Three friends and I are having a girls lunch; talking about topics that range from house floor plans to in-laws to our children’s education. Interspersed throughout are “female issues.” We touch on breast cancer, bladder control, vaginal exams, tearing during child delivery, epidurals, Percocet, and ultimately, breastfeeding, as we move toward the door to say good-bye. This last subject delays our exit another ten minutes as I mention the three year old boy drinking his mommy’s breast milk on the cover of Time magazine.
We all cringe in varying degrees. Perhaps my reaction is least because I am the only one who breastfed for a substantial amount of time. And NO, my children were not three years old when I weaned them; they were four.
“I remember watching a woman pull down her bra flap, her breast totally exposed, as she waited for her husband to pass the baby to her. I don’t get that,” says Pam.“I didn’t breastfeed my children,” says Marissa, who jokes about the “frozen peas” remedy for pain.
“Me either,” Iris relates.
“I breastfed for a few months,” adds Pam. “I liked having my husband being able to bond with the babies, too, by bottle feeding them.”
Marissa says, “I’m fine with breastfeeding, but my friend did it while having cracked nipples. Why go through all that pain?”
At this point, I chime in because I am one of those women who had problems and pain with one of my children.
“That was me,” I admit. “Yep - I breastfed all three of them. Very hard to wean them. When you’re holding them, they throw their heads down, looking for it. They grab and pull on your shirt. I weaned my youngest by going to a funeral in Michigan without her. Still, when I came back, she remembered. It was hard.”
“Did your milk dry up?” asks Pam.
“No, it filled up day after day. I remember leaning over the bathtub squirting out milk; just like a cow being milked,” I said and demonstrated. “I had two big pieces of fruit on my chest and they hurt. I leaked, too.”
Pam, Iris, and Marissa laugh as they watch my theatrics in surprise.
“TMI, huh?” I say with a laugh.
When I think about Marissa’s question, about the pain that some have experienced, I take myself back to 1995 to ponder my reasons for breastfeeding. I was pregnant with my first precious child; someone I wanted the best for. I read the books and went to the classes; and according to it all, breast milk was nature’s perfect food and it was going to limit ear infections and allergies, and add to his or her intelligence.
First daughter was born in 1995, and after a few frustrating days of learning how to get her to “latch on,” it was full speed ahead, with her thriving solely on mommy's milk for five months. I repeated “breast milk only” with Second Daughter and Third Daughter.
However, feeding Third Daughter was a problem for a couple months. I’ll just sum it up with three words: cracking, mastisis, and yeast.
“Ewwww…” I hear you out there!
So you ask, Marissa, “Why do it?”
(Her question is specifically for those who experience pain, but I will speak generally.)
When I think about it now, hindsight tells me that it wasn’t just the perfect food or health benefits, or what the books said – it was the feeling of doing something that just the two of us could do. The process of milk flowing from my body into the body of my children’s and making them grow was fascinating and an experience I wanted to have.I know that baby formula is nutritious and that most bottle fed babies don’t have health issues based on drinking it. I knew it from 1995 thru 2001, too. I just wanted to do something that my body was capable of doing.
Women deliver their babies at home without any medication… regardless of the pain. People run marathons - 26.2 miles!... regardless of the pain. Farmers plow the land in the hot sun without certainty of producing an adequate crop… regardless of the pain. And women breastfeed their babies – at inconvenient times, enduring sleep deprived nights, and cracked nipples… regardless of the pain.
Can any of us explain our passions and desires to others who do not feel the same?
I enjoyed breastfeeding. The feeling I had during let-down as the rush of milk came to the surface, making my body sink into a warm state, urged me to sit and relax. I enjoyed the feel of the equally warm babies against my body, the satisfied looks on their faces, inches away from mine, that led them to fall over, literally drunk from the milk. It is all God’s design - not mine.
So do I think all mothers - who are capable - should breast feed? No. Nor do I think that all women should have babies, or become mothers by adoption or any other means.
It just happened to work for me.
By the way, if you’re wondering – I breastfed First Daughter, 16 months; Second Daughter, 12 months; and Third Daughter, 17 months. Yes, that’s a total of 45 months (3 years and 9 months). If Time Magazine Lady keeps it up ‘til her son is four, she’ll have me beaten.
Oh, that’s right – she’s feeding "one" kid for that long! She broke my record a long time ago. :)