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Nursing - The Physical Bond

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

All this talk about cross-nursing and casual sharing has me thinking about why it is that I'm fine with casual sharing but a little wigged out by the idea of cross-nursing. (I don't mind others doing it, just not for me.)

I think part of it is that until I had Emmitt, I never really understand what nursing mothers were talking about with that intense, physical bond that they form with their child. In fact, I'll admit that I was fairly insulted when breastfeeding moms talked about the "bonding" that they had with their babies and implied that I could never have that same level of bonding with my own bottle-fed (albeit with breast milk) child.

I get it now and it's hard to figure out how to share it without offending people. I'm going to go with it though and trust that my readers know me well enough to get what I'm trying to share and that I mean no offense by it.

Nursing a child really is one of the most intimate things I've experienced in my life. Not intimate in a sexual manner, intimate in a "takes your breath away at the sheer innocence and beauty of it" kind of way. As much of a Lactivist as I am, up until Emmitt was born I really only ever planned to nurse him because that's what's best for HIM. It never really dawned on me how I might feel about it. (To be honest, I expected to feel a little bit yucky about it, even knowing how natural it is...I totally GET moms that find the prospect of nursing to be "icky.")

The first time he nursed, I wanted to cry. Not because it hurt, not because it represented potential victory over the long arduous days of pumping, but because it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I'm not a romanticizing person, nor am I a person who cries...but even now, three months later, I still find my eyes occasionally welling up as I gaze down at him nursing. (And if you say it's pregnancy hormones, I'm going to show you pregnancy hormones! :-P)

It's so multi-faceted.

It's feeling him snuggled so close to me in that skin to skin contact that I never had with bottle feeding.

It's the way his mouth opens wide and he absolutely DIVES at my breast.

It's the way his eyes just LIGHT UP when he sees that nursing bra flap come down.

It's the fact that he's annoyed with other large chested women that have the gaul to hold him without giving access to those boobs. ;)

It's the times that he falls asleep at the breast and his mouth falls lazily open while a little dribble of milk runs down his cheek.

It's the times that he lets out the smallest, softest sigh of contentment when he's had his fill.

It's REALLY the times that he actually laughs while nursing. Looking up at me with those big old innocent eyes that crinkle at the corner before he lets out that funny little laugh between sucks.

It's all the touching, heart-felt, amazing moments that they tell you about even though you think they're insane in those early weeks. (After all, what's touching or beautiful about cracked nipples and latches so painful you have to bite your lip to keep from crying?)

It's all those things and so much more that make me so eternally thankful that I dropped my plans to EP from the start with him and decided to give this nursing thing one more shot. It's those things that make me want to encourage other moms that had trouble with their first child to not give up.

If you want to nurse but it hasn't worked out in the past, give it another try. Take a breastfeeding class, find a good LC BEFORE you give birth, setup a support system. Remind yourself that no two children are alike and that while the first time around may have been hell, this time it could be a dream. Remember that breastfeeding doesn't have to be a zero sum game. Nursing isn't entirely about nourishment. If you have low supply or other problems that make it physically difficult for you to produce enough milk, nurse what you can and bottlefeed what you can. Do what works for you and your baby, but don't give up on nursing if it's something you want to experience.

I get now why some moms are reluctant to wean. I may feel differently in another year or two, but for now...I can't imagine giving this up.

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  1. Blogger heidi | 7:00 AM |  

    I totally agree on every point. I've been crying from mama bliss while nursing all over again, even though Molly's nearly eight months old- my tears ARE hormonal- got my period back. That's another great reason to nurse- my formula-using friends are wicked jealous I went this long without menstruating:)

  2. Anonymous Mary Jo | 8:42 AM |  

    I'm with you on this one. My DS is about Nora's age (and is "helping" me type!) and weaned at 20 months. We are hoping to have another baby soon, and I find that nursing is what I miss most! I'll just have to remember how great it is when I'm going through those tough early weeks.

  3. Blogger ContentWorth | 9:56 AM |  

    I almost wept while reading your post thinking of how beautiful it is to feed my son.

    Riley actually makes satisfied sounds as he swallows. It's adorable!

    Just wait as your son gets older he'll laugh and smile while nursing. He'll latch on, pull back, look you directly in the eyes with an intense love and happiness, then bury his head back in.

    I never could have believed how incredible nursing can be. I try to nudge my mom-to-be friends to at least give it a try. I don't want to nag or sound judgemental, but I do wish everyone had the opportunity to feel and experience nursing, even just for a short period of time.

  4. Anonymous Sinead | 11:17 AM |  

    Jennifer, your description of the nursing bond is simply beautiful! And oh so true. At 18 months old my little boy babbles to himself as he feeds and sometimes bursts out laughing. He is in total bliss and I just adore watching him as he gulps, chuckles and spills!
    How I wish I could describe it in such a way that all mums would give it a try...
    By the way, I will link to this post later!

  5. Anonymous Dylan - Pre- and Perinatal Psychology | 12:20 PM |  

    Wow...so well put! Thanks for your wonderful words and sharing.

  6. Blogger Carrie Lauth | 2:20 PM |  

    yes, yes, yes... there is nothing like it. That's why the old ladies at church give me that knowing look and say "I miss nursing..." when it's been decades since they did it. :)
    It's about the most beautiful example of love. Giving = happiness.

  7. Blogger Meg | 7:19 PM |  

    Multiply all those feelings and some good laughs if you are nursing two! I nursed through my pregnancy with my second daughter and it was a hoot the first time they nursed at the same time (she was 19 mos, my little guy 1 mo.) I really love that they spontanteously held hands a few times, precious.
    Anyway, she weaned at 26 mos and I am pregnant with #4 and my 18 mos old little guy is nursing strong.
    Now he asks for "WAH-WAH, plea" And he still does that look up and laugh like you said! I love that! Or I say, "are you done?" and he grunts, "nuh-uh" I never imagined having conversations about nursing with my kids, in fact it weirded me out at a few LaLeche meetings when I heard about it from other moms but it was just another great part of the journey with all three of mine.

    Tip: work towards a word that is less obvious or you might have a toddler yelling BOOBIE in the middle of church :)

    Keep up the great posts. I so love the encouragement you give to all of us.

  8. Blogger Jennifer | 9:05 PM |  

    Wow, what a great response. That's one of those posts that I wrote late at night "in the moment" just after I'd finished nursing Emmitt.

    In fact, I've re-read it twice and both times, it made me sort of well up. (I'm SUCH a girl when I'm pregnant or lactating...)

    I think this really is one of those things that's both a great selling point and a knife in the heart when it comes to breastfeeding.

    For moms that want to give it another try or moms that have never nursed, hearing about this bond can be such a motivator to get through those horribly difficult first few days, weeks, or even months.

    But for moms that reach their wit's end and give it up either by choice or by necessity, I can see how this would be hard to hear. As I wrote, it really bothered me to hear mom's say it back when I was pumping for Elnora. I think deep down I knew it was about more than getting breastmilk in to her and I was upset that I was missing that experience.

    My hope is that readers get where I'm coming from. I know I have some readers here that gave up nursing early on either by choice, to save their sanity, or because they simply had to and for those of them that plan to have more children...I guess I just want them to know that it doesn't have to be as hard the second time and that it IS worth giving it another shot.

  9. Blogger Heather | 3:31 PM |  

    Thank you for verbalizing what I have felt so often. I've done both with Elisabeth, bottle feeding EBM to her and of course nursing straight from the tap. It just wasn't the same as nursing.

    I hate that bottle feeding mothers get so offended, but they really, really are missing out on something indefinable, something wonderful, that you just can't get from a silicon nipple. It doesn't mean that your baby is going to grow up warped... it's just something you miss out on.

  10. Blogger Judy | 6:08 AM |  

    I like the closeness part, but have not really experienced the other good parts yet.

    Anyway, my main point is that if you're not putting people down, then if they get offended it's probably something they're dealing with and not your fault.

    I'm not offended that other people have better experiences than I do or if they have an opinion that there experience is better. It's like when I lost my first baby and people wondered if other women being pregnant bothered me. For some reason it never did. Like it would make me feel better if other people's babies died too.

  11. Anonymous Elaine | 5:36 AM |  

    Hi, I'm from Singapore and I'm still nursing my 30 months old son. I can totally feel what you have described in your post. Nursing is indeed such a wonderful experience that all mothers should try :)

  12. Anonymous Crissy | 2:35 PM |  

    The sadness I feel about stopping breastfeeding my seven month old son is overwhelming. My husband pestered me everyday about losing weight, and I can't take metabolism boosting pills while breastfeeding, so I gave in. I miss the just him and I late night feedings, where he curled up in my arms and wrapped his little fingers in my hair while he ate.

  13. Blogger The Lactivist | 3:31 PM |  

    Crissy, I can't tell you how sad (and quite frankly, ticked off) your post makes me.

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