I’ve never judged mothers for their choice to breastfeed or not. It’s a personal decision — and one that isn’t always a “choice.” I’ve always felt like an outlier in the breastfeeding community because although I did a combo of nursing, pumping and supplementing formula, I was never in one “camp.” I just “was.” And for the nine months I nursed Maya, I didn’t really enjoy it (which I’m sure isn’t what some women want to hear, especially lactivists!).
I was stressed out because my supply wasn’t great.
I was a new mom who “thought” she needed to go/go/go 24/7, so the idea of sitting still for 20-30 minutes seemed like torture.
And I just didn’t love the act of breastfeeding. I knew it was good for her and that’s why I did it, but for the most part, aside from a few fleeting special moments with her, it wasn’t what I felt connected us — which was confirmed when I stopped nursing at nine months and our snuggle sessions at night were just as intimate — if not better — than they had been while nursing.
Fast-forward three years and I can say with surprise and certainty that nursing Ben is one of my favorite parts of the day. Because I work full-time, I can really only nurse him in the morning and evening before bed. In the mornings, he’s wide awake and stares up at me, twirling (read as: pulling!) my hair. Sometimes he weaves his chubby little fingers into mine, grasping, declaring me “his.” Sometimes he pulls on my shirt or stops to “chat” and squeal, but above all, he is happy and full; content.
Then I go to work. And at work, I have to pump … which I loathe. Though my supply is better this time, he eats way more than she ever did (27-32 oz a day roughtly) so I can only feed him 50% of his daily milk (supplementing, as I did with Maya, with formula).
It’s a long day without him, and I love seeing him light up when he sees me pick him up at school or when Luis brings him into the house after school. He gives me his goofy, gummy baby grin and I just melt into mush. Any of the day’s issues — forgotten. All I can see is that little slate-grey eyed beauty staring at me with pure love and adoration and I’m toast. We get a little bit of playtime before bath and then I usually put him to bed.
And that’s when it’s like only he and I exist in the world. It probably sounds weird but I love knowing that he needs me at this time. That I — and I alone — can calm him simply by snuggling him close while he eats. Not that Luis can’t help; he most certainly does pitch in and is a very hands-on daddy (for which I’m grateful!). But there’s something special about knowing I have the “special touch” to soothe him (read as: milk!).
He nuzzles up to me in the dark, alternating between awake and drowsy, covering his eyes with his hands and rubbing them with his rounded little fists. But unlike Maya — who really loved to be rocked to sleep — Ben doesn’t need to be rocked all the way to sleep. Maybe it’s the second child and I am less of a pushover at bedtime? Sometimes he falls asleep in my arms so I just lay him down and he might tilt his head, arms out to the sides, and stay asleep. Other times I’m not so lucky. I try to read him: sometimes I do
need to want to rock him all the way (he is only four months old) and other times I let him whimper a bit and he soothes himself to sleep (a very good thing).
And then he sleeps … from 7:30 PM til about 6 AM when we get to repeat our snuggle sessions. I say “get to” without any hint of sarcasm; I genuinely look forward to that time with him. Maybe it’s because I’m less stressed (which sounds strange considering now there are two kids and demands at work and home have thereby doubled) … but I’m a veteran mom now. (Ha!)
The important thing worth noting is, I am (mostly) enjoying this experience this second go-around — something I doubted would be possible. Of course, I still hate pumping, but it comes with the territory of being a working mom … so I will, in the words of my old cheerleading coach … “suck it up” and hook myself up to that obnoxious bag several times a day.
I also think it’s important to note that I don’t think the fact that I enjoy nursing Ben means I love him any more than I did Maya or feel closer to him; I think our experience has just been a little easier. He’s efficient and knows what he wants and if he needs more, I give him a little formula — guilt-free. That’s the biggest difference I think. I enjoy giving him a bottle as much I enjoy nursing because there is no guilt this time. I don’t feel bad I can’t “give him more.”
I’m giving it my all, and though it means I still need to supplement, that’s enough for this mama. He is thriving … what more could I ask for? (At nearly 5 months he weighed in at a whopping 15 pounds 8 ounces!! BIG BOY).
Funny side note: Last night I was nursing Ben in the glider. Suddenly a small blonde figure appeared in the darkened room. It was Maya, telling me she was going to get her baby. A minute later she returned with one of her many dolls. She sat on the ottoman, crossed her legs underneath her (“criss-cross-applesauce”), lifted up her shirt, and put her baby on her chest. I’m glad it was dark because otherwise she would have surely seen the surprise on my face. I mean, she’s seen me nurse how many times … but she’d never pretended to do so, herself. Children really do mimic everything their parents do … and in her mind, she was just being like mommy.