Before becoming a mother I had a few preconceived notions: that labor would be a time of bonding between me and my husband, that all babies automatically slept through the night after the first few months, and that breastfeeding -- though slightly
painful in the beginning -- was a natural and blissful experience.
Good thing no one tried to sell me any bridges during my pregnancy.
I had the "painful in the beginning" part right. For the first several weeks each time Henry latched on my entire body tensed up. I had to flex my feet and grimace in order to get through it, though I knew it would be better for our nursing relationship for me to be as relaxed as possible.
But natural? Not a chance. I was lucky in that Henry was born to suck (and I mean that in the best possible way, son) and I had no problems with my supply. However, holding Henry while he nursed felt very, very awkward. For some reason it just didn't feel right, no matter if I had him in the cradle hold, the football hold, or any other hold.
Finally, after learning how to nurse him lying down, I did that. For every nursing session. For the first seven or so months.
And blissful? Yeah, right. It hurt
. Even after getting past the initial pain there were periods of time when it would once again be agonizing. Did you ever experience someone grabbing ahold of your forearm with both their hands and twisting in opposite directions (what we called a "snakebite" when I was a kid)? That's pretty much how it felt, but on my nipple
I ruled out thrush and settled on "bad latch." My midwife told me to release the suction and try to re-position Henry, but I think that only served to piss him off. The lactation consultant I hired said the football hold would help, but we all know how useful I found that advice. Finally, the pain just went away on its own.
Despite all that, it never occurred to me to not
breastfeed. I remember last summer, when I was very pregnant, my sisters-in-law commented that neither of them breastfed their daughters; furthermore, neither of them even tried to nurse or had the faintest desire to do so. ("Because then you can't hand the baby off to anyone else to take care of," they said.)
But I always knew that if I had a baby, I would nurse it for at least a year. Of course, now that we're ten months in, a year seems way too soon to stop.
Ironically, now that Henry is past the age that most breastfed babies in America are weaned, I'm getting pretty comfortable nursing him. I've yet to feel the effects of the nursing hormones that make breastfeeding moms feel relaxed and peaceful and it's far from the sensual experience some moms make it out to be. But it doesn't hurt anymore -- and it actually feels pretty natural.
Sitting with Henry in the glider while he nurses (and honks my nose, or sticks his foot in my face, or twists all around my lap) has become one of my favorite things.
P.S. The wonderful photos in this blog entry are courtesy of my friend Allie
. If you live in southeastern Wisconsin you should hire her. And if you live outside southeastern Wisconsin and you're wealthy you should hire her and fly her out to wherever you are. She's that