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It's Not Really about the Milk

It’s Not Really about the Milk

You may not “get it” at first.  At first you may feel it’s all about technique, and time, and swallowing, and nipples, and feeling as if your whole world has narrowed to Feeding The Baby.  Those of us who have enjoyed nursing our children are on the other side of a great emotional gulf from you.  We can’t explain it, we can only try to help you across the bridge, to where you can see for yourself.  If you stay caught up in this as a feeding method, you may never get all the way across the bridge.  But oh, the view from the other side!

Those of us who “got it” wouldn’t feel guilty if we couldn’t nurse our next child.  We’d feel anguished.  “Guilt” means you didn’t do something for someone else that you “should” have done whether or not you enjoyed it.  “Anguish” means great pain and grief, as if you’ve had a piece of yourself torn away.

Imagine moving by shifting your weight left, moving your right leg forward, knee slightly bent but gradually straightening, right heel landing as you rise on the ball of your left foot, left arm swinging forward in reverse synchrony with right, then repeating it all as a mirror image.  Not easy, graceful, or fun, not something you want to keep working at.  Now think of the ease and pleasure of just… walking, and then being told that you have to give it up.  Guilt? Or anguish?

I wish I could convey the simple, vast, delicious pleasure of nursing my children.  Once I “got it,” I didn’t “feed” them or worry about intervals.  We nursed when they wanted or when I wanted – even just to keep them quiet while I was on the phone.  At night, nursing was a quiet mending of the day’s disorders.  Not always, but then, motherhood itself isn’t always wonderful.  Breastfeeding was a fundamental, essential connection for us, and made everything else – from newborn fussiness to two-year-old tantrums – far, far simpler to manage.  Then there’s the amazing experience of being the perfect center of someone’s universe.

A breastfeeding mother is in a specific hormonal state.  Her whole body responds to her baby in a way that no one else’s can.  Her infant receives calories and comfort from a highly social connection – a full-bodied, full-mouthed embrace.  Her older child has growing pains of all kinds soothed quickly and simply, no words needed.  Can you achieve that bond with little or no milk of your own?  Absolutely, so long as your relationship stays centered on breastfeeding.  Some women use an at-breast supplementer, others use a bottle to feed their baby’s stomach and nursing to feed his soul.

Breastfeeding is a newborn’s first relationship, designed to continue throughout a child’s early years.  As a culture, we tell ourselves – without evidence – that the absence of this fundamental human relationship has no long-term implications for mother or child or family or society.

I have enjoyed our children at every stage so far – and they are now parents themselves.  My partner and I felt as if we did no real parenting after the first ten years or so; we sat back and enjoyed them.  This is unusual in America today.  Is it partly related to our start in a long, luxurious breastfeeding relationship?  I think so.  And like every woman who has reached the other side of the bridge, I hope I can extend a hand back to help you across.  The view is irreplaceable!


©2015 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC  www.normalfed.com

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