[ Photo taken with Instagram ]
Paulo’s most recent growth spurt was hard. Hard for him, obviously, to be so hungry and uncomfortable. Hard for me to have my milk supply increased so dramatically in such a short time. On the worst day, I nursed him for an entire hour and a half out of a three hour period. I only stopped at that point because I started to feel physically ill from it, not because I had actually met my son’s insatiable demands.
As he gave our son a supplementary bottle while I worked on re-hydrating myself, Nuno very reasonably asked me why I had decided to breastfeed at all; seeing as it’s hard work. Why hadn’t I chosen to formula feed instead? It was a totally legitimate question that I wasn’t sure how to answer.
Sure, breastfeeding is hard work, but so was pregnancy. Growing and feeding babies are things that women’s bodies are designed to do, but that doesn’t make them easy by any means. I went into breastfeeding knowing that it might not work out, knowing that a lot of women find it very challenging indeed. And I got lucky.
I was lucky that after supplementing for the first few days and establishing a baseline, my son had no trouble nursing after my milk came in. I had initially thought we would breastfeed and formula feed in equal amounts, but soon found that it was actually easier in a lot of ways to breastfeed. It sounded like such a good idea to have Nuno do some of the middle of the night feedings, but in reality I always woke up before he did and since I was awake anyway, it made more sense (especially since we’ve been cosleeping) to just lift up my shirt and let the baby nurse than it did to wake up my husband and have him get out of bed and prepare a bottle.
And the luck just continued.
I’m lucky that my supply was adequate and Paulo didn’t have trouble latching. But beyond that, I’m lucky that I was in a position to breastfeed exclusively in the first place.
One of the main predictors of whether or not a mother will be successful at breastfeeding is the attitude of her partner. I’ve been extremely blessed that Nuno’s attitude towards infant care is “Whatever Mom Says, Goes.” He’s a wonderful father, and he also knows that I’ve been taking care of kiddos for a very long time and have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing. So, when I said I wanted to breastfeed, that was fine with him. If I had said I wanted to formula feed, that would have been fine too.
And truly, I couldn’t do it without him; not only for the normal reasons of needing moral support and all that, but because I have a neurological condition that is very, very well maintained… so long as I get enough sleep. And if there’s one thing nursing mothers don’t get in abundance, it’s sleep. Without Nuno being willing to take the baby on for a few hours a day while I nap, I simply wouldn’t be able to breastfeed all through the night and we’d have to switch off feedings by necessity. I’m immensely lucky that we’ve been able to work this out; that Paulo was born at a time when both of our schedules were flexible.
Which brings me to another point where the stars truly aligned to make exclusive breastfeeding possible: I don’t have to go back to work. I will, at some point, resume nannying, but for now, I’m able to stay at home with Paulo and have my schedule work around his schedule rather than vice versa. I don’t have to worry about finding time at work to pump, for which I am immensely grateful. I truly, truly hate the pump and admire mothers who make the commitment to provide breastmilk for their babies via pumping. I have friends who have almost exclusively pumped, and I salute them. I know that for me, if I had to go back to work full-time, I personally would not also be able to breastfeed full-time and also maintain my sanity.
I’m not a huge advocate of “breast is best.” I definitely believe that breast is better and that if possible, mothers should give breastfeeding a try. (I also believe that what other mothers do is none of my business and that loving and caring for a child are what matter most, not how the child is fed.) However, before getting pregnant, I honestly didn’t have plans to breastfeed at all. I didn’t have the urge to do it until my hormones told me to. And even then, it was mostly a “Well, I’d like to try” situation – not something I set out to do by force of will.
I was also surprised that – while pregnancy was not a basket of magical rainbows – breastfeeding really has been a positive bonding experience for me and The Whuff. There is something truly sweet about nursing him. Of course he’s happy when he’s being given a bottle, but there’s a different sort of deep contentedness when he nurses. He’s happy to the very core of his being, which is just awesome to see. I’m very lucky to be able to give that to my baby. I don’t know if he’d even miss it were he formula-fed, but I’m glad that he has those moments of bliss.
So, there you have it. I started breastfeeding because it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I’ve continued because I’m extraordinarily lucky that factors in my life worked out for me to do so. At this point, weaning suddenly would be even harder on my body than going through another growth spurt. I’ve made the commitment to breastfeeding and I’ll continue until it’s the right time for Paulo and I to stop.