When I was little, my three younger siblings and I never ventured far from our mom's side. She cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked with a baby in her arms. One of my very first memories is of my dad driving my mom and all of us kids to answer a request he had heard on the radio. A newborn baby at a local hospital needed "maternal milk" (that's how they called it), and my mom, who at the time was nursing my little brother, had a plentiful milk supply.
To me, the fact that my mom would donate milk to a baby in need was the most natural thing in the world. When I was a baby, she would walk several blocks every three hours to nurse my baby cousin whose mom couldn't feed him. I have dozens of "milk brothers and sisters" all over the country.
So when I became a new mother, the thought of not breastfeeding my child never crossed my mind. I was very sick after my son was born, and I was depressed for a whole year post-partum. Knowing that I was able to nurse my son and that he was so healthy and beautiful was sometimes the only thing that gave me enough incentive to get out of bed every morning. Every month the scale showed how much my Gorgeous Boy was growing. I know numbers don't mean anything when it comes to babies and children--my Swan Princess is twenty pounds underweight according to the charts, but she's my healthiest kid. The numbers on the scale, however, were a source of pride for me that helped me out of the depression.
All of my kids were champion nursers. I know that some people will be horrified of knowing that Princess Peach was three and a half when she stopped nursing, but we both loved every moment of it. It's not true that if babies nurse into toddlerhood they will be clingy or insecure. My Princess Peach is so independent and full of confidence!
When Baby Hulk had to stay in the NICU after birth, I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to nurse him, even though I had done it four times before. During the first days, the only thing I could do for him was pumping every two or three hours. It was emotionally and physically taxing. But the first day he was fed my milk though the feeding tube, he looked so content all the efforts were worth it--for him.
Little by little, the nurses allowed me to nurse him. At first, he'd fall asleep, but he caught on really well. Each time he tried he did better and better, until he didn't need the feeding tube anymore and eventually he came home with me. We're both pros now. I don't count the minutes he nurses or how many times he swallows.
I don't take it for granted though.
I know many mothers aren't able to nurse their babies for one reason or another, and I love that I can choose how I want to nurture my baby. I'm grateful that I come from a culture that holds nursing mothers in such high esteem. There are no special nursing covers or rooms in Argentina (or there weren't when I lived there), but mothers and their babies were welcomed and respected everywhere.
During the years, many times I've seen my kids pretend-nurse their "babies" (from teddy bears to action figures). I hope their minds can also distill the essence from the memories: breastfeeding is not only natural, but also sacred. It saves lives.
In Princess Peach's room I have a painting of an angel holding a nursing mother. I've felt the embrace of angels many a night when comforting a baby.
Happy International Breastfeeding Week! Maybe one day we won't even need such a celebration. After all, how many "International Breathing Weeks" do we have?
|Statue of Mary nuring Jesus|