I’ve noticed that most of the blogs I follow use the term “breastfeeding,” but I was raised with the term “nursing” so that’s what I use.
I grew up in a home where nursing was the norm. My mom was what you’d call a lactivist, but I think the term didn’t exist back in the 80’s (though I’m not sure). She didn’t go to nurse-ins or anything, but she nursed each of us for an extended time period, sometimes enduring glares or criticism from family or friends. I’m the oldest of three, with two little brothers who are 3 and 8 years younger than I am. My mom nursing my brothers was a normal part of my childhood, and she made a note in my baby book that I play nursed my doll when she nursed my middle brother. Both of my parents came from dairy farms, and so “milking” was a normal part of their lives, and the choice to nurse their children made sense to them. I can remember watching lots of different types of animals nursing over years on the farm. Nursing was the natural, normal thing to do. I’ve carried that belief with me throughout childhood and into my adult life. I always thought I’d nurse my future babies, no problem.
Until, that is, I started reading blogs. I learned all kinds of things that were obstacles to nursing that I never knew about. I never knew that there were such a thing as lactation consultants to help a mother learn to feed her child. What could she need help for? Isn’t that why both mom and baby have instincts? I never knew that the doctors or nurses in the hospital would want to supplement with formula if babies weren’t gaining enough weight fast enough. Maybe that’s because we were all big eaters and gained weight normally, so it was outside of my experience. I never knew that, on rare occasions, some moms don’t produce milk. That never happened with animals I saw. I never knew that there were so many medical and societal barriers to nursing babies.
So now, with my baby due in about a week, I’m wondering if this whole nursing thing will be as easy as I always thought. Now that I know all these problems are out there, I worry that my baby won’t latch on right, or that I’ll need some kind of medical intervention that won’t let nursing get off to a good start. I worry that my baby won’t gain weight quickly enough and I’ll be pressured to supplement with formula. I worry that I’ll have to put up with criticism from friends or glares from strangers. So I read, and I learn. And I’ve regained my confidence that I’ll nurse my baby and it will go just fine.
There are many reasons why I’m determined to nurse my baby. The most important is that nursing has always seemed like the most natural way to feed my baby. My mom nursed us, animals nurse their babies, and throughout most of human history, babies have been nursed. I know from a nutritional and biological standpoint, nursing my baby will give him the best start in life. I also put a lot of weight on the fact that I won’t have to wash bottles or buy formula (dishes and grocery store trips are high on the list of things I hate to do). Nursing is also eco-friendly because there are no formula cans to dispose of or worry of chemicals leaching out of the plastic bottle. Nursing is reliable, and not a problem when the power goes out or there’s no running water.
I’m happy that my husband, my mom, and my mom-in-law are supportive of my choice to nurse my baby, since I know they’ll all be a source of encouragement if we do run into any problems. And I can’t wait for this little guy to arrive!