I loved nursing my babies.
I loved nursing my babies so much that when my daughter Beth was pregnant with my first (twin) grandchildren, I asked my ob/gyn if there was a way to re-lactate. I loved it so much that my son-in-law Todd, an otherwise sane young man, threatened to install a “granny-cam” to assure himself that I was not putting his babies to my breast.
I loved nursing because, I confess, I loved how I felt doing it. It brought me such peace and relaxation, all my anxiety seemed to flow out with the milk. (Later, when I tried to learn to meditate, the instructor directed me to imagine my most serene experience- and it was nursing.) I also loved it because it was easier for me, no warming bottles in the middle of the night and I had one hand always available- to wipe the older sib’s tush, for example. My husband gave relief bottles of formula and we even gave water bottles (sweetened with sugar!!!)
Although I recall all my friends breastfeeding, I recently read that in the 1970’s, most women bottle-fed. We believed that formula was fine for the baby. We were, after all, in New York City, not some third world country where formula was unobtainable and the water was unsuitable for drinking. We baby boomers ourselves had not only survived formula, but all that cigarette smoking and drinking our parents did (see: “Mad Men”).
So I admit to amusement and some horror when my daughters and daughter-in-law attach their breasts to large conical electrical devices to withdraw milk. And the whole freeze-the-milk-in a-plastic-bag-for-later-use-thing kind of creeps me out.
Girls, I feel like saying (but don’t),—it’s not about the milk. It’s about you and the baby. It’s about the feeling of utter peace, wholeness and full womanhood when you hold a baby and nourish her, whether from your body or from a bottle. And when it’s time to wean or to put away the bottle for the last time, it’s the next step, after the birth itself, where you feel, so intensely, what will become the ultimate journey of parenting- stepping further and further away from your child so she can make it on her own.