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Nov 4 2010

Advice from Savta–Put the Pump Away

By at 3:30 pm

"It's not about the milk. It's about you and the baby."

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.

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7 Responses to Advice from Savta–Put the Pump Away

  1. Lolly says:

    I love your idea of “relactating”. I nursed all 4 of mine, a set of preemie twins included. Now my baby, 22 years old, is expecting my first grandchild. She plans to nurse. If I could do it for her I would. My most peaceful memories of their childhood is holding them, nursing them, the one thing that ONLY Mommy could do for them.

  2. Amy says:

    What beautiful thoughts from Savta. I breastfed and pumped. I always felt like a cow when pumping but did it because of the benefits to my child. The benefits of providing breast milk when I was not there is the most obvious. The other benefit was the ability to leave the house and refresh my brain with work outside the home. I crave the mental stimulation of complex work and adult conversation. It allowed me to come back home and be a better mom.


  3. I tried the pump, with both kids. It never felt right to me! And yes, I felt sort of ridiculous when I was pumping. I wrote a post about it on Offbeat Mama.

  4. renee says:

    Such an interesting generation divide—and so much anger from the “posters”-
    Those of us who worked outside the home left formula and bottles. We did not believe that we were compromising the health of our babies. It also seems to me that we had a much more enjoyable, peaceful experience. Not so much “work” to get nutrition to the babies.I hope all you nursing moms can enjoy the experience in whatever way works for you— the time passes so quickly. But I, and my friends, remain “amused and somewhat horrified.” :)

  5. Melissa says:

    I too loved nursing my only biological child. There was an overwhelming sense of awe while watching my precious child nurse. I did pump and freeze my milk for consumption while I had to work. I was grateful to be able to have this opportunity.
    I was thrilled when my daughter nursed her children. I even made sure she had a pump to make it easier for both she and the babies.
    I am saddened by and for the women who can not or do not, for whatever reason, share this special bond with their children. It is an experience that is irreplaceable.

  6. Rachel says:

    Um, does your “amusement and some horror” include the fact that most mothers work to support our families? Those of us fortunate enough to even have maternity leave need to pump when we need to return to work. And those of us who are able to pump despite working are extremely fortunate to have a work situation that even accommodates pumping, let alone actual nursing. What a bizarrely class-bound and insensitive piece.

  7. homeshuling says:

    Actually? It’s also about the milk. Was this an attempt to be provocative so you would get lots of hits from angry lactivists?


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