I want to tell you about breastfeeding, but I don’t want you to feel judged. Just know, I’ve been there. I was so nervous before giving birth about breastfeeding. In fact, I was completely sold on formula. I used it with my first son, and he had gained weight well and I intended to do it again. I even bought fancy glass baby bottles, twelve of them, in preparation and washed and readied them. I bought no nursing shirts or bras, I had no interest in even trying really. And then something happened after the labor. He was so little and helpless, and he came out so quickly and easily. I brought him right to my chest and he started to nurse. He latched perfectly and we nursed for forty minutes until they took him away to bathe him. It was so different, so easy this time. Even with having a great latch, we still struggled that first week. I even ordered a case of formula the third night after he was born in frustration. My milk wasn’t letting down and I could tell he was getting dehydrated. He was screaming and screaming and was obviously starving so I broke down and gave him a bottle of formula. He gulped the whole thing down. That’s it, I thought, that’s the end of our breastfeeding relationship. I made it three days, longer than Charley. I felt defeated from one bottle. All the La Leche League members were screaming, ‘Poison!’ in my head and I was ready to give up.
Then something happened that night. I was a hormonal mess, and I hadn’t been to that point. I cried all night, confused about whether I wanted to keep trying to nurse or not. Matt had taken a picture of me nursing Dash at the hospital right after he was born and I woke up at 5 a.m. and just stared at that picture. I was sad that I had stopped trying. I was engorged and still had milk and could feel time running out. So even though we had decided that formula was ok this time around again, I brought him to my chest and nursed him. It felt peaceful in the blue early morning light. We were the only ones awake and he was so small, like a little bird under my wing. He latched perfectly, my milk let down and that was the end of our struggles.
It’s a learning curve, and week by week it has gotten easier. I will say it has affected our sex life. I was so nervous about nursing with Charley because I didn’t want to keep sharing my body. And now, I nurse all day long and by the end of the day I don’t want to be touched by anyway. It’s truly bliss though, oxytocin is a powerful drug and I am madly in love with my little guy. I had read before that breastfeeding helps to combat post-partum depression (with the release of oxytocin) and sometimes that’s the biggest reason I continue forward with it. I feel calmer, more relaxed and less anxious than I did with Charley.
You do bond differently as well. I felt that was an incorrect statement before, because, after all, I had bonded with Charley. I never propped him up with a bottle, I always sat with him and snuggled and fed him. And I spend the same amount of time also browsing my iphone while feeding Dash as I did with Charley. (Iphone browsing while nursing is probably a topic for another column) But there’s something about seeing Dash’s little giggly face so close to my breast that always makes me smile and my heart swell. We are connected and it’s reassuring that for the most part I have the one thing that will always calm him down. Works every time. I’ve even gotten over my ambivalence about nursing in public, or even in front of other people. Now, when he’s hungry, I just whip it out, no nursing cover, just a boob hanging out of my shirt. And it doesn’t even bother me. It’s like a switch was flipped when I started breastfeeding and I see them as nourishment and not sexual. So the next time you see a nursing mother, don’t be embarrassed, just maybe keep those eyes upward and don’t stare.
The biggest lesson I have learned from my breastfeeding my second child so far is this: there is no one right way to parent. I think that’s the most important thing to remember in today’s judgmental parenting society. I cloth-diapered Charley but am using disposables with Dash. I am breastfeeding Dash (and might extend it past a year if all is going well) and I fed Charley formula. I think both kids will be fine. At the end of the day, I think most people don’t care about what others are doing, as long as it keeps their children safe and it works for their family.