I just checked, and apparently, among my 96 posts, there isn’t a single one about breastfeeding. I mention it here and there, but it hasn’t gotten a whole post until today. It is ironic, because if there has been a constant in the last six years of my life, that would have to be breastfeeding. Not so little anymore L nursed until he was almost three. And at two Little PB is still nursing strong. That makes it five years of it. I guess that it is such a part of my daily life that I don’t consider it worth noting anymore. But this week two things reminded me of how important it is. For two different reasons two different doctors suggested that I wean my baby (and yes, he will be my baby for as long as he still nurses). One of them had a very valid reason, I am sick and I may need some antibiotics that are not compatible with breastfeeding. Finally Dr and I decided that since Little PB actually has taken the antibiotic itself, it is ridiculous to think that the traces he could get through my milk could be detrimental for him. So, that one was fixed. The second thing is this article published in Spanish newspaper El Mundo. It is an article in favor of breastfeeding, decently writte., I may disagree with a couple of the things they say, but other than that the article is good, and encouraging. The shock came when I scrolled down to read the comments. Many of them were criticizing or making fun of breastfeeding moms. The worse part? Most were written by moms!!!!! By now there is no doubt that breastmilk is best for baby, and breastfeeding is better for mom. Is it easy? No way. You have to be patient the first few days until the baby learns how to nurse, and you get your milk, and you spend the first weeks of motherhood establishing your supply, which pretty much requires nursing on demand to be completely successful. But after that, the rewards are many. It is best for everyone, it is cheaper, you don’t have to carry bottles around, it gives you precious bonding time with the baby, it relaxes both baby and mom… I could go on and on. Of course, your house and yourself are not going to look perfect during those first months, since sleeping while the baby sleeps is a good idea. Which I suspect is part of the problem in Spain.
Two comments scared me more than the rest. They referred to NICU babies, and how the doctors told their moms that formula was better, and how nursing when they had limited access to their babies was hard. I was horrified by this. I sort of knew about it but still… In Spain, parents of babies in the NICU have access to their kids a couple of times a day. That is terrible. I was a NICU mom with Little L here in Chicago. He was there for a week, and he was pretty sick at the beginning. But the hospital always gave us full access to him. Once I went home they would even call us in the morning so we would make it to his first diaper change of the day (I know how weird that sounds, but when a diaper change is all you can do for your baby, it is actually exciting). And they made a point of giving him my painfully pumped milk, since they told us that breastmilk fed NICU babies recover earlier than formula fed ones. The same applies for contact. NICU babies, as long as their condition allows it, benefit from skin to skin contact with their parents. The fact that Spain doesn’t follow these two easy and simple practices makes me be grateful that my babies were born in the US. I would probably be still in jail if someone would have tried to keep me apart from Little L that first week of his life. It was a terrible week. And you know what kept my sanity those first days when we couldn’t even hold him? The dreaded task of pumping milk. Because that was the one thing I was able to do for him, to help him. The only thing. To this day, his daddy still says that he has never seen me as happy as the day I entered the NICU with a syringe containing the first three drops (literally three) of milk I produced. The nurses dutifully put it in the fridge, waiting for my baby to be ready for it. The memory still brings tears to my eyes.
So, that is how important breastfeeding can be for a mom, and her baby. For the whole family, indeed. And although I respect the option of moms who don’t want to do it, and certainly feel for the few who really cannot, I do not respect institutions that don’t encourage it, pediatricians who don’t recommend it, or who are offended by moms nursing in their waiting room (this happened to me in Spain the first time I visited with a nursling), and companies that do their best to discourage it. I can neither respect people who judge mothers for doing it in public.
When my best childhood friend had her baby girl, she insisted in breastfeeding her beyond the one year old WHO recommendation. When her pediatrician protested, my friend told her: “I don’t care what you say, because my friend lives in the US and they nurse there until they are much older, and I will do the same here”. Good for her for standing up for her baby. But I wish that information would have come from the pediatrician, and not from myself.
My first memory of a breastfeeding woman comes from college. I was in the University in Spain, and I saw this Swedish student breastfeeding her four month old baby while she was eating a bocadillo de tortilla (Spanish omelet sandwich). Back then, to me she was a wonderful martian because that was something you didn’t see in public. By now, there are few things I haven’t done with a baby latched to my breast. And there are few places where I wouldn’t nurse. I have, I do, and I will nurse in public for as long as my baby wants. I have been lucky. And I like to think that so have my kids.
I love that picture. Disneyworld, a few weeks ago. My almost two year old nursing, my almost six year old watching us.
6 things to do to successfully (and sanely) breastfeed your baby
1. Take care of yourself. That means sleep and eat well. Someone else can take of the rest. And if that’s not the case, it doesn’t matter. At this point, your baby doesn’t need you to look like a model. Or for your house to be fitting a decoration magazine.
2. Feel free to ignore comments from family and friends regarding your baby’s weight, the sacrifice you are making, what you should be doing, how in your family women have never had milk, and the likes.
3. Nurse wherever you are. You should have the right to do so, and in many US states you actually do, and there are laws that protect you from anyone telling you not to. Illinois is one of them. And get out of the house! Lives goes on. Wherever you are. And babies like to be outside (except if it’s January in Chicago).
4. Be patient. It takes time. There will be nerve racking situations/days, but also very funny ones (spraying, anyone?)
5. Let daddy/other mommy be part of it. There are many ways for them to participate. They can burp the baby, change the diaper (hehe), be by your side… In a few weeks, you can even pump once a day so they can give a daily bottle. That’s just fine.
6. Ask for help if you need it. There are wonderful groups, lactation consultants, doulas and friends out there. Reach out to them.