Thoughts on formula feeding, breastfeeding, weaning, and extended breastfeeding…
First thing to say is that none of them are without their challenges. In fact, having and raising children isn’t easy. Period. It’s a whole rearrangement of your reality. It is challenging, it is fun, it is rewarding, it is work, and dedication to finding the most energy efficient ways of doing things.
How to feed an infant baby has always seemed straight forward to me. The female body provides milk, the baby desires milk, just put the two together annnnd you are breastfeeding your baby. There is nothing that can replace the miracle, convince, or perfect composition of mother’s milk. Each family must ultimately choose their path and if breastfeeding is no longer an option there shouldn’t be any ill feelings of guilt or shame because I believe, a baby can feel the mother’s love just as strongly in her presence even without that direct flow if the mother is consciously putting if forth.
To be able to cradle my newborn child and nurse her felt like the perfect thing. My body was charged with excitement over the birth and a new unknown future. Frequent skin to skin contact while breastfeeding provided an outlet to pour all this into my new baby who was equally fueled with her own desire to live and hungry for love as well as nutrients.
“With his small head pillowed against your breast and your milk warming his insides, your baby knows a special closeness to you. He is gaining a firm foundation in an important area of life – he is learning about love.”
~ La Leche League pamphlet c.1956
In the first months feedings were their own event. I got so excited to be able to do it, feeling how important it is for the baby helped me move past the pain. Breastfeeding is painful and for me, finding the pain/pleasure line was more difficult than giving birth. It was the beginning of learning to let go of selfish tendencies and put my needs aside to the benefit of the baby’s.
While it was challenging and frustrating at times, I took the time to set a specific place for nursing and focus on Aryana’s growth as she drank. I tried to limit any negative thoughts, doubts, or other distractions and give the most peaceful experience possible. This mental practice has continued and nursing always presents a time to reflect on how ‘things are going’. I like give my thanks for all the blessings around and look at my weaknesses with resolve to find ways to strengthen them.
Around the 5th month I began to feel strongly about consuming galactogogues (ingredients which naturally stimulate breast milk production). Not for any obvious reason other than all of a sudden it felt very important to me I specifically included carrots, fermented oats, quinoa, barley, eggs and lactogenic herbal teas on a regular basis. A blend of red raspberry leaf, nettle, and seeds of fenugreek, cumin, and caraway mixed with a generous spoonful of wild raw mountain honey has been a staple since the very beginning. I find it to be not only physically nourishing but also as a breast milk vitamin, if you will, that delivers many important nutrients.
Overall, I have a very good connection with nursing and intend to allow Aryana to self-wean, meaning she decides when she has had enough! I want to give her all the nutrition and emotional comfort I can. Hopefully she picks a good age to stop. Some children carry on for years, even though now milk is about 95% of her diet I don’t imagine that she will still be drinking for a long time to come. Just for fun I’ll make the guess that by three and half years (maximum) she’s done!