Memoirs of a Nursing Mother

Ambivalent Feelings

When I was pregnant with my first child, my feelings about the art of breastfeeding were ambivalent. My husband, however, was adamant that I would nurse his babies. A lot of the time, my husband has no strong feelings about the parenting issues that fall under my auspices, but in this case, he seemed to have such a distinct preference for breastfeeding that I felt I had no choice but to respect his wishes. After all, his reasoning couldn't have been better; even at that time, in 1981, science had proven the physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding over bottle feeding.

That's not to say that I loved the idea of whipping out my boobs every time my kid got hungry. I admit that it felt kind of unsavory. Or at least, that was the struggle presented to me by my emotional acculturation. I would have much rather stuck a bottle of formula in the kid's mouth and leave it at that. After all, formula had been good enough for me and my siblings.

Sore Nipples

Still, I kept my feelings to myself and gave it a good college try, ending up with sore and bleeding nipples for my efforts. We called in the troops in the form of lactation consultants who taught me a variety of positioning methods with the aid of many pillows. That worked great while I had two or three lactation consultants visiting to give a helping hand, but somehow, I could never get those pillows in just the right formation to get my positioning in order while on my own.

At any rate, I made it through the early months; in fact, I made it to 18 months with my first child. I found that with each subsequent child I got better and better at nursing, though there were always glitches along the way. Lucky for me, lactation consultants were always a phone call away. By my sixth child, I no longer resorted to pacifiers and bottles which might lead to nipple confusion and I was quite capable of weaning my babies to cups.

I put a lot of effort into my nursing, and it never became very easy to nurse in public while remaining modest, and I never made it through the early months without sore nipples, no matter how experienced I became at positioning. However, I did fall in love with the process itself that led to an intimacy I'd never dreamed possible and I always felt my struggles to succeed at breastfeeding were rewarded in spades.

Almost all of my personal fond memories of my 12 children involve the cute things they did during their stints of breastfeeding, such as the little boy who butted my belly with his belly, growled, "Vroom, vroom," and waited for me to do it back.