Wednesday, June 22, 2011

as for what's best

it seems to be the thing to do these days to write articles and blogposts and such about why you have chosen to feed your baby the way you do, and often, why that's the best way. consider this my two cents' worth, then, in a simply honest, not-going-to-be-helpful-if-you're-trying-to-choose-bottle-or-breast sort of way.

some background: luke was exclusively breastfed but for the occasional bottle of expressed milk, which he didn't really care for and so drank only of absolute necessity (thus very rarely). i took the advice to nurse for a year very literally, as any good legalist would, and nursed luke to sleep on his first birthday, kissed him goodnight, and without hesitation whispered that he had, in fact, just nursed for the last time. neither of us ever looked back. eliza, who was unable to eat by mouth, was fed expressed milk by feeding tube for four months, at which point she switched to some high-tech, medically necessary formula. she nursed only once in her life, her very first day, and never again had the opportunity to try. anastasia, now three months old, has been exclusively breastfed but for supplemental formula in her first week, necessary as it was to keep up her (substantial) weight until i could make enough milk to sustain her. i'm hopeful that she'll consent to a bottle or two of expressed milk on our upcoming 700-mile pilgrimage to the north, but i have my doubts.

but hear me on this: i am no member of the la leche league. i have lots of respect for those for whom "breast is best" is their life motto, but i can't get quite as excited as they do about it. nor have i ever been able to join the camp that touts all the benefits of bottle feeding--better sleep, more help from dad, etcetera--despite the fact that i often watch bottle-feeding parents and think, why am i not doing that right now? no, i can't get too worked up either way on this issue.

to me, breastfeeding is a relatively simple choice. the only prerequisite for milk production is childbirth, and it almost always happens without any intervention at all. it's free, it's easy (after the first few weeks), and it's healthy for mom and baby. it naturally makes babies sleepy, a good thing for everyone's bedtime (and thank you, but no, i'm not worried about breaking the nursing-to-sleep habit when the time comes. i figure God knew what was up when He made milk sleep-inducing, and i'll deal with the consequences of that opinion later. i never regretted it for one minute with luke). but nursing doesn't excite me. i'm not one of those moms who sheds tears over weaning, nor do i get those sweet, sappy feelings many moms describe when nursing. to be honest (and you know i always am), it's often uncomfortable, restricts my freedom considerably, is exhausting and isolating, and has the potential to cause all sorts of unpleasant problems--thrush, mastitis, and the like. it's a practical commitment for me and not much beyond that, but one i make willingly and readily and with very little hesitation.

so i don't really have a dog in this fight. if you're looking for advice about how to feed your baby, i'm not really the person to ask, and this isn't the blogpost to read.

but i do know what's best. there comes a day in every nursing baby's life (i assume--it has come in the life of both babies i've nursed, anyhow) when she is happily and obliviously chugging away and suddenly stops. she looks up at you and gives you a heart-breaking, tear-inducing, ear-to-ear grin, as if to say, "oh, you're here! i'm so glad to see you! i'm having some really great milk right now," and then gets right back to nursing. that, i can tell you, that moment is what's best. and for the pure joy of that moment, i'll take all the sleepless nights and discomfort and inconvenience i have to.

and now i have to go nurse that baby. again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011