can tell you, it takes over your life…

When I think about breastfeeding two memorable quotes come to mind–both uttered to me by well seasoned mothers with years and years of nursing experience.  The first is from a woman at church, the mother of 8 now grown children.  When I welcomed my daughter a year and a half ago she asked if I was nursing.  I said yes.  She looked at Bernadette, gently stroked her head and said fondly, “It’s great, isn’t it?  I mean, you don’t get anything done, but it’s great.”

Ain’t that the truth!  Because I am too lazy to put my kids on a schedule, get them to take a nuk, let alone a bottle, in these early days of their lives I am nursing ALL THE TIME.  Like now, I am FRANTICALLY typing this because Dominic (already in the 100%+ for weight) has decided that feast he had 45 minutes ago just isn’t cutting it and he wants to eat again.  And so my life is a series of starts and stops and starts…

I’m the type of person that is addicted to getting things done, checking things off the list, being productive.  It is hard for me to sit and nurse and nurse and nurse.  As a result I find myself trying to nurse while doing other things–eating, cooking, stitching, blogging, disciplining the older two, etc.  It never really works to try and multi-task while nursing…and pretty soon I break down and go sit down with the baby.  But, that’s what kid’s do, right.  They inconvenience us burden us until we are a much better version of our former self.

Objectively I know these days where I need to slow down and hold the baby and nurse are exactly what I need, I need to relax–and that I will sorely miss these days when they are gone.  I know that…and yet I’d really like to get that laundry folded and put away…oh wait, Dominic wants to eat again.

breastfeeding mom's reflection

The other comment on breastfeeding that has stuck with me is from my older sister Ruth.  Earlier this spring, when I was big and pregnant, I was busy making lunch in her kitchen for our brood of kids.  She reluctantly sat down to nurse her 6 month old.  Amid all the chaos of kids needed food and naps and nose wipes she looked at me and said, “Are you ready for this again?”  This, of course, being breastfeeding.

Now, my sister has some street cred when it comes to breastfeeding.  She has proudly nursed 5 kids, each for about a year.  Her kids get chubbier than I ever thought possible and when asked, she is clear that she wouldn’t want her kids eating any other way…but she’s right.  Having an baby and deciding to nurse on demand is a big undertaking.  For at least a year your life is different, and there is no real way to be ready for that.

In the first days after having a baby the choice to breastfeed brings A LOT of stress, especially when you view it (wrongly, as I do) as a matter of pride that you never ever supplement your baby.  Suddenly the well-being of this new fragile person is totally on you.  If they gain weight, sleep, poop, get jaundice, and develop at all is in your hands, alone.  Sure, dad can change a few diapers and entertain the older kids, but this baby is your burden.

As a new mom I didn’t realize the responsibility tied up in deciding to nurse and had a difficult time dealing with it at first.  And, even with #2 and #3, I felt the stress again.  Would my milk come in?  Would the baby get back to birth weight in time?  And all of this has to be done on faith.  There is no way to know how much milk a baby is getting while breastfeeding.  The early days of breastfeeding ask a lot of me–me who likes to control things and have a plan and schedule.  Once again, God is telling me to relax. And then, when at 5 days my baby is over birth weight I (again due to pride) pat myself on the back and start to relax.

I could continue writing on breastfeeding.  If you spend enough years doing it, like I have, you have an infinite amount of things to say on the topic..about how isolating it can be, how frustrating it can get and how sweaty it is in the summer.  But, all of these things have probably been said before.

Or I could talk about how wonderful it is, and stop complaining.  Cause it is, you know, wonderful and stuff…

I am so grateful that breastfeeding is and has been easy for me.  I love it and can’t imagine doing things any other way.  I could write about how I actually feel sorry for my husband that I get this experience and he doesn’t (although, he seems more than happy to let me have this experience alone!).  That I get to bond with the baby like this…and that our bodies get to be so depend on each other.

Maybe I should have written about those things…but I find that gooey stuff hard to put into words.  Pictures do much better.  This picture I snapped on my Dominic yesterday  at 8 weeks of life does a better job pointing out the benefits of breastfeeding than one of my ill-formed sentences ever could.  He got every single one of those rolls from me–and each time he wants to eat I get to snuggle with him and kiss his cheeks.  And sometimes, he’ll take a little break from eating, just to smile, and then he’s back to eating.  Only I get to see those little smiles.  They will be mine forever.

When I actually slow down and look at my beautiful son I realize that nursing him all day, if that’s what he wants, is the best possible way to spend the day, even if the laundry never gets folded.

8 weeks


Thanks for being here,

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