One of my favorite things to counsel new moms about in my office is breastfeeding. The topic is wrought with social, cultural, and political hot button issues and has had its share of media attention lately. I’ve written before about my own frustration with how women’s post-baby bodies are portrayed in the media and the absence of positive breastfeeding images. But when sitting in the exam room with a new family, we can forget all of that and focus on what makes breastfeeding so amazing, which is that it is simply a mother and her baby connecting.
The time I spend breastfeeding is cherished. Although many of these encounters occur in the wee hours of the night/morning and sometimes undercover and rushed at public outings, the majority are calm and tender moments between my child and I. As I have mentioned before, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment after completing a year of breastfeeding N, which I felt was no small task as a full-time working mom. Beyond feeling pride in meeting my own breastfeeding goals though, I reveled in awe of what my body was able to perform. Not only had I given birth to this little boy, but I had nurtured and nourished him (exclusively for six months) into toddlerhood. Now, breastfeeding my second I am acutely aware of how precious this time is with my infant and how soon she will be drinking from a cup and feeding herself.
Since I spend many days of the week away from my kids, I maintain my breastfeeding goals by pumping at work. While pumping is not my favorite part of breastfeeding, it does provide an almost meditative quality in the middle of a busy day. For these few minutes are a time that is dedicated to reflecting and focusing on my own child, rather than my patients. It reminds me in an obtrusive way that I am a mother and pleases me to feel that connection during my work day.
Another physician mother once told me that when working long hours away from her children, pumping and providing her child breast milk sometimes felt like the only motherly contribution she was making. While this is far from true, as a working mom I understand that sometimes we feel disconnected from the child-rearing responsibilities that we dispense to daycares, nannies, and spouses. Providing our children with breast milk feels like a way to be involved even when we are apart.
The early milk that a mother produces, called colostrum, has been referred to as liquid gold because of its rich yellow color and nutrient and antibody rich content. As someone who works hard at maintaining a successful breastfeeding relationship though, all milk is liquid gold because there is nothing more valuable in my refrigerator. The milk that I provide for my child is one of the most important contributions I will make during the beginning of her life.
So when I talk with new moms about breastfeeding, I feel like a cheerleader. I advocate for breastfeeding, support her through the early trials, and educate her as to the benefits. I celebrate with her at each visit as she reports that it is getting easier and as we watch her child grow. I delight in helping her reach her own goals. And I use this community of women to boost my own breastfeeding journey, because as I cheer them on I am cheering for myself. Believing in my patients’ moms I believe that I too can work toward my goals, grow my baby, and build a bond to last a lifetime.
[The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. For more information about the AAP Policy on Breastfeeding: http://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/policyonbreastfeedinganduseofhumanmilk.html. This post is not individual medical advice. Please talk to your child’s pediatrician about what is best for your child.]