Sunday, March 21, 2010

Carnival of Breastfeeding: The Joys of Breastfeeding
Nursing My Little Person

Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!

This month's theme is "The Joys of Breastfeeding."

Please visit the other carnival participants, listed below.

(More entries will be added through the end of the day on March 22, 2010, as they are posted - check back!)

When I first saw the topic for this month's carnival, I thought "Oh, this will be easy!" because I just absolutely love breastfeeding Peeper, but as I started thinking about what to actually write, I kept having trouble putting my finger on what it is exactly that I love, what it is about breastfeeding that brings me such joy.

When you hear the phrase, "the joy of breastfeeding," the image that often comes to mind is of mother and child gazing blissfully into each other's eyes, as waves of oxytocin bathe them both in love and well-being.

Before Peeper was born, that's what I expected, but it turns out that's really not it at all.

I have to admit that when Peeper's nursing, my gaze is more often directed at my computer screen, or into the semi-darkness of our bedroom, and she's likely to be concentrating on playing with my shirt, or examining my teeth or trying to see what the dogs or cats are up to.

And I don't think I've ever felt a wave of oxytocin-inspired bliss; in fact, for the first several months, I was actually more likely to experience a sense of dread or foreboding from the pre-letdown dopamine drop of dysphoric milk ejection reflex.

But, although it's nothing like what I expected, breastfeeding Peeper is one of the greatest joys of my life.

Of course, given the way things started for us, just the fact that we are breastfeeding at all - let alone that we are still going strong at almost seventeen months - is a joy, in and of itself, as well as one of my proudest accomplishments, but it goes way beyond that.

Of course, I love knowing that I've given Peeper the best possible start by breastfeeding her exclusively for six months, and continuing to breastfeed as long as she needs it, but it's so much more than that, as well.

Shrike and I have long joked that she and I "are the same person" and "we share a brain," and now, since Peeper's come along - even now, that she's becoming such a little person in her own right - I very much tend to find myself feeling like she and I "are the same person," because we "share a body" - even if it is, technically, mine.

Of course, there is the literal sharing of my breasts, and the milk that they produce, but it goes beyond that. I hear her cry, and my hormones immediately tell me to go to her, to nurse her, to fix her. My body physically responds to her needs.

That connection is unlike anything I've ever experienced, and being able to pick her up and (usually) just make it all better, well, maybe "joy" isn't the best word to describe how that feels, but it will have to do until the right one is invented.

I've read two quotes lately that I really liked.

The first was from someone on Twitter (if it was you, let me know and I'll give you credit): "Breastfeeding is like duct tape. It fixes everything."

The other, I believe, was in Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, from a dad (I'm paraphrasing): "At this age, it's not so much about filling up the tank as recharging the batteries."

Those both just sum it up so perfectly.

I just love how one minute Peeper can be cranky and whiney, and then, after a few minutes of nursing, she pops up with a smile, back to her usual happy little self.

And, oh, that smile.

That is a joy at any time, but to see her look up at me and smile, still latched on, milk dribbling out the corners of her mouth, is just about more than I can take. Then she laughs, as if at some private joke just between her and the nipple, spattering me in the face with milk as she giggles, then dives back in for more.

And the dives.

When I'm lying on the floor, she runs over and dives headlong into onto my chest. Sometimes, she even thinks to pull my shirt up first.

Or if there's no shirt in the way - in the bathtub, or in bed at night - she'll grab a breast and try to baby-handle it into position. Given their size and floppiness, she usually needs some help from me, but she sure gives it the old college try.

On occasion, her manners get the best of her - or I'm out of reach - and she actually signs "milk" (or, as we call it in our family, "goody") instead of helping herself.

Other times, she signs it while she nurses, sometimes stopping to look at me, as if to say, "Thanks for the goody, Mama!"

Except when she complains about the service, signing "more" if the letdown isn't fast enough for her, or sometimes "all done" then "more" - which, I've finally figured out, seems to be a request to switch sides.

I just love that we're now able to hold a "conversation" about nursing.

Those who think that you shouldn't nurse a baby who's "old enough to ask for it," are missing out on half the fun.

With a few exceptions (which generally involve sleep), when she asks to nurse, or takes me up on my offer, my primary reaction is still, "Yay! We get to nurse now!"

Sure, these days it might have a lot to do with the fact that when she's nursing, I'm sitting or lying down and cuddling her, rather than chasing her around the house, (and, okay, let's be honest, also because it gives me a few minutes to check my email/Facebook/Twitter/blogs) but I felt that way even when she was tiny, and was just hanging out in my lap between meals, too.

Maybe it's because for as long as I can remember, I've looked forward to having a baby and to breastfeeding, or maybe it's because Peeper and I spent her first six weeks struggling to establish our breastfeeding relationship, or maybe it's just because it's amazing, but not a week goes by - and maybe not even a day - that I don't, at some point, look down at her at my breast and think, "I can't believe I actually get to do this."

Whether we are actually gazing lovingly at each other (it does happen on occasion) or each completely engaged in our own thoughts, or being silly together, or sound asleep, breastfeeding Peeper has brought me incredible joy, in innumerable big and small ways, and it only gets more fun, more joyful, and more amazing as she grows.

Other Carnival of Breastfeeding Posts
(Keep checking back - more will be added through the end of the day on March 22, 2010)


  1. It's so sweet how excited she is to nurse- Baby can't run, but he definitely crawls and dives! How did you teach her the baby sign language? Sounds handy!

  2. Those who think that you shouldn't nurse a baby who's "old enough to ask for it," are missing out on half the fun. Oh so true! I love all the remarks my girls as toddlers have made about nursing. I remember them best!

  3. I've often thought (and maybe once admitted to my hubby) that there's no way I'd wean before Kieran was ready, simply because I can't imagine *not* having breastfeeding in my arsenal of mama tools. I love those two quotes you posted! So true.

  4. that I don't, at some point, look down at her at my breast and think, "I can't believe I actually get to do this." -> I think of that, too. I've been wanting a baby of my own and when I actually had him and got to experience all those motherhood things I only got to read before... it's just... wow.

  5. I love how breastfeeding Peanut really does "recharge" her. Whether she's being whiny or just wants some attention, breastfeeding always fixes the situation.

    Also, thanks for the book recommendation! It's perfect because I am officially now nursing a toddler by all definitions (I considered her a toddler when she started walking at 9.5 months, but lots of people think it's 1 year). I put it on hold at the library.

  6. "Those who think that you shouldn't nurse a baby who's "old enough to ask for it," are missing out on half the fun."

    YES! This is exactly how I feel. I couldn't wait for my son to start really verbalizing so he could talk to me about nursing. The other day he told me there's no more milk in my nursies and I asked him he still wanted them and he said, "Um....YES!"

  7. I'm glad I'm not the only one who mostly multi-tasks while nursing. Sometimes I feel like I should be that beatific nursing-mother image, but come on! It's such a great break for both of us.

    I love the baby-handling comment, too. Mikko's latest thing is to shove my hands aside when I'm trying to lift (haul) the breast into position for him and say, "No, Mama. Two hands!" He wants to put both his chubby little hands around it. It's so much fun once they can ask for it, isn't it?

    This was a really delightful post — thank you for sharing it!

  8. "Breastfeeding is like duct tape. It fixes everything."
    Great quote. It is soooo true! I can't imagine mothering without it!

  9. As a non-breast-feeding parent when my son was born almost 17 years ago... I applaud the women who have and do breastfeed. Some people will judge you b/c you breastfeed Peeper long after she's able to ask for it and there are plenty who did, will, and do judge me for NOT breast feeding Deion. The truth of the matter is I didn't want to. It wasn't in my make up to do so. And a lot of people won't understand that. I created a million other ways to bond with him.. and I did. When I heard him cry every fiber of my being brought me to him instantly. I knew and understood every cry, I could comfort him with one tiny word or a song, or just the touch of my hand, the weight of it on his back or stroking his hair. We are still very bonded, of course. I mean.. he's a teenager so some things have changed but I can tell in his voice whether it was a good day or bad day.. i can read pain and irritation on his face. I still stand over his bed at night before I go to sleep to watch his chest rise and fall with each breath. It is those moments that make me thankful that the life he was given was also given to me. Your moments with Peeper are so special and ones you'll remember forever... and, truth be told, F those that think differently, although I doubt you'll find any of those watching your blog. ;-)

  10. Sometimes I feel like the blissful mother staring down dewy-eyed at her baby. Sometimes I'm too busy stopping her from twisting my other nipple off. Either way, I think you've written a lovely summation of what nursing is like.

  11. Beautiful! I couldn't have said it any better.


What say you?