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Growing Families

A Daughter's Story

Melissa Gallo
Murrysville PA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 1, January-February 2003, p. 17

Melissa Gallo wrote the following as a gift to her mother, Liz Healy.

Most women decide to breastfeed to give their babies a healthy start in life. While it is well-documented that breastfed babies have better health, lowered risk of obesity, fewer digestive problems, and better bone development, one of the lesser known benefits shows up about seventeen years later, when that baby grows up. Speaking from experience, I know that breastfed babies become well-adjusted, healthy, happy teenagers. Although that is due in part to excellent parenting, breastfeeding also plays a role, as it helped my mother and me become so close from an early age.

Because of breastfeeding, my siblings and I are better off in almost every facet of our lives. My mother shows how important her breastfeeding bond to her children was through her commitment to helping other women discover mothering through breastfeeding. She's very involved with La Leche League. For my whole life, LLL has been in the background with meetings, phone calls, and many pregnant women sitting at the kitchen table. From listening to one-sided phone calls about the various nuances of breastfeeding, I am the most knowledgable teenager this side of the Mississippi (probably the other side, too!) on the issue of breastfeeding. Yes, I have had to deal with the embarrassment of listening to my mother describe how to increase one's milk supply while my friends are visiting. Those are the times I'm thankful we have a basement. Last summer I attended the LLL International Conference and met so many women who are intelligent, informed, and love their families, just like my mother. I enjoyed being around them and their children, who were beacons of health and happiness. Of course, when I returned home, I had to deal with some heckling from my friends, but it was well worth it. I have access to love and knowledge that many of them haven't experienced. Unlucky them! Although I have to put up with discussions on sore nipples and they don't, I am envied for the wholesome, loving home life I have.

Perhaps even more important than the physical gains of breastfeeding are the psychological effects. Maybe it's just that my mother and father are the best parents in the world, but I'm certain that breastfeeding has strengthened our relationship. Sometimes I marvel at the commitment that my mother had to us as babies. Before she even knew me, the real me, she loved me enough to want the very best for me, and so I was breastfed. I was loved from the moment I entered this world, and I have never forgotten it. The unconditional love I received at birth has continued through today. I believe that it is because of breastfeeding that my mother and I have such a great relationship. One of my friends remarked the other day, after I got off the phone with my mother, "You're so excited when you talk to your mother, you sound like you're talking to your best friend." I was. My mother has lived the LLL concept of providing all of her five children with "loving guidance, which reflects acceptance of our capabilities and sensitivity to our feelings," and the payback is that she has a loving, happy daughter who is definitely going to breastfeed her own children.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the benefits of breastfeeding don't end at age one, five, or 17. They continue throughout the child's life, showing up in the oddest places. Breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your teenager. Sounds weird, doesn't it? But it is so true. As a content, fit, intelligent, former breastfed baby, I know that my mother's actions in my early years have made me what I am. So, in trying times, remember that you're not only feeding your child's body, but also his or her soul for years to come.

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