I love it. It has been a big struggle for me, physically breastfeeding Little Berry. Emotionally, however, it has been nothing but a beautiful, joyous experience. In the beginning, and for way too long, we had problems. I've always had plenty of milk, I can hand express 8oz effortlessly, but it has been hard in other ways. She is 18mo old this month, and we are still breastfeeding with no intention to stop until she self weans. When I was pregnant, I knew I would have an unmedicated vaginal delivery (and did).
I was more worried and did more to prepare for breastfeeding than I did to prepare for labor. I thought I couldn't do it. I thought it was gross. I thought it would hurt, it thought it would be inconvenient and ruin my breasts. And during the first weeks, it might have been all of those things.
We had latch problems, which later revealed themselves to be thrush, so I spent months cutting out carbs and sugars and fruits, boiling my bras and pump parts, smearing little berry and I with Gentian Violet until finally I just had had enough. We got on Diflucan (a giant pill made to kill yeast) and just like that *it cleared up.* I was so grateful. Suddenly nursing was easy. It was a joy, a way to relax with my baby.
She's bigger now and I take it for granted in that nursing has become effortless, but I realized this week we might be closer to being over these nursing days, and thats something I hadn't thought of before. I want to allow her to self wean, which most babes do before they're 4. Not all, but most. The global average for weaning.....
I think extended breastfeeding is important for a plethora of reasons, not just nutritionally, because at this point it's probably similar to giving her raw cows milk (not pasteurized). But she gets so calm from nursing, even when she's angry or scared or hurt or overtired, a nursing session calms her down and sets her back into good spirits again or settles her into a heavy sleep. We can nurse anywhere, although people are prone to give us dirty looks because many people find breastfeeding a toddler offensive. Especially public breastfeeding, which is unfortunate. Her father is among those who want me to "cover it up" but lets face it, he's not the one trying to breastfeed, or even to calm an overtired, overstimulated hungry babe in the middle of Target.
Being asked to "cover it up" is like being told I'm doing something dirty that other people should be spared viewing.
Breastfeeding isn't "okay" or "good" or "bad" or "weird"- it's normal. It's perfect. It's the standard our bodies were meant for and built for, and if you believe God made us with a design in mind then that will also mean something more to you.
It's the primary function of the breast. Its what babies' tummies are made to digest. Breastmilk changes from nursing session to nursing session, it is species-specific and if you put a newborn, straight from the womb, onto his mothers lap s/he will CRAWL up that mama and latch on because breastfeeding is also innate.
Formula is full of chemicals and BPA and cannot provide the nutritional or emotional comfort breastfeeding does, but that's another story. We all have our choices and in some instances formula is an only choice or a best choice out of many unfortunate options.
It is, however, interesting that formula is "normalized." You'd never say hurtful things to a woman sitting with a baby and giving that baby a bottle in the shoe department of Target because it's just considered socially acceptable. Yet women get kicked out of places all the time for breastfeeding, and I've been told to leave my fare share of those places unfortunately, and especially when I was a student trying to nurse at a large state university. It is a womans' legal right to breastfeed anywhere SHE has the legal right to be, but it is difficult to breastfeed your child when you are being harrassed and humiliated, so many women comply with demands to leave.
And a big part of that is because the formula companies market their products as being acceptable/normal/ideal when in reality, in many developing countries that same marketing is responsible for the death of thousands of babies. Parental illiteracy, (renders parents unable to mix formula properly, or to chose a can of sweetened condensed syrup because it has the same NEST(le) picture on the can as the infant formula sample), no access to clean water to mix bottles or sterilise them with, and aggressive formula marketing causes new mothers to take the samples given to them by doctors and fail to establih breastfeeding at the start. By the time they're out of formula (and perhaps can't afford more) they're also unable to breastfeed because their supply has dried up. So we need to stop seeing formula as normal and start seeing it as an alternative. I think many women never get to see how lovely and important it is to breastfeed their child because they simply don't have the right support system in place.
Unfortunately, pediatricians and OB's often don't understand how important breastfeeding is either and many time undermine a womans breastfeeding attempts. Breastfeeding through toddlerhood almost eliminates a womans chances of developing breast cancer, it greatly reduces our risks of developing diabetes, and it provides immune boosting antibodies to our babies, speeds recovery time from delivery, causes (post partum) weight loss, boosts hormones that can reduce post partum depression. And yet it can be tough, as I was reminded again this past week.
My girl has a bad cold and has been having a nursing strike. It was painful for me, scary for her, and shes been lying next to me just holding my breasts at night, whimpering in a heart-breaking way at something that means so much in her little world. It has served as a reminder to us all how much nursing is a part of our daily lives, but finally she's on the mend. I wish I could convey the look on her dear precious and deeply relieved face that lit up this afternoon when she finally realized she felt well enough to nurse again. He eyes got dreamy and sweet smiles flitted across her face as she snuggled up close having some mamma milk and settling into a heavy slumber.
If, like a can of formula, my breasts had a slogan,
they would say:
It is bliss.
- mamma pie