Before I became a mother, I didn’t give breastfeeding much thought, except to assume that I’d do it and to think that it seemed a little weird. Breastfeeding is now, however, my favorite thing about mothering a baby, and it’s not because it is good for me or the baby, although those things are true. I love it because it is enjoyable.
I assumed I would breastfeed because I was raised steeped in breastfeeding culture, if there is such a thing. My mother breastfed me in the 70s, which was not always as common, and my father is a pediatrician. We once had a costume party at our house where one of my parents’ friends came dressed as a breast. (Incidentally, lest you become hot and bothered at the idea of this, or conversely, become scandalized, I can assure you this was not a sexy costume. This was no sexy pizza. This was a giant, puffy, flesh-colored suit, with a dyed knot in the middle to represent the nipple. Was her face supposed to be a second nipple? These were the things that preoccupied me in middle school. But I digress.) Another good friend of my parents’ was and is a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding, specifically the importance of doing so for the health of the baby and mother, was drummed into my psyche from an early age.
Even though I knew breastfeeding was important and assumed I would do it, it still seemed a little weird to me before I had children. It seemed so primitive. I’d milked cows before at camp, which didn’t exactly endear me to the idea. Not to mention, the idea of a creature literally feeding off you just seems crazy.
So when Big Boy was born, I struggled–and I mean struggled, crying every day, working with a lactation consultant for hours and weeks to get him to latch on when he was sluggish from jaundice and had to be fed from a syringe–to make breastfeeding work. Between all three of my children, I think we’ve had every nursing issue there is. So it hasn’t always been easy for me.
But once each of my children figured out how to nurse, it became my favorite part of mothering them as babies. Why?