As World Breastfeeding Week comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about what breastfeeding means to me. With my first 3 kids, I nursed out of the expectation that that’s what moms should do. I didn’t love it or honor that time as well as I should have. I didn’t educate myself about breastfeeding benefits nor challenges. And because of that, I struggled. It wasn’t until my fifth was born that I reached a level of true appreciation for the benefits of breastfeeding, and enjoyed that relationship I had with my daughter immensely. This is what it took me five kids to learn about what breastfeeding means to me:
It means cuddle time. I loved holding my babies close to me. Sometimes they didn’t love it as much as I did but when they latched on to nurse, their body would just melt into my arms. It was so relaxing and comforting, for both of us.
It means take a moment to sit time. I’m very busy. I don’t know any mom who isn’t. I had my first 3 kids in under 3 years and it got significantly harder to nurse with each child because I had older kids running around, vying for my attention. It wasn’t until I had my last baby via cesarean that I realized how important it was for me to take time to just sit and heal and recuperate and feed my baby. Nursing her gave my body the chance to rest and my mind the chance to relax.
It means nourishment time. I love that as I nursed my babies, I knew I was flooding their bodies with healthy vitamins, nutrients, and antibodies. That I was giving them the best start.
It means growth time. I could always tell my babies were growing when my hand couldn’t naturally curl around their bottom while nursing. Or when it required two arms to hold and nurse them while standing. Or when their legs would be dangling over the lap of the person sitting next to me. Bittersweet moments. Love my growing babies, missed my little babies though.
It means bonding time. As my babies nursed, I got the chance to stare into their eyes and absorb all their precious uniqueness, like finding a dimple on a cheek or a freckle on their head. I got to touch their fingers and toes and chubby thighs. I got to know them and their unique personalities as they giggled or twirled my hair or tried to look around at their surroundings.
It means reading time, for me and baby. I never read more with a baby than I did with my 4th. Every time I nursed, I made a point to sit and read. I loved it. It was such special time for me to hold my baby and enjoy one of my favorite hobbies. I also enjoyed reading to my babies too while they nursed, introducing them to my favorite children stories.
It means nap time. Sometimes it was nice just to lay down in bed and fall asleep while nursing. And have the baby fall asleep too. I was able to enjoy this the most with my youngest because my older kids were old enough to be more self-sufficient so I could take those moments in the afternoons to just rest and cuddle my baby.
It means play time. I remember the acrobatics involved in nursing my 1 year olds, as they learned to lean, contort, and stretch their bodies all over the place while still staying attached. They wanted to soak up the world while still staying at the safety of their mother’s breast.
It means happy time. I wish I had gotten this on film: every time I would go to nurse my youngest, she would get so excited, she would smack her lips and make the sign for “milk.” It made me so happy.
It means overcoming challenges time. Was nursing always easy? No. With my last baby, I got clogged ducts at least seven times. And I mean, super clogged ducts to the point that my breasts were rock hard! I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees dangle nursing while crying because it hurt so bad.
It means adjusting my schedule time. I’m a go-go-go kind of mom. I take my kids all over the place and I hate to be late. But having a nursing baby isn’t always conducive to that. After my 4th child, I had a 6 year gap until my 5th and I had gotten out of the routine of having a baby around. I remember one day when the baby was only a week or so old, making plans to hit several errands at one time but forgetting 2 key things: the diaper bag AND time to feed the baby. It was a moment of recognition for me that my schedule had changed. I had a new life who was dependent on me.
It means making memories time. I finished nursing my last baby almost 6 months ago. I miss it but I’m so grateful for the memories I have and the lessons I learned.
Birth Boot Camp Certified Doula (BBCD)