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11.12

Thursday, 31 May 2007

That is the current weight of my almost 7 week-old son!

Eleven pounds, twelve ounces.

That’s over three pounds in the past month. And it is music to my ears!!

Like most of us reared in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, I was fed formula and did not see other women nursing their babies. In fact, the first woman I recall breastfeeding is MrsGiraffe’s sister, TanteBee. TanteBee was one of those new-fangled mothers who worked outside the home, used her maiden name as her middle name, and used her breast to feed her babies.

In other words, it was weird. At least, that is what I thought as an impressionable ten year old.

I was fed formula as were my siblings. My parents were fed formula as were their siblings. If it was good enough for us, it would be good enough for my babies. As a girl, I pretended to feed my dolls with toy bottles. If it was good enough for me, it was good enough for them. As I grew up, I figured that nursing must not be natural. After all, there were many books, classes, and support groups devoted to teaching women how to breastfeed. If it was natural, it should come — naturally.

And yet…we humans are mammals. And the classification of a mammal is a vertebrate animal characterized by the production of milk in the females. The mammary glands are used to nourish the young. So in fact, nursing is natural. A natural, but lost, behaviour.

In the animal kingdom, and in more primitive cultures, young females observe mothers with their nurslings and are later surrounded by supportive and experienced nursers as they, in turn, become mothers. Our books, consultants, and classes are poor substitutes for these observable behaviours.

I nursed our first two children, but I never felt successful. I worried constantly that I was not producing enough milk — an all too common misconception for it is extremely rare for a woman to be unable to produce enough milk to feed her baby. One of the pediatricians told me that my first-born son was not getting enough to eat. Not getting enough to eat?? You never tell a yiddishe mama that her poor little boychik isn’t getting enough to eat. And so we supplemented with formula in order to satisfy him. Is it any wonder that I did not feel adequate? After I returned to work, I found it difficult to find time to pump and this did affect my milk supply. Beernut nursed for eleven months and Poppyseed nursed for seven. It did not occur to me to regard breastfeeding as anything other than a source of nourishment for my children.

I wanted my experience to be different with Peach. So I began to read the experiences of other mothers and have discovered that nursing goes beyond the feeding of a child. It can have profound physical and emotional impacts on the mother. It can have spiritual ones as well. The human body is an amazing creation. My milk is perfectly suited to the growing needs of my child. Human milk, for instance, contains a high percentage of lactose and fatty acids — both required for the rapid brain development of a human infant. Contrast this with cow’s milk which contains a high level of protein — required for the rapid bone development needed by a calf who is mobile just hours after birth. The amount of milk my baby needs on any given day will fluctuate and my body will respond to his needs by manufacturing the right amount. The miracle of life does not end with birth…

Peach’s weight gain is validation. Validation that I am making good choices about how I am mothering him – and in ways that differ from how I mothered his siblings. The selection of a supportive pediatrician makes all the difference in the world. Our doctor visits are like private La Leche meetings as he encourages my efforts.

And, of course, don’t forget the water!! Though I have backed away from the 4 litres a day that I had been consuming during the waning days of gestation, I find that 2-3 daily litres keeps me satiated.

Every generation relies on the advice given by the medical community. Recognizing that trends change, I know that my parents made informed choices based on the information that they had available to them at the time. Just as I am doing with my children and they will do with their children. Just as my parents probably question some of these choices, so too will my children question mine.

In the meantime, my nursling is currently content and with a dreamy smile on his sweet lips as he sleeps happily in his bassinet — which is next to my bed — knowing that I am near and ready to respond to his needs.

Lailah tov

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Matia permalink
    Monday, 4 June 2007 8:09 pm

    Thank you for telling your breastfeeding story. I especially empathize with your discovery of the spiritual side of nursing your child from the breast. You might want to be careful about excessive intake of water: see how much water does a breastfeeding mother need. I will be featuring this article as an item in my RSS feed today, Breastfeeding Daily Tip and News. It will run for two weeks.

  2. Rivster permalink
    Monday, 4 June 2007 11:47 pm

    Matia,

    Thanks!! I am having an amaazingly different ( and very positive) experience this time. Guess the third time is the charm 😉

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