Liquid Gold: A Breastfeeding Story

breastfeeding_infant

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.]

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8 Comments

  1. What a beautiful post! As a mother who breast fed her own children, I enjoyed re-living those great feelings and the memories of sitting in the recliner nursing my children gave me a warmth all over. It really was a wonderful feeling to nurture your child far past the womb. I loved it.

  2. I read this today while pumping! I am reaching nine months, and it does feel like an accomplishment. I have a question though: my daughter very recently has started to eat more significant meals. Since that has happened she is starting to nurse very lazily and I frequently don’t feel that she is emptying the breast. I have started pumping more because I am afraid that she just isn’t taking enough milk to keep up the supply. Am I being paranoid? As a mom working full time I hate to lose the few feedings we have face to face but I am equally afraid to have the milk supply drop now when we have only a couple months to go.

  3. Loved this post. My first two daughters (born 3 years apart) were very early preemies and pumping for them was the only thing I could do for a long time. I could not hold them and I certainly could not nurse them. I never would have made it through without the encouragement of my lactation consultant, the NICU nurses and all the NICU doctors who kept reminding me of the benefits of breast milk. My son, who was full term, was born tongue tied and again, it was my pediatrician who identified the problem and encouraged me to breast feed and work through it. (we made it over a year!). I love that you are encouraging women and having conversations about breast feeding.
    Trish recently posted…Be careful what you pray for (Week 7 Update)My Profile

    1. So glad to hear that you found a supportive breastfeeding community. Thanks for sharing your story and for reading!

  4. Interesting. I had no idea that it was called liquid gold. I had only heard that phrase used for that one uber-expensive formula!

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