Lying on his pillow, fingers spread across his face, Josephs smiling eyes gaze up at me while he contentedly nurses away at my breast. Looking down at him, its hard for me to understand why a mother wouldnt breastfeed her baby. But I realize a majority of mothers still do not breastfeed, so here are my two cents on why I do.
Many people have written books and articles on why breastfeeding is best. Breast milk meets a babys nutritional needs perfectly. Its far more convenient to put the baby to breast than to make up formula, reheat bottles (especially at 2 a.m. or during a church service), and then have to clean all those bottles and nipples. Breastfeeding also protects moms from developing breast cancer later in life. Babies get important antibodies through breast milk and may be protected against certain allergies. The list of benefits goes on and on. (La Leche League provides excellent information in these areas.)
While all those reasons have factored into my decision to breastfeed our children, they dont tell the whole story. Thankfully, my mother breastfed me and my older siblings and encouraged me to give it a try. Also, my sisters-in-law were excellent role models of what it takes to nurse a baby successfully and how wonderful it can be.
When our oldest, Marie, was born I was committed to breastfeeding. I cried a lot in the first 24 hours though. She was incredibly sleepy, even for a newborn. When she was awake and interested in nursing, she had difficulty latching on. The lactation consultant at the hospital spent more than three hours with us and her advice made a world of difference.
Having support is key to a breastfeeding mother. A newborn baby demands a lot of time. I used to call Marie my jailer some days because I felt trapped on the couch, nursing her for what seemed like hours on end. Over time the nursing sessions grew shorter and the length of time between them grew longer. By her two month checkup I could honestly tell the doctor that breastfeeding was well established and I was truly happy to be nursing her.
The time spent nursing our babies was well spent. Gazing into each other's eyes I have fallen in love with each of our children while they were at the breast. With our first, I was able to do a lot of reading while she ate. With the others, I have been able to read to the older child while the baby nurses. It is also time for Mommy to put her feet up and take a rest from dishes, laundry, and vacuuming.
My favorite expression to see on our baby's face is the "drunk with milk" look. Usually a little milk drips from the corner of the mouth, the baby's eyes are closed, and the sweetest smile crosses the baby's face. No camera could fully capture the satisfaction of both mother and child at that moment.
I guess the sense of accomplishment at doing something so valuable for our children is what keeps me nursing. I know they enjoy the milk, the closeness and the comfort of the one on one time with me, and I know the days where they want to curl up and cuddle will be all too short. In that sense, I am selfish and will drink in all the sweet cuddling time I can while it is so freely given.
I have found that anything worth doing takes sacrifice, patience, and love, and breastfeeding is no different. The decision to nurse our children is one of the best, most rewarding, parenting decisions I have ever made.
For more information about breastfeeding, please check out the La Leche League web site at www.lalecheleague.org They have a number of excellent articles and links to other sites. On the web site you can find out where the nearest La Leche League group is if you would like to join a group of supportive women.
Also, I have found nursing clothes have given me confidence to nurse in public. Several people have come over to see the baby while I'm nursing only to remark after getting close, "Oh, you're nursing! I had no idea!"
To see some good quality nursing clothes, check out the Motherwear website at www.motherwear.com They have a personal shopper program and clearance racks that are particularly worth checking.