Sitting on the exam table 5 months pregnant with Mr. Pants, the doc asked me. "Have you thought about how you'd like to feed the baby?". "I'm going to BREASTFEED!" I told her triumphantly. I was very proud of myself. "Would you like to take a breastfeeding class?" she asked. "Nah, I'll figure it out" I replied. And that was the end of that conversation. Breastfeeding was sure to be easy peasy. Certainly there'd be a light switch that went on in that magical moment my baby was born.
So I was a dummy. Should have taken that class. Or just read a book. Or even just gave it some actual thought. Because I had no idea what I was doing. Mr. Pants didn't even latch til he was eleven days old, but I remember the moment that he did with amazing clarity. It was 2 am-ish and Daddy headed downstairs to make a bottle of pumped milk. When he returned, baby boy was eating and I was...wait for it...did you guess? Crying. Oh yeah, crying silent buckets. He was eating! From ME! It was so effing beautiful. I'm pretty sure a rainbow appeared over my head. It was that sweet. I remember soaking in that moment and snuggling my son because for the first time in almost 2 weeks I felt hopeful that I could feed my baby the way that I had wanted to. It took us a few months to get good at it. All that pumping in the early days made my milk produce at the rate of a mom feeding quints and let's just say it was like trying to cap a fire hose at times. I remember telling one of my girlfriends that it was like a lactation horror film. I mean, my boobs were off the hook!
The first 3 months were hard. I had expected a chorus of angels to sing everytime I nursed my precious lamb but instead I'd spray him in the eye with milk and he'd get SO pissed. But it got better. Over time. And after awhile we settled into a groove. It took time and practice. And the angel chorus came, eventually. As long as I didn't try and nurse him in public we were good. He was happy and we had finally gotten the hang of it. Looking back and knowing what I know now about Mr. Pants I'm not sure what I would have done without the ability to nurse him. We might have spent his entire first year floating in bathtubs as that was the only other way to calm him when he would panic. I learned how to nurse a sensory seeking baby with low registration and vesitbular sensitivity. I had no idea at the time but I think my mama heart knew what he needed even if my brain did not yet know. How else can I explain that I thought it was totally normal for him to want to nurse without touching me at all about half the time. We'd start out side laying on the bed and he'd latch and start his slow slow retreat backwards until he was perpendicular to me. Once he was at a safe and assured distance, he'd sigh, relax and get to eating. I tried to find an image to share but when I Googled "perpendicular side laying nursing baby" nothing came up that looked anything like it. I think if he could have, he'd have nursed suspended from the ceiling like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. Silly baby. The other half of the time he'd let me snuggle him. I used to love that.
When Miss Plum arrived she had clearly taken an in utero class on how to nurse. I was prepared to work hard at it. But she already knew what she was doing. There were times when she growled on approach. She was a beast! And she wanted closeness. If she could have, she would have velcroed her belly to mine. She settles in for a meal like she's sitting down to some home cooking after a long day at the office. She sighs and smiles and snuggles. The two experiences couldn't have been more different. But the outcome was the same. I love to nurse my babies.
It came as quite a shock to me that there were people that had negative opinions about me nursing my baby. When people asked me how long I was going to let Mr. Pants nurse, I'd say, "Until he decides he is done" and then add "probably high school". Most people knew I was kidding but some were put off that I would nurse him past one year. I actually had someone tell me that I HAD to wean him at one or he'd "like it too much". I don't think too highly of that person. The idea that nursing my baby or toddler (GASP!) made anyone uncomfortable was just silly to me. But it did and I won't ever understand that. I find it weird. Mama's have been nursing their babes since the dawn of time. All mammals do. I have never seen someone walk by a litter of nursing kittens and lament that it was gross. If anything, the chubby kitten that is knocking it's siblings out of the way in a charge to the teet gets cheered on. And no one I know has ever put up a curtain for their dog as she nurses her pups to shield the world from such a display of indecency. Or tell the offending mother dog to "do that somewhere else". We actually watch and think it's sweet. And normal. So why not human babies?
When I see women out in public feeding their kids, I like to smile at them as if to say, "Go you! Feed that baby!". Nursing cover or no nursing cover. Because all I see are hungry babies getting their bellies filled up while being snuggled.That's a beautiful thing, man. But that mama is going to get some uncomfortable stares or even the occasional rude comment and that really sucks. I don't know. I guess my point is, don't be a hater. We are all mothering our babies. We just are. Breastfeeding moms, bottle feeding moms. We're just mothering our babies. And isn't that what we are supposed to do? Yes. Yes it is.
So please, the next time you see a mama nursing her babe, give her a smile. She might need one.