Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Before I had a child, I never dreamed how important breastfeeding would become to me. My mom makes no secret of the fact that she didn't nurse; I had very few points of reference.
It's hard to believe that it hasn't yet been a year since Munch and I stopped nursing. For the first 19+ months of his life, much of our days revolved around breastfeeding. I constantly thought about when he would need to eat next, where I would be, and how I would finagle it if we happened not to be home.
I know some women are able to just hold the kid with one arm and keep on with their lives with the free hand, but that was not me. I am what some would term "busty" (if this was 1950) and my body's former high weight and subsequent weight loss left me with let's say fleshy bosoms. They take active managing. Impossible to cage in button-down shirts and difficult to pin down comfortably for jogs.
Breastfeeding changed how I felt about myself and made me not so critical of my non-perked boobs. They were now life-sustaining wonders, producing milk because my baby needed it. They knew their job and they did it for nearly 20 months. Thanks, boobs!
And thanks also for making me feel:
Brave. I avoided nursing Munch in public when possible, but sometimes it was unavoidable. I did a lot of nursing in the car, but in the dead of summer, that wasn't happening. One of many memories is sitting in a Panera Bread in Pennsylvania with my mother-in-law holding up my breastfeeding shield while others ate and a worker slowly, slowly swept the floor around our table.
I never felt embarrassed or ashamed for people to know I was nursing. In fact, I felt almost defiant. I've read the stories of women being boob-shamed in Target and various other places; I felt like, I dare you to say something to me. Bring it on. Luckily, no one ever mentioned it, but I was prepared to defend my right to feed my child.
Proud. If you know me, you know I have some self-esteem issues. I feel like very little comes easily to me. And my head had been filled with caveats surrounding breastfeeding: "Don't blame yourself if it doesn't work. There's no shame in formula feeding. You're not a failure if you can't do it long term." And I believe those things; I believe and know that breastfeeding IS hard and there is no shame in choosing formula.
But after a few bumps, breastfeeding came easy. By day 3 in the hospital, one nurse asked if I had other children because we were doing so well. Breastfeeding was something that felt natural and easy, once I fell into a routine with Munch. In a time when everything--from how much a newborn should poop and pee to how to safely swaddle his tiny body--felt fraught with uncertainty, breastfeeding was a gimme for me, and I'll be forever grateful.
Connected. Breastfeeding connected me to my child like no other thing. But it also connected me to generations of women, spanning thousands of years. Our bodies, our mothering bodies, did this miraculous thing. It is natural, yes, but that makes it no less a miracle.
And beyond that, it connected me to Nature. I read stories of how each mammal's breastmilk does specific things for its young--seals, for example, produce milk that is very high in fat because of the rough conditions in which seals live. The milk knows, the mother's body knows. And that is a miracle.