Nursing My Second Baby
Derby, Kansas, USA
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 5-6, 2009, pp. 24-25
I was 19 years old and pregnant with my son, Noah, when my older cousin, who was also pregnant, asked me to go to a La Leche League meeting with her. She explained it was for breastfeeding mothers and she wanted to get more information. While she was certain that she would breastfeed, I merely went along for the ride. After the first few minutes of the meeting, I was very sure I would not be breastfeeding my baby. I remember feeling very uncomfortable. I made an effort not to stare at the mothers nursing their babies, who looked to range in age from newborn to preschooler, including a set of twins. I recall feeling out of place and surprised that these mothers were still breastfeeding.
I didn't know a single mother who had breastfed. If I worked with anyone who had breastfed, I didn't know about it. Neither my obstetrician, nor the pediatrician I had chosen, mentioned the option of breastfeeding. It was something I had never thought of until my cousin presented the idea to me, and it was something I deemed old fashioned, odd, and even unnatural.
A few months later, my cousin gave birth to her daughter and they began their breastfeeding relationship. Just a short while later, with the birth of my son, there began for me the whole new and wonderful world of motherhood. My son was beautiful, perfect, big, and healthy, and formula fed. I was proud and strong, and I loved Noah more than I ever imagined a person could love another human being. The world around me all but disappeared as my life began to revolve around this tiny miracle. Then, for a period of time, all of my confidence dwindled away with a visit to my cousin and her infant daughter, when I witnessed a nursing session. Suddenly, I couldn't keep my eyes off her tiny baby, suckling eagerly, with her fat little hand softly falling on her mother's breast, the comforting smile her mother gave in response. I wanted that experience. I was intent on getting the opportunity back that I had so carelessly given up.
Two weeks following my son's birth, I located a La Leche League Leader and rented a hospital grade pump, in the hope of relactating. I pumped every hour, day and night, for nearly a week, and my son's reward was approximately an ounce of colostrum that I finally collected. I remember sobbing when I found myself exhausted and unable to continue. I fed the colostrum to Noah, and felt a tiny flicker of hope that I had done all I could. In my heart and mind, I vowed I'd breastfeed my next child.
Fast forward ten years. I gave birth to my daughter, Reagan. Prior to her birth, I had attended a handful of LLL meetings, this time very anxious to see the other moms nursing their babies and hear their stories. I read books in preparation, attended a breastfeeding class, and joined the mother-to-mother forum on LLLI's Web site.
Armed with loads of support and encouragement from my husband, family, and the group, I brought my daughter into this world and directly to my breast. Reagan latched on with little help and nursed for an entire hour before we had to stop her for tests. It was as if she knew how badly I wanted her to have the very best thing I could give to her, the perfect nourishment and the special bond it would create between us.
I had felt guilt and sadness for so many years. However, throughout all of my preparation and education, one lesson I hadn't expected to learn was the difference between feeling guilt and regret. I realized that I hadn't lost a bond with my son at all. Through the kindness and support of my La Leche League Leaders, I learned that while I might regret not having made the decision to breastfeed my son, I did make the best decision I could with the information I had. I learned that I had developed a very healthy, close relationship with my son, despite not having nursed him as I have my daughter. I can relate easily to mothers who have not breastfed, as well as to those who have. I can offer understanding.
Through breastfeeding my daughter I have gained confidence, empowerment, and wisdom. I have grown as a mother and as a woman. Nursing has taught me to trust my mothering instincts, stick to my convictions, voice my concerns, and stand up for my beliefs. I've learned how to work through some of the biggest challenges of my life, listen to others, offer encouragement and support, and give back to a community that helped shape me into the stronger mother I am today.
Most of all, breastfeeding my daughter has given me peace. I know though I did not choose to breastfeed my son, he has been given a beautiful example of mothering, one that will remain in his mind as he grows into a man and, eventually, I hope, a father. Noah has witnessed the highs and lows, the near failures, and the triumphs, as well as the effect that nursing has on his baby sister. He has seen his father's example of just how important a daddy is in a breastfeeding family. He has learned how to care for another human being and how to love unconditionally.