I got an email this morning from a Mama who I met yesterday at the La Leche League meeting. She had been having trouble nursing her Babe, who would only eat while sleeping. She had taken to her thumb during the day, and Mama was understandably concerned not only about her babe getting enough to eat, but also about missing out on some of that skin-to-skin time.
I suggested a couple of things that had made me feel better when my Pie was transitioning to fewer feedings during the day. I suggested that Mama try wearing Babe close to her with more skin-to-skin during the day, and hold her in a nursing position for comfort and bonding while babe sucked her thumb. (I did this when my Pie was wanting to be on her paci more between feedings.)
Mama went home from the LLL meeting and tried these ideas out.
“By the evening,” wrote Mama, “she was open to nursing a
bit while she was awake!”
There is such a huge emotional component to nursing, that I hadn’t really expected. I was hurt when my Pie wanted to nurse less frequently, even though in those early days of nursing, I had been unsure about whether I could make it, feeding my Pie from my body 12 or more times a day. Every day.
I was tired of nursing in those early days. It seemed like every time I tucked my breast back into my shirt she was looking for it. I really didn’t know how I could sustain that kind of touch time on my introverted body. Somehow wearing her was less invasive to me, even though it was a lot more touch time. I made enough milk and my Pie knew how to eat, but I wasn’t sure I could emotionally handle so much giving of myself.
Some Babes need to be taught how to eat, some Mamas need to work harder to figure out how to breastfeed their Babes. Some need to make efforts to increase milk supply, and some need to be careful of what foods they eat so that they don’t bother Babe’s delicate system. For us it came easily, but I still wasn’t sure if I could do it.
I read this article yesterday about breastfeeding and guilt. Although we know that “breast is best”, we’re so careful as a society to not make women feel bad if they think they cannot breastfeed. I don’t think that we should start making women feel guilty about it, but we should lead the discussion about breastfeeding difficulties with information, assistance and encouragement, rather than telling women that it’s OK that they “can’t” breastfeed. Along the same lines, many women who plan to breastfeed are now refusing the packets of formula and coupons that come in your little gift bag when you leave the hospital/birthing center. One mom even started a project offering breastfeeding support instead of formula in these gift bags. I didn’t take a bag at all. I didn’t want to have formula in the house to turn to at those times that I didn’t think I could do it. I knew I wanted to make breastfeeding work, and if there was an easy alternative, I was afraid I would reach for it in a time of weakness. I was lucky to have my mom, breastfeeder of 4, to help me. I called a lactation consultant when I had a concern, and I called my mom a few times with questions. I was committed to feeding my Pie what I knew was best for her.
But now that our pediatrician has given us the OK, based on her growth, to start solids whenever we want to, I don’t think I’m emotionally ready to give up breastfeeding. I know starting solids doesn’t mean giving up breastfeeding, but right now I am her only source of nourishment. She’s only ever had a bottle once, which she took with gusto, but it was still my milk filling her tiny belly while her Oma held her close. My body makes everything she needs to live, for now at least. My body, along with the bodies of women for the past 2.5 million years, will nourish my child completely, comfort her incomparably, and teach her to trust, love, and be healthy. I’m not ready to give up any part of that yet. Right now I’m her food, her comfort, her teacher. Once we introduce food I won’t be all of that, as much.
But at the same time, I’m excited for her to try new foods. I want to see her face as she goes from confusion to curiosity to crave about this new, smushy, thick, different-flavored thing in her mouth. I want her to learn to love veggies like I do. I want her to eat enough that she can keep growing, and get all the nutrition her little body needs.
For me, breastfeeding my Pie gives her the best possible nutrition, offers her immunities to anything I’ve encountered, and provides us both with a loving, trusting, nourishing bonding time. Breastfeeding was something I was committed to from before birth, and luckily my mountain man, the naturalist that he is, was not only completely committed to breastfeeding but dedicated to supporting me in my efforts to nourish the Pie. He encouraged me to keep going when it was hard, to seek help when I needed it, and to do what I knew in my gut was what my Pie needed.
For Mamas who are committed to breastfeeding but don’t have the same support system, or who have problems like the Mama I met yesterday, I want to offer my support. Keep going. Keep trying new things. Your body makes exactly what your baby needs, in quantity and quality. If you can’t breastfeed, feed breast milk. Most pediatricians, especially if they’ve never breastfed themselves, are not experts in breastfeeding, so seek out lactation consultation. Keep trying. It will work, it will get better. And what you thought you couldn’t do before may turn out to be something you don’t want to stop (or even lessen) doing.
Thank you, Mama, for sending me that email this morning. I hope you continue to try new things until you find what works for your Babe. Your email warmed my heart and reinforced to me that I’m doing something worthwhile by sharing my experiences. Thank you for the electronic love.