I loved breastfeeding. And no one was more surprised about that little fact than me.
I mean, it was always something I knew I’d wanted to try, but it was also something that always seemed a little intimidating and daunting to me. I wasn't sure if I could do it or, to be perfectly honest, if I wanted to do for the long haul.
While breastfeeding has a ton of health benefits for baby and mom, I am not someone who insists that it’s the right choice for everyone. Some women can't, others don’t want to, and who am I to say what’s best for them? Their bodies, their babies, their decisions. The way I see it, fed is best. As long as baby is eating and happy, it’s all good.
So I gave myself deadlines—first three months to hang in there, then four, and then I didn’t need those deadlines anymore. This was the right choice for me and baby, and we were a great team. It was our time, our little dance. And even though we were both ready to wean at almost 13 months, I still cried when it happened.
Much to my surprise (again), after more than a year of not breastfeeding, I still miss a few things about it—5 things, in particular.
Instant soothing. Crying, be gone! And it was—instantly!—because of Mommy’s Magical Boobies. Yes, that is what my husband I called them, and it was ever-so-accurate. Even when baby wasn’t hungry, they worked their magic before bedtime, after shots at the doctor’s office and whenever I couldn’t figure out what else was the matter. No need for Harry Potter when you had these wondrous things.
That sweet, dopey milk-drunk look. No matter how tired you are, you can’t help but smile when you see that sleepy, completely satisfied look on baby’s face when he’s done eating. Babies are like drunk little men...but in the cutest possible ways. Even with the spit-up and inappropriate groping in public places.
Eating whatever you want. Mommy confession: One of the things that initially appealed to me about breastfeeding was the calorie-burning. And it’s amazing. We’re talking around 500 calories per day. So I never felt guilty for that ice cream sundae with the works or eating marshmallow fluff out of the jar. (What, like you’ve never done that?) Biology is brilliant: Watch the calories go in, then disappear! Until you stop breastfeeding...and then they suddenly don’t.
Baby immunity. My son was never healthier than when he was getting all of those wonderful Mommy antibodies. I nursed him even between bouts of the stomach flu, because I knew it was the best way to protect him from getting sick. And you know what? It worked. I felt like Superwoman, and he was Superbaby.
Being the one he looks to for comfort. And, if I’m being totally honest, being his whole world. My boy loves his mama—and he’s always loved his mama’s hair, which is, I think, a direct result of our breastfeeding days—but at 26 months, he’s also grappling with his independence and separating from me. All good and healthy, of course, but there’s nothing like the intense intimacy of breastfeeding and knowing that you are the moon and the stars for this perfect little creature who you created and is your complete responsibility. And did I mention the snuggles? Oh, the snuggles. The. Absolute. Best.
And 5 Things I Don’t Miss…
Being the sole provider of his comfort. Sometimes you really need to do laundry. Sometimes you really need to do work. Sometimes you really need to be there for a friend. Sometimes you really need a break.
Breastfeeding in public. I am seriously in awe of women who do this and do this well. And I have many friends who do. I, on the other hand, am apparently wildly uncoordinated. Boobs out, shirt tangled, bra somehow at my chin, cover not doing the covering it’s supposed to be doing, baby and mom completely uncomfortable—it wasn’t pretty. So unless we were at a Mommy and Me movie at our local (and very dark) movie theater or going to a friend’s house, a bottle usually came out with us, just in case. That said, I loved knowing that I could feed my child if I really needed to, in any dire circumstances, and at that point, I knew I wouldn’t care about flashing random strangers. Still, I am determined to get better at this with Baby #2.
Pumping. You never feel less sexy than when you have a pump hooked up to your boobs. Personally, I felt like a cow—there, I said it—even though the importance of what I was doing was always at the forefront of my mind. Don’t get me wrong: Pumps are wonderful inventions, and they help to extend breastfeeding when you have to go back to work or just need a break. But God, did I hate being hooked up to that contraption after baby was asleep to get a few ounces of liquid gold. Which, mind you, my kid refused to drink under any circumstances, but that’s another story.
Leaky boobs. And those telltale wet spots in the worst possible places. And bra liners, which are basically pantyliners for your boobs. And that painful, engorged feeling when you’re away from baby and pump and your body truly aches for him. Let’s not forget sore, cracked nipples (which, with the right guidance from a good lactation consultant and lots of lanolin, should go away after a few weeks). The leaky boobs, on the other hand, will be with you for a while even after you stop nursing.
Nighttime wakings. At some point during those first few weeks (and months), you start looking like a zombie from The Walking Dead. Scratch that—you make the zombies from The Walking Dead look good. Feeding baby every two hours in those early days can take their toll. That said, as tired as I was, I did love those middle-of-the-night cuddles and that quiet time just staring at baby, my perfect little miracle. So...that’s something I don’t miss but also kind of really do. Motherhood is complicated and confounding sometimes, huh?