Let us get one thing straight. I am not a breastfeeding expert, lactation consultant or midwife. I am just a mother of a toddler and a Maya Abdominal Massage Practitioner, who talks to many women.
In some ways my experience with nursing is remarkably unremarkable. He latched easefully, nursed frequently, I made (make) plenty of milk, and he is a healthy and happy guy. For this I am grateful. I had a pretty intense postpartum journey, laden with a broken foot at 3 months postpartum and subsequent depression. Also, we had it about as bad as one could have it in the realm of sleep. Birch awakened every 20 minutes to hour and a half for 4 months, from the day I broke my foot, on my 33rd birthday, until he was about 8 months old. This is aside from the emotional upheaval I experienced, knowing that my partnership was dissolving. Understandable, I was really grateful that nursing WORKED. I could feed my baby. It felt like everything else was crumbling, but I could feed my baby, and that was enough to get me through the sleepless days and nights, and my painful partnership. I verbally acknowledged my gratitude for that every single day.
Why did I feel the need to feel THAT MUCH gratitude EVERYDAY? I attended a new mother’s circle every Tuesday at the time (a wonderful resource for all pregnant families and new parents). There seemed to be three groups of people in my group. The ones with nursing challenges, the ones with sleeping challenges and the ones with relationship challenges. Some overlap, but it seems Goddess did not give any of us more than we could handle.
So many women around me struggled intensely with some aspect of nursing. I met a woman whose baby had a tongue tie, preventing a successful latch. The first doctor botched the procedure to “untie the tongue”, so they had to go through it again. He never quite latched. She pumped as long as she could and struggled at home by herself, sitting next to her crying baby, who wanted to be held, while pumping milk because it’s the healthier choice to formula.
I actually know multiple women with a very similar story, some who had the time and support to do the pumping, others who did not, and needed to eventually give a combination of breast milk and formula or just formula. This is heartbreaking for some women, who dreamed they would nurse until their babies naturally weaned themselves. Weaning being natural in most other countries at 3 or 4 years old, as opposed to 3 to 6 months like it is in this country.
Breastfeeding is generally a supply and demand system, and outside of a tongue tie or some other birthing related issue, it works. Except when it does not. For some reason, some women just do not make enough milk. You know how they realize it? They go for a one or two week check up and their baby has lost weight and their care providers are panicking and telling them to supplement with formula immediately. So they go home with their newborn and their “ill-producing breasts”, with NO IDEA what to do. Again, grateful to resources like Grow in Northampton, and the most incredible lactation consultant local to Northampton, Lex Beach.
These are just some of the things we don’t talk about in our culture. I like to think we live in a fairly evolved place, here in the valley, but I still get astonished looks from folks when I am out on the town with a toddler who can walk and talk suckling in a coffee shop, or at the farmer’s market, (sometimes while walking and talking).
This brings me to my next point which is about the sexual or sensual aspect of nursing. Yes, that is correct, breasts are for pleasure AND nurturing. They can be for both! Incredible, right?! Lactating mothers can experience pleasure from their breasts with their partners, and probably with their babies too. (Please women, speak up and tell I am not the only woman who has felt physically aroused while nursing.)
Not to mention that pleasure with actual intentional sensuality with a partner (who knew) makes your breasts leak or even squirt. Yes, thank you OXYTOCIN! The pleasure hormone, that gets the baby in, that gets the baby out, that feeds the baby…All is Love Friends, All is Love.