Before I even had my first baby, I knew I would breastfeed.
You can say that’s ignorant and naive. It’s said to a lot of first-time moms who say they really want to breastfeed. In fact, the advice that I often hear given to first-time moms (before their baby comes or immediately after) who desperately want to breastfeed is: “Try it. See if it works for you. And if not, it’s no big deal.”
But to moms who really want to breastfeed, it absolutely *is* a big deal. And obviously I’ve made a success of it: I’m still breastfeeding my 3-year-old and 22-month-old, and have plans to (of course) breastfeed this new baby too. I’m going to explain to you exactly why this is so important to me.
Please don’t take this the wrong way. My only goal is to explain why it is so important to me to breastfeed my babies. I’m not speaking about any other mother’s choice.
Before I had my first baby, breastfeeding seemed like the only way. I have breasts, and they make milk. Why wouldn’t I use them to feed my baby? I couldn’t wait to experience breastfeeding.
I also was and am well aware of the health benefits (which, by the way, do not magically stop at age 1). I knew my baby was less likely to get sick, would have “perfect” food, and would gain weight at the rate she was meant to.
I also felt that it was an incredible bonding experience. Breastfeeding wasn’t simply a way to get basic nutrients into her; it was a way to snuggle her and love her and enjoy her. It couldn’t (easily) be passed to someone else to do. I know some women might feel tied down or overwhelmed by the baby needing them in particular every two or three hours, but I didn’t. I enjoyed it so much that I never even pumped or introduced bottles to my son at all. I never went anywhere without him (except a couple times for just an hour or so) until he was 8 months old. I loved it that way.
Breastfeeding was also incredibly easy at night. I had to supplement a little in the beginning with my daughter, as we got the hang of breastfeeding. But giving up, to me, was not an option. I would go through any struggle to provide for her that way. When I was supplementing, though, there was the occasional night that she would not settle down. She wouldn’t latch, I couldn’t pump anymore. So I had to run down to the kitchen to find a bottle and mix formula for her in hopes that she might go to sleep. The whole thing was so annoying.
In contrast, when my son woke me up 8 or 10 times a night (I’m not kidding; and that went on for over a year), I simply latched him on and went back to sleep. We co-slept until he was almost 15 months old in order to save our sanity. I was told so many times to just put him in his own room and let him cry it out, “teach” him to sleep. I refused. I don’t regret it, either (and he now happily sleeps in his own room, in his big boy bed, mostly through the night — waking only briefly if he is wet). I could not have maintained any sort of sanity at all if I hadn’t been able to co-sleep and latch him on without even waking and definitely without getting up.
Breastfeeding simply fits in with the way that I parent. I don’t like to leave my children. I like to be very hands-on with them, and really “know” them inside and out. I like to be able to predict what they need at any given moment based solely on their mood and attitude (even though they can both talk to me now). Breastfeeding allows me to be that close to them. Not that I’m saying you can’t be a very involved, close parent without breastfeeding, but it works best for me.
And you know? Frankly I would have had a serious emotional issue if I hadn’t been able to breastfeed. It’s so integral to my parenting style that losing it would have been heartbreaking. Luckily, that was not the case. But I truly do believe that almost all women can breastfeed, with the right help, support, and knowledge. (I’ve run across a very small number who simply couldn’t, but far more who’d been told they couldn’t but likely could have, if they’d had support.)
And so…I breastfeed. And I allow my children to self-wean. And that is what works for us.
Do you breastfeed? Do you feel strongly about needing to do so?
Top image by Daquella Manera