Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Breastlaration of Independence.

Ahh nursing!  That ancient and beautiful ritual between a mother and child.  We have all see the images of beautiful curvy women breastfeeding their children with ease.  My mother breastfed 6 children, many of us until we were old enough to inform her when it was time to switch sides (me).  Seeing my mom breastfeed my siblings was the most natural thing in the world to me so when I found out I was pregnant it was a foregone conclusion that I would be nursing.

This is what I thought nursing would be like: 

 This was how we actually started out:

I had this idea in my head that babies were born knowing how to nurse, that my baby would emerge from within me, crawl up to my chest, tuck a napkin under his chin and feed himself.  Oh if only that were true.  My beautiful son came 11 days early and while I was convinced that he was the size of a county fair prize watermelon, he tipped the scales at a whopping 5 lbs 14 oz.  
We struggled with nursing from the minute he was born.  His tiny mouth + my gigantic lunch boxes were not a match made in lactation heaven.  Some nights it would take me 40 minutes to get him to latch, he'd nurse for 45 minutes, fall asleep and wake up 30 minutes later to nurse again.  Trevor and I have this theory that someday in the future, Jack is going to watch Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark- you know that scene where a huge boulder is barreling after him?  Jack will watch that scene and turn to whoever is in the room with him and say "I could go for some milk."

We learned how to latch together, we found a routine, we struggled through a plugged duct, we survived late night feeding and "Family Ties" marathons.  We made it an entire year together.
There is a lot of pressure on a new mom to get this whole nursing thing down those first few weeks.  People all of a sudden became very fascinated by what was happening in my breasts.  Wait, scratch that, they're still fascinated by what's happening in my breasts.  20% of women breastfeed for a full year.  I wonder how many drop out because of pressure from friends and family.  For every woman who asks if your milk has come in, there is another one about 1 year later who asks if you're weaning yet.  I have come up with some responses to that question:

When will I wean?

- As I'm walking him down the aisle at his wedding
- Right after I make him his first White Russian on his 21st birthday
- When it becomes creepy when I ask if he'll take any cream in his coffee and start unbuttoning my shirt
- When he finds a set of breasts that he likes more than mine
- Tomorrow

But do you want to know the real answer?  The real answer is, I just don't know yet, but we'll both figure it out together.  From the moment we cut that cord, motherhood became one good-bye after another.  For 9 months we house this precious person right under our hearts and when that moment comes and we have to hand them over to all of the unknowns of the world, in a way, it's our first good-bye.  Nursing, among its myriad of other benefits, allows us to keep a physical connection with them as long as we can.  Weaning is a monumental good-bye between a mother and a child.  Constantly asking your friend when she plans on weaning can dredge up some very deep emotions for her.  So just tread lightly.

Now, nursing is more like this:

We're a lot more confident now, we do it with ease.  He stares in my eyes and explores my face with his hands.  Every day we nurse a little less and I say good bye to the physical connection we have shared.  In doing so, I learn to say hello to a million other connections and memories we will share.

1 year.  We did it.

Images from top to bottom:  Keralite Mother And Child (Breastfeeding)- Artist Unknown; Nursing Mother- Paula Modersohn-Becker; Young Mother Nursing Her Child- Mary Cassatt


  1. What a lovely, lovely description of such an ordinary and extraordinary gift for mama and baby. I'm so proud you held on with such tenacity - you and Jack are so much the better for it. So proud of the woman and mother you are. xo

  2. Great post, Nancy. I had A LOT of nursing problems with my first but with much determination finally overcame. I nursed all my babies a year and beyond -- well, except the current one. She's been nursing well for six months now, and I'm looking forward to the rest of our nursing days together. Enjoy your days with Jack! :)

  3. Beautiful post, thank you! Nursing my 2,5 yr old :)