Breastfeeding is what I’ve found to be the most profound expression of motherhood. Not labor and delivery of the baby, not pregnancy, not conception, all important and indispensable stages of becoming a mother. When I say breastfeeding is the most profound expression of motherhood, it is because I see it as a choice a mother makes that is the ultimate giving of herself. It is a choice that is nowadays not imperative, given the option of bottle feeding formula.
By breastfeeding, a mother gives her child her time, holding her in her arms and patiently letting her suckle day and night. By breastfeeding, a mother gives her child the nutrients produced by her body, more complete and more pure than anything that can be grown or manufactured on earth. By breastfeeding, a mother teaches her child’s immune system how to defend itself from diseases she has had experience with up to that point.
I’ve been breastfeeding my baby for almost a year now, and I will continue to do so until she decides to wean herself. I have never been wrong in observing my child closely and allowing her to decide what is best for her. When she’s hungry she eats, when she’s full she pushes food away. I believe that babies are more in touch with the pure and honest needs of their own bodies. As adults we have become too educated and worldly, mired in words and concepts, perhaps not as in touch with what’s basic and real.
There have been many times when breastfeeding my child constantly is what saves her. I put her at my breast when she’s constipated. It seems to settle her upset tummy and hydrates her till she is able to eliminate. I put her at my breast throughout air flights to and from visiting family. It eases her popping ears and keeps her from being dehydrated in those dry airconditioned airplanes. When she had a fever upon cutting her first tooth, I kept her at my breast with a cool damp washcloth at her forehead. Her fever subsided shortly and she is back to being her healthy and happy self. As a toddler, when she caught pink eye from one of her playmates, a couple of drops of breastmilk into the affected eye cleared the conjunctivitis quickly.
Breastfeeding has helped me too. I’ve become more confident in my abilities as a mother and a caregiver. I saved money by not buying formula, bottles, and other bottle feeding paraphernalia. Late night feedings are a breeze because all I have to do is turn over to my side and present my breasts.
I feel really lucky that I am able to stay at home and care for my baby full time the way I do. I understand some women don’t have that luxury. In two-income families, the choice to feed with formula is made for them by the realities of having to leave their child at a day care facility.
This book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: Completely Revised and Updated 8th Edition, presents as many solutions as there are obstacles preventing contemporary women from breastfeeding their babies. It’s an important book to read during pregnancy, to prepare for the real work ahead.