Making My Way: The First Six Months
Westerly RI USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 1, January-February 2003, p. 11
Six months ago, when I was getting ready to give birth to my son, Malcolm (Mac), I wasn't sure if I should breastfeed. My mother was a fine example of loving parenting, but not a breastfeeding role model because I was adopted when I was five weeks old. I didn't have any friends or relatives who had breastfed for any length of time and, honestly, didn't know much about it. However, the idea of enhancing the mother-baby bond through breastfeeding appealed to me and I could not ignore the evidence that human milk is the best food for babies. In addition, I have a supportive husband who encouraged me to try it and a supportive doctor who emphasized the positive health aspects of breastfeeding for the baby and mother.
Soon after Mac was born, I put him to my breast for the first time. The rush of love I had for him was like no other. I was very fortunate that he seemed to know exactly what to do. "He's an old pro," the lactation consultant said, smiling, when she saw him breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding has been very rewarding for me and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is having a baby. There is nothing like feeding a baby at your breast. In addition to the obvious benefits it has given Mac, I also feel more vital than ever. I am at my pre-pregnancy weight, I eat with a healthy appetite, and the fact that my baby is getting his nutrition from me helps me to stay focused on eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, and exercising (we go for daily walks).
I never wanted to quit breastfeeding, but there were definitely times within the first four months when I felt frustrated and exhausted. Mac seemed to eat constantly for the first two months, so I wondered if I was providing him with enough milk. My pediatrician assured me that with his healthy weight gain, he was coming along just fine. He was just one of those babies who needed to breastfeed very frequently. I had to learn to be patient and think about the fact that this would not go on forever, as well as realize that I would look back and miss these times once they had ended.
I was surprised that Mac had trouble falling asleep without breastfeeding. If he were not in a deep enough sleep, he would bolt awake and start crying the moment I got up from my chair. I tried to alleviate this by nursing him before bed and letting him fall into a deep sleep where he fell off my breast naturally. Usually, I was able to put him to bed at that point, but sometimes I would have to start all over again. He began to go to sleep without breastfeeding at about six months of age.
The only other issue I had was with breastfeeding in public. I had never been in the company of women who breastfed out in the open. I purchased a few shirts with breastfeeding openings and became familiar with latching Mac on discreetly. I first fed him in front of people I felt comfortable with: my husband, parents, and close female friends. From there, I went on to all of our friends and family and finally, when the need came up, I breastfed in restaurants, at parties, or wherever I happened to be. I found that if I seemed relaxed about it, it put others at ease.
I hope that my friends and family members will come to me if they ever decide to breastfeed and need a supportive ear. I would like to be seen as a healthy example of someone who is at ease with breastfeeding. I would love to be a guide for someone who is not sure if this is the right decision. I will be happy if even one woman sees me feeding Mac in a restaurant and thinks to herself, "I would like to do that, too."