Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's World Breastfeeding Week!

I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I started blogging 9 months ago, yet I was so busy yesterday that I missed posting on the first day. Oops. I’m not sure I’ll have anything that profound to contribute anyway, but I’ll share a bit of what I’ve learned as I’ve nurtured three babies, and some of the helpful resources I’ve found.

I was blessed to be raised in an environment that fully supported breastfeeding. My mom breastfed all five of us, and I honestly don’t remember any mother I knew growing up giving her baby a bottle. There might have been one or two, but not enough that I remember them. I have far more memories of mothers discreetly nursing their babies at Bible studies and homeschool groups. Because I had been raised around families who were so supportive of breastfeeding, when I had Elizabeth, it honestly never crossed my mind that formula was an option. In my mind it wasn’t a choice. Breastfeeding was the norm, formula was an unnatural and undesirable alternative.

Billy, on the other hand, came from an opposite background. Breastfeeding was completely foreign to him. He supported me completely, but he became a convert over time. When he saw how healthy and content our babies were, how chubby they were, and most of all, how they immediately began to be sick more often once they weaned (proof that breastfeeding really does boost baby’s immunity even into the toddler years), he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although I had been raised in an environment that was positive toward breastfeeding and I believed it was best, I was still pretty clueless when I began. A dear friend told me before Elizabeth was born how important it was for babies to get breastmilk, the perfect brain food, for at least the first two years while baby’s brain was growing rapidly. I don’t believe I had given any thought to how long I’d nurse my babies, but that encouragement gave me a goal to shoot for. Elizabeth nursed till her second birthday and Silas self-weaned at about 21 months. Sarah is 15 months and counting.

This same friend encouraged me to breastfeed (and mother) my tiny one responsively, feeding her on cue, because it would be best for both her and me. She encouraged me to not let a little baby “cry it out”, but rather to listen to the only voice Baby had to let me know what she needed. What wonderful advice! I never felt resentment toward my baby for waking at night or wanting to nurse, because it was settled in my heart that God has designed babies to let Mom know when they need her—whether for nourishment or comfort.

With Elizabeth, my first, this was a special blessing. She was and is my busy, busy girl. She never stops moving. She never stopped long enough to sit on anyone’s lap or snuggle. Those long nursing sessions, especially at bedtime, gave us times of physical closeness we never would have otherwise had. I attribute much of our close relationship today to the nurturing I was able to give her as a small baby. It was a sweet time of bonding, unhindered by bedtime battles that would have occurred had I forced scheduling and self-soothing and taken a confrontational, adversarial approach. As it is, this firstborn who was such a challenge in other ways is my very best sleeper now.

So breastfeeding has been a gift to our family. I’ve seen how God’s perfect design for nurturing babies truly is beneficial for them, and in so many ways for us as parents too. While I still have much to learn, I’m grateful for friends, family, and resources that have made the journey easier.

On her blog, Tulipgirl is keeping a running list of who all is blogging for World Breastfeeding Week. Go check it out! Thanks Tulipgirl!


Amanda said...

I appreciated this post. I breastfed my first until he was a year, he self weaned himself, right to the cup. I am nursing my second right now and he's 6 months. I am a huge proponent. I work 3 days a week and pump, and have no issues with it at all. Thank you for this encouragement.

Charity Grace said...

Wow, Amanda, that is great. I really hand it to moms who have the commitment to pump for their babies. I didn't fully understand what that entailed till I had to pump while my husband was in the hospital for awhile. I have a whole new appreciation for pumping moms. Good for you!