Expert Advice to Help You Experience the Magic
By Ann Calandro
How can it be that some mothers LOVE breastfeeding and other mothers tolerate breastfeeding “for the good of the baby”? Why is it that I hear moms frequently say, “I will have put in my 12 months next month, so how can I get this baby to wean?” Why do some pediatricians tell mothers, “Well Mom, you can quit now—you’ve done your time.”? It sure sounds like breastfeeding is similar to serving a prison sentence.
What’s different about the mothers who breastfeed because it’s the right thing to do and the mothers who breastfeed because they love everything about it? Both are good mothers. Both give their babies the very best start—no question. But what makes the difference?
Some mothers LOVE breastfeeding and other mothers tolerate breastfeeding.
I think it is the magic. When I say this you may be thinking, “You’re crazy.” Or you may be thinking, “You’re right!” There is something about breastfeeding that makes the world feel like a better place for some moms. This feeling of joy and love and closeness and warmth is exactly what some moms feel when they breastfeed. It is a sensuous feeling of pure exhilaration. No, it isn’t sexual. It is different. It is like a beach lover sitting on the warm sand listening to the gentle waves of the ocean. It is like savoring a bite of your favorite ice cream. It is like being wrapped in a warm bear-hug by the person you love most in the world.
Caroline describes breastfeeding her daughter India this way, “Nursing for me is like a cup of tea. It gives me a boost when I’m tired, it calms me when I’m excited, and it allows me to reflect when my life has become ‘crazy.’”
Magic! Holding a small baby or child that is part of you, who you have given the very best part of yourself to, and offering your warm sweet milk to this round-cheeked little angel is magic. The smell of this child is like a vanilla candle, awakening all your senses. The softness of his skin is like being enveloped in velvet. Looking at his smiling eyes as he nurses is like opening up a special gift and gazing on it for the very first time, even though you might nurse him many times each day. Getting up at night to feed is not a terrible experience when it is magical to cuddle your soft little son or daughter and feel the life- and love-giving milk flowing like a peaceful river. It is both powerful and empowering.
Suzanne, who breastfed two children, says, “The image that comes back to me the strongest is when the breastfeeding child looked up and into my eyes while nursing. Then she smiles, and there is the little pool of milk at the corner of her mouth. The love and gratitude that passes between the eyes of mother and child at that moment is the strongest and most magical of moments.”
You can sense the difference in the twinkling eyes of the moms who experience magic. When I tell women that I am a lactation consultant, they might say, “I breastfed my baby for a few months.” They are matter-of-fact, and their eyes don’t light up. They are proud and rightly so. Other moms’ eyes (and sometimes grandmothers’) smile and enlarge as they say with a smile, “Oh, I breastfed my baby!” These moms loved it. Their eyes tell me so. They want to tell me how much they loved breastfeeding even though it may have been many years ago. They haven’t forgotten. I sense that we are sisters under the skin. We have known the magic.
I teach a lot of breastfeeding classes and do a lot of public speaking. I talk to hundreds of mothers each month as inpatients, outpatients and over the phone. I talk to them about how good breastfeeding is for them, for the baby, for the family. I talk about how it keeps Baby healthy and how it saves them money.
They ask me questions about how to pump their milk when they go back to work or how to avoid getting sore nipples. When I am teaching breastfeeding class, I talk to parents for two hours straight. When I teach nurses about breastfeeding in my breastfeeding management classes, I teach them for 10 hours. We talk about helping moms get started, the disadvantages of using formula, having a healthy attitude. In both classes, I don’t talk about the magic. I guess I don’t bring it up because there really are no words to describe the feelings that breastfeeding can evoke. They might not believe me anyway, not unless they are one of the moms who has already experienced this spark.
I doubt that any woman who has breastfed and didn’t experience the magic would ever choose breastfeeding education as a career. Lactation consultants, La Leche League Leaders, nursing mother’s counselors, I would dare say have all recognized the magic of breastfeeding. Many of us had difficult beginnings and had to work hard to establish our nursing relationships. We have fallen head over heels in love with our babies while breastfeeding. We so want other mothers to experience the “I don’t care if the world collapses—I’m nursing my baby” kind of peace. Our greatest disappointment is when mothers don’t. They are sometimes terrific moms, loving moms, caring moms, but if they didn’t ever discover this special part of breastfeeding, we feel a slight disappointment for them and for their loss of the magic.
Dana, a nursing mother from North Carolina, says, “…I’m having trouble finding words to describe just how complete I felt during those early months when I was so emotionally involved with this darling baby who seemed so sweet and clean and perfect … I read once that the first four months are the period of ‘primary maternal preoccupation’ with the baby, and I thought that described it pretty well for me. The relationship was so physically and emotionally satisfying that it was not hard for me to pour myself into it and put the rest of my life on hold to focus on mothering.”
Lester Hazell, the author of Commonsense Childbirth (Berkley Pub Group, 1984) once said, “Breastfeeding … provides a smooth transition from pregnancy to mutual independence. The baby has a close, loving start; his mother reaps innumerable benefits, many of which are so subtle that they cannot be described.” He is right. I am trying my best to describe these subtle benefits and still wonder if I am getting close to describing them at all. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who understands those feelings, feelings that can be described with only one word. Magic!