A week or so ago I sat in a bright classroom in downtown DC with about twenty other mothers, all of us with our babies on our laps, in slings, or on the floor in front of us. All of the babies were between 4 and 9 months old, and most were first babies, a few were second babies. It was a class at the Breastfeeding Center on breastfeeding your 4-12 month old. The moms in this class were mostly calm, mostly at ease with their chubby, curious babies, and mostly in love with breastfeeding. By way of contrast, just a month or so prior I had attended the weekly meeting of moms whose babies were 0-3 months old – sleepy-eyed, stoic, with delicate infants clinging to them. In that class, moms gather like soldiers on day-leave, drinking each others’ support like liquor to steel themselves for the return to the front. By the 4-12 month class, these moms are confident and composed, battle-tested officers at ease in their field. It’s a rite-of-passage, getting from earnest new mother to comfortable mama. It shows in the faces of those who’ve made it. It feels good to be here. Listening to the questions and concerns and advice of these slightly more experienced moms, of whom I am now one, I was inspired by how amazing it is to do this thing for my child. And, I was bemused at how self-aware we all are about this thing that half the world (and until recently, the ENTIRE WORLD) does without giving it much thought. Why are so we moms so passionate about our breastfeeding? I can think of a few reasons.
1) A sense of accomplishment. Breastfeeding well, and getting past the challenging early days, feels good. You learned something and you can do it well. It’s one thing I am sure I’m getting right.
2) It’s hard, but not like that. It’s not hard every day. Cooking is hard, playing the piano is hard, making beer is hard, yoga is hard. At first. But at some point in your practice, you develop skill that leads to ease. You now do a hard thing as if it’s not hard, because it’s not that hard to you anymore. In fact…
3) It is a pleasure. Feeding my baby is really one of the nicest parts of my day. Even when it needs to be done when I really would prefer to eat my own dinner (you know, while it’s still hot) or when some little thing is out of sync, like Del’s recent lazy latch on that sometimes leaves my nipple stinging from the poor positioning. It’s enough of a pleasure that I am willing to wait for dinner, and to break a bad habit with a baby, to keep it going. Breastfeeding is a sure moment of peace and rest in the day. I have to sit or lie down with my son and let him eat. I get to.I feel good about being able to provide De’s food. I enjoy the restful moment. And the hit of oxytocin reinforces those good feelings!
4) It’s a shared pleasure. Not only do I feel good about breastfeeding, I get to watch my baby enjoy it too. When he was new, he ate determinedly, desperately. Now he is playful, demanding, silly sometimes, eager and aware of where his meal comes from. He wriggles around to get ahold. He relaxes as he eats. He lets go to look up and me and grin, with dribbles of milk on his cheek. He snuggles. He drifts to sleep, still sucking. It’s amazing to watch. I admit, sometimes I play Words With Friends or watch 30 Rock while he eats. Other times, I just rub his back and watch him.