I have been again blown away by the entire process of nursing. That is, breastfeeding. This has happened to me from time to time during the years I have been nursing my babies. And every time, I am amazed at how my body works to feed and nourish them, soothe them, help them sleep, and bond with me. Not to mention the health benefits. Now, hear me, I am not saying that if you chose to bottle-feed, you are less of a mother, or that you have less of a bond with your baby, this has just been the right choice for us. Also hear me, I am a serious advocate for nursing, and I believe that every mother should at least give it a chance. If for no other fact than that it is the healthiest choice for infants (this not my opinion, but the recommendation of the AAP).
That being said, here are my thoughts. At first, I didn't want to breastfeed. I thought it was kinda gross, and I didn't want to have to be stuck in a room nursing while everyone else was together having fun in the other room. I also wanted other people to be able to bond with my baby by feeding him. And then I met some people who felt the way I do now about breasfeeding. And I began to think about it. And then my body did something amazing while I was pregnant. It prepared itself for nursing. God actually made my body for that purpose! My breasts got larger and tender, which was a nuisance at first. But then I began leaking milk, or at least, colostrum. WOW! I felt so empowered by God to nourish my son! At that point, there was no question in my mind that I would breastfeed him. And the research on the health benefits for mother and baby only solidified my choice.
Yes, it hurt. A lot. I remember crying as I fed him, and having serious scabs on my nipples. But that passed and then it was amazing. To see him go from crying and being hungry to completely relaxed simply from latching on to my breast was an incredible moment! I did that! God made my body to do that! And an infant's eye sight at birth is only as far as the distance from my breast to my eyes. What a time of bonding it was for us. And with my two girls as well. Then I researched extended breastfeeding. The latest research I can find is that while 74% of women attempt breastfeeding in the hospital, only 21% are still nursing at one year. I am in that category at this point. And I am making no attempt to wean. Charlie nursed for 14 months, only weaning because my milk changed during my pregnancy with Madeline. Madeline (are you sitting down?) nursed until she was 4. Yes 4. She only weaned after Caroline was born because I felt like it was time for her. She would still be nursing if I let her, and she still asks for "Num-Num's" from time to time (now we call them "Nummies"). And yes, I nursed them both for a while. This means that except for a short time while pregnant with Madeline, I have been nursing continually for over 7 years.
The health benefits apply even more the longer you nurse, for instance, fewer sicknesses for the baby, and lowering my chances for breast cancer. My mother had breast cancer, so this was a no-brainer for me. But I wouldn't have stopped even if there were no health benefits at all. I cannot explain in words the closeness I feel with my kids. The best feeling in the world is looking down into their eyes while they are nursing. Knowing that I am doing the most healthy thing for them I can do, and that we are as close as we can be to each other is such an incredible feeling. I will sit there at times and just thank God that we have this time together. And I don't want it to end. It makes me sad to think that at some point, Caroline will wean. At some point, I will be finished with breastfeeding forever. I will need to mourn that loss.
My friend Mandy told me yesterday of a story she heard about the actress Salma Hayek. While on a goodwill trip to Africa, she nursed a one week old baby whose mother had no milk. He instantly stopped crying and fed. What an amazing opportunity! I am a little jealous!
So as for my initial concerns about breastfeeding,, I have found that it is most certainly not gross, and I don't feel that I have ever missed out on anything that really mattered more than the task at hand. And while at first I was nervous, I no longer have any qualms about breastfeeding in public. I have learned to be very discreet. And I am proud when I see others doing the same. So those are my thoughts, for what they're worth. They are probably more for my own posterity than for your reading pleasure, but I just thought I'd share. And finally, one last sweet moment between Caroline and me while in the hospital. (Again, men, beware!) Could there be anything sweeter?