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Not Just For Nutrition

July 29, 2010

I knew I’d miss it eventually. My second-born (Little P) used to nurse for HOURS every evening. It lasted until he was about 10-weeks old. At the time it seemed like an eternity. I wish I could have that time back. I wish I would have embraced it instead of being somewhat irritated (ok, pretty darn irritated) that my evenings were spent stuck on the couch. I just read something I posted on the forums at http://www.Kellymom.com (a wonderful resource for breastfeeding moms) about this exact issue. I’m embarrassed. Seriously. I was totally complaining about his cluster feeding. I should have cherished it. Instead I was exasperated. I forgot (or maybe I didn’t yet fully get) that breastfeeding is NOT just about giving my baby the nutrition he needs.

It’s so much more than that. And, unfortunately, I think that point is REALLY lost in our culture. I didn’t think much of it until I had a conversation about the marathon nursing sessions with a well-meaning mom. She said to me, “You know he’s not eating that whole time, right?” I didn’t say the following, but I thought it: Of course I know he’s not eating the whole time; but he sure won’t let me put him down for those two (or more) hours every evening. No, this kid won’t even let Daddy hold him for a bit. He wants the boob and that’s it.

It wasn’t a supply issue. No, there was so much of it, he was choking on it! But, that’s a common misconception among breastfeeding moms. It often leads to supplementing with bottles, which, in turn, CAUSES mom to have a supply problem. Very few women have an actual physiological supply issue (about 2-5%). Most supply issues are caused by things mom does or doesn’t do. I’m not blaming the mom. Breastfeeding has not been the norm in our culture for many years now. Because of this we often just don’t know any better. (That’s why I’m here! Hoping to give you the info you need to successfully breastfeed your children.)

Ok, good info, but it wasn’t my intent to talk about supplementing and supply now. So, on we move.

Our babies don’t just nurse because they’re hungry. It’s easy to think that’s the case because our breasts provide milk for our babies. But what about the cuddling and nurturing that goes on while baby is nursing? Maybe that’s why our babies want to nurse when we think they can’t possibly need to eat. “Finally, babies need to suck and find great consolation at the breast when they feel lonely, insecure, tired, overstimulated, and overwhelmed with the changing world. It is this non-nutritive need for mother’s breast that ensures that this emotional as well as physical need is met. Thus, breastfeeding – unlike bottlefeeding – is more than feeding. It is communication between mother and baby. It is a form of nurturing; it is an act of love.” (Source)

When we fail to realize the connection between breastfeeding and nurturing our babies, we do ourselves and our children a HUGE disservice. Baby’s emotional needs don’t get met. Mom’s supply can suffer. Mom may get frustrated because baby always wants to ‘eat’. There are so many implications.

Lord willing I’ll have the opportunity to practice this unconditional love with more babies in the future. I will fully embrace the nurturing aspect of breastfeeding from the beginning. I’m so thankful that I began to understand all of this with my oldest and even more with Little P. I so cherish the time my babies have spent at the breast.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana Milan permalink
    July 29, 2010 10:17 PM

    Alexander nurses for 2+ hours in the morning. Once he gets up, around 5 or 6, I bring him to my bed and we spend the next 2 hours side by side. He enjoys it and I can doze on and off until we are ready to get up. At first I was nervous about doing this but now that he is a bit older I enjoy our time before the crazy day starts with the older two! I don’t think it “spoils” him. He is such a happy baby and will spend a lot of time on the floor playing with his hanging toys. He knows he is loved and all he needs to do is fuss a bit and I will be right there. I nursed on demand with all my kids and my older two are very energetic, and self-confident. (Perhaps spoiled a bit, but not because I nursed on demand 🙂

  2. July 30, 2010 2:53 PM

    Today you made me cry! It’s been 20 years for me since I cuddled a little (or big) nurser…and I still miss it. Cherish it while you can.

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