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A Gift

Valerie Guglielmi
Wheaton IL USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 5, September-October 2006, pp. 203-204

Breastfeeding is a gift. A gift of love given to mothers and children to share. I received this gift twofold from my mother. The first time was many years ago when my mother did something different than her own mother and chose to breastfeed her children. She did this with love and conviction. So great was her belief in the benefits of breastfeeding that she became a La Leche League Leader. While I was too young at the time to remember attending LLL meetings, I do remember the phone calls from other nursing mothers that my mom would always find the time to take.

There were no play bottles for my dolls. I was one of those little girls who lifted my shirt to "nurse" my babies. Later, when I was 12, I had the opportunity to see firsthand my mother nurse my younger sister. All these experiences made a lasting impression on me. As I grew older, I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed my children some day.

When that day came, I received the gift of breastfeeding a second time from my mother. She started by giving me a copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING on my first Mother's Day as an expectant mother. As I began reading, I called her and, through tears of joy and anticipation, asked her if she would be there with me when my baby was born. She agreed that she would not miss it for the world (this was her first grandchild) and she would support me in giving my child the best start possible through breastfeeding. I quickly devoured the book wanting to be completely prepared. As the birth day approached, I was anxious that I would not get the proper latch-on to start a successful nursing relationship, but knowing my mom, the "expert," was going to be there gave me a sense of assurance. Because she lived in a different state, she knew that she would not always be able to be there when breastfeeding challenges arose. She encouraged me to build a support network starting with my local LLL Group. While pregnant, I attended my first LLL meeting (as an adult) and felt instantly comfortable with the two Leaders. Even before my child was born, I valued the philosophy of LLL and the support provided to nursing mothers everywhere. The meeting reaffirmed my choice to exclusively breastfeed my child and provided living proof that even today in our hurried world it can be done.

The big day finally arrived and my daughter, Jacqueline Noelle, entered the world after a very quick labor. My mother barely made it for the birth, but was there when Jacqueline latched on for the first time. She helped us with positioning, kept track of wet diapers, helped wake my sleepy baby to nurse every two hours, and answered my countless questions. She understood when my milk came in and sympathized when Jacqueline had her "power" nursing sessions that would last all evening. She listened and supported me when I struggled with the demands of exclusive breastfeeding.

Now, as I am nursing a six-month-old, my mom still listens to the new joys and challenges that Jacqueline and I experience as a nursing couple, in addition to answering my still many and frequent questions. Through all these discussions, my mother shared accounts of her own similar experiences nursing my siblings and me. It was reassuring to hear that she experienced the same challenges of breastfeeding and her experience spoke volumes. Through all the years, her conviction and faith in the benefits of breastfeeding were unwavering.

As breastfeeding proceeded, I quickly realized that the best part of being a nursing mother was the relationship and bond that developed between my daughter and me. We have our special time that only she and I share. My heart overflows when she nestles close and smiles knowing that she's going to receive my milk to nourish her body and nurture her spirit. I now feel a kinship with all other mothers who have breastfed before me and who are currently breastfeeding. It's an exclusive membership in the company of women who understand the incredible benefits given to a child through breastfeeding.

The bond that began 27 years before when my mother first drew me to her breast has strengthened as I likewise give the gift of breastfeeding to my daughter. A gift of love and an endless bond that only a mother can give.

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