The Natural Art of Breastfeeding
Pasadena MD USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2008, pp. 19-20
Before I attended my first La Leche League meeting, even the basic mechanics of breastfeeding were a mysterious enterprise to me. Breastfeeding was not something I had ever seen among family and friends while growing up, and I was the first of my close friends to have a baby and really think about feeding choices. Many well-meaning friends told me to have formula on hand "just in case," or to prepare myself to be unable to make enough milk for a healthy child. This only encouraged me to be more stubborn in my determination to breastfeed. My husband and I both educated ourselves as much as possible while I was still pregnant. The childbirth classes we took to prepare for our son's birth also reinforced the medical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding. I made the commitment to myself to breastfeed for at least a year, and began attending LLL meetings in my eighth month of pregnancy.
I must have looked very shocked when I saw all the breastfeeding mothers at that first meeting. I had never even imagined the possibility of nursing more than one child, or nursing a toddler, and here I was surrounded by welcoming mothers, babies, and toddlers who were nursing while sitting down, standing up, even walking around!
Corwin and I had a very good start to nursing. He was born without drugs or medical intervention in a free standing birthing center. He was born aware and making plenty of noise, and settled to the breast quickly. Those first moments nursing him brought an immediate sense of peace and calm after an intense labor and delivery. I was not sure what to expect when he began nursing, but it felt completely natural and wonderful.
Then the crying started. After a few days, Corwin seemed to cry all the time and nurse all the time, and I was sore all the time. Well-meaning (but misinformed) friends encouraged me to use a pacifier and supplement. I'm so glad I had the support of La Leche League in those early days! I took Corwin with me to an LLL meeting when he was just four days old, hysterically seeking the reassurance of other mothers that we were on the right path and everything would be okay. The calm Leader, Michele, assured me he looked great and made several useful suggestions for encouraging my milk supply. Overnight my milk came in -- with no engorgement, as Corwin had been nursing constantly -- and we were off!
A lactation consultant I met with shared a great way to think about the early days of breastfeeding. She pointed out that Corwin and I would start as novices in this new skill of breastfeeding, in a few months become journeymen, and eventually we would be masters. I had to keep this learning curve in mind often in the beginning. It took us about two months to really get into a breastfeeding groove. We had problems latching on, and my nipples were so sore that it took some time to recover and nurse without pain. In truth, some days the only thing that kept me going was the commitment I had made to nurse. Nothing was going to keep me from that goal.
My husband was there to make sure I showered, ate, and took some time for myself to recharge. Gradually the pain eased and the latch-on and positioning problems were resolved. After I changed my diet to remove soy proteins, my son's gas pains and "colic" disappeared. After about five months, nursing became a joy.
I was determined to breastfeed and I did. My goal of nursing for 12 months came and went -- no one had told my infant that there was a time limit on how long he would nurse, so we naturally just continued! Now that we were finally both happy nursing, I was in no hurry to bring that very precious and short time in our lives to an end. Corwin nursed until he self-weaned during my pregnancy with his little sister, around 21 months. The "natural" art of breastfeeding took us some time to master, but it helped my son and me to establish a close emotional bond that continues even as he has grown far beyond his babyhood.