Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Frenzied feedings

Baby formula makes me nervous.  First of all, it’s the name.  The word formula conjures up images of laboratories and men in starched white coats with protective goggles on their eyes.  Second is the smell.  That smell is not quite natural, nor is it very appetizing.  And last, but not least, is the cost.  Formula costs a fortune and babies drink it like it is…ummm….water!??!  Anyway, in my life I have been very blessed to be able to avoid baby formula.  Thankfully, I have been able to nurse each of my babies.   I know many women who, though they tried and tried, were unable to breastfeed for very valid reasons.  For them, formula was certainly a wonderful blessing, offering an almost perfect substitute for nursing and allowing them to nourish their babies in the best way possible for them.  I also know women who were just not interested in nursing and for them, too, formula worked out well.  I have always been very grateful, though, that I am able to nurse my babies. 
    In the beginning, when my children were little, after we got through the struggle of the newborn days and settled into it, nursing was such a beautiful encounter.  I remember snuggling them as they ate and just staring at them in wonder.  I would lovingly gaze into their little baby eyes and delight in their return gaze, so sweet and trusting.  Even in the middle of the night, nursing was a good experience.  I would gather my baby into my arms and conveniently feed them without even leaving my own bed.  Both baby and I could doze during the feeding and our nights were as peaceful as they could be considering we were not sleeping through them.
    As pleasant as nursing is in the beginning and as natural and wonderful as it is for growing babies, it has always become a little less enjoyable for me as each of my babies got older and busier.  My youngest child is now nine months old and I am quickly remembering the less pleasant experiences of nursing.  What was once a blissful time of bonding and cuddling now feels a little like a wrestling match at times.   My daughter still wants, and needs, to nurse fairly regularly throughout the day, yet she doesn’t really want to slow down and enjoy the time together.  She is a very busy girl these days, with so much to see and so much to do.  She is crawling all over the place, cruising along furniture and busily discovering everything the world has to offer a curious infant.  So now when it is time to nurse, she wants to do it on the run, twisting and turning and looking around so she doesn’t miss anything as she eats.  She squirms and she wiggles and, at times, I feel I better hold on tight or she might just tumble out of my arms.  It is nearly impossible for me to nurse discreetly because she stops to check things out, looking around for a minute than turning back to nurse again, then peering around the room for another minute then taking a few more sips of milk.  Even in the privacy of my own home I feel quite exposed so I have had to learn to be quick and cover myself every time something new catches the baby’s eye.  The last feeding before bed used to be my favorite time to nurse.  It was peaceful, the other kids were not demanding things from me or interrupting my time with baby.  It used to be a time when I could really relax and nurse in blissful tranquility.  Now, though, baby often fights sleep and nurses restlessly, preferring to kick the arms of the rocking chair and play with my face rather than lay still and drink her milk. 
    I have always persevered through the challenges and nursed my children for the entire first year, though I have never made it much past their first birthdays.   I had thought maybe this time I would nurse a little longer.  I thought about shooting for 18 months or so, because I have heard nursing is very good for toddlers too.  I don’t know if I’ll make it, I‘ve never been much of a fan of wrestling….  Nevertheless, I will make sure my youngest daughter gets what each of her siblings got and I’ll continue nursing until she turns one.  After all, one year is not so very long and nursing really is a beautiful thing even when it is full of more inquisitiveness, curiosity, and distractions than peacefulness, relaxation, and snuggles.

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