Salt Lake City Based Photographer Timbra Wiist owns/operates Landslide Photography & Photographs the Journey of Motherhood (see bottom of page or sidebar for more info. . .depending on what this blog is choosing to do for the day).

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Best Non-Decision I Ever Made

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on The Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about Importance of Breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

What a broad subject this is. . .I LOVE to write, I LOVE to reflect, so if you're looking for a quick read. . . you won't find it here!

Do I write all the reasons I love breastfeeding? Do I write the thousand and one reasons that breastfeeding is the best thing for babies (and mommies)? Do I write all the benefits?

I like these questions, they make me really reflect on the beginning of my breastfeeding relationship with my first daughter and now with both of my daughters. While pregnant, searching for a few final books to purchase and pack up with me on my way to Fiji, where our family would begin, I decided on the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I don't even know now, why it spoke to me, but that single book has put me on a mothering course for my life. I read that book, well, most of that book. And I struggled throughout to identify with it because the baby was always referred to as "he" and I knew that my baby would be "she." (Later I learned that this was so the reader would never wonder if "she" was speaking of baby or mother. . . makes perfect sense). And I read words like "nursing relationship" and "beautiful" and I still continued to feel that the reason for breastfeeding was pretty utilitarian for ME. . . .finances, good nutrition, "should breastfeed until 6 months" and I was going to do my minimum part. . . six months and we were through.

And then I had a baby. And I nursed that baby, because I knew I would. And nursing solved the problems of the ENTIRE WORLD. . . about forty-six times every single day. If she was hungry, she nursed, if she was tired, she nursed, if she was learning something new. . she nursed, if she just needed to suck, she nursed. . .if she was scared, or warm, or cold or happy, or sad, or needed to poop. . . she nursed. If someone else held her and gave her back to me, she wanted to reconnect, and she nursed. And it changed me, it shaped me, and I began to realize that the mother I always thought I'd be. . . I was not. . . and I wasn't sure I cared anymore. . . we were riding a wave of newness and of understanding between us, of trust and intuition, we were learning that our family did not have to be the families we'd grown up in or had come from, that we could just be whoever and whatever we needed to be for this baby.

During the first six months of our daughter's life, we lived in a culture where children were never told "no" (not for the first few years anyway), where babies were NEVER left to cry, bottles were uncommon, formula even less so, child lead weaning was a lot more common than I had ever known, soon after I had my daughter a friend told me that her then FIVE year old still nursed every once in a great while. . . this was mind-bending for me(the kid went to school for heaven's sake). I asked my doctor if the recommendation in this country was for babies to sleep on tummy or back. . . her response? "We don't give a recommendation, most people sleep with their babies, but if I have to give a recommendation, we go with Australia and say on their backs." What? EVERYONE slept with their babies? Maybe it was way different than I'd planned or wanted, but it worked for us and EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT!! Breastfeeding made all of this so simple. . .

We also lived in a place where we walked almost everywhere, so it stood to reason that our journeys were long. We couldn't go "sit in a car" to breastfeed, there wasn't easy access to making (or taking) bottles everywhere we went, and we couldn't just run home (okay, we could LITERALLY RUN home, but not just hop in the car and go home) if we needed to make a bottle or whatever. . . .breastfeeding was available, accepted, always ready at a second's notice.

We lived in a country where the majority of people have dark skin, my BIG FAT WHITE BABY stood out everywhere we went. People want to squeeze her thighs, strangers kissed her little feet, sniffed her head (all cultural). Everyone KNEW this big baby was growing fat on mommy's milk, it was a given, no one wondered why she was thriving. Friends back home said things behind my back to one another like "Why doesn't she just nurse her less?" (I learned this many months later, from a friend who also enjoyed having a HUGE MILKY BABY and thought to herself "Nurse a baby less? That never occured to me!"). . .Until I came back to the US and began attending La Leche League meetings, I didn't even know that people were encouraged (or culturally just accepted) scheduling feedings (either by amount of time at each feeding/each breast or amount of time between feedings). This was a completely foreign concept to me. I didn't know that "nurse on demand" was a "recommendation" of an organization promoting breastfeeding. . . I just thought you were supposed to do that. Away from my "home" culture, away from my family, away from friends I might have gone to, to ask how I should mother, I was free to just be a mother. . . . nurse a baby ALL DAY LONG. . . and delight in the fact that every local person we passed was proud FOR me of MY baby!!! My "dalo thighs" (that's Fijian for "taro root". . . and if you've ever seen taro root with the brown skin stripped, you'd completely understand)!

Breastfeeding my children has been important to their well-being. It's comfort, it's nourishment, it's disease fighting, it's immunity boosting, it's a reset when we're breaking down (any of us), it's a quiet moment for a busy toddler, it's peaceful sleep for the whole family, it's closeness, and bonding, and reconnection when we've been apart and warm fuzzies for me too, and when I'm REALLY tired and don't know how to slow down, I just lay down with a tired, fussing baby who is demanding peace and quiet and she and I, nursing, sleeping. Breastfeeding, even extended breastfeeding, has been the absolute best decision (or maybe "non decision") we've ever made for our family. 4.5 years ago when I read words like "breastfeeding relationship" and references to its "beauty" it all felt a little too whimsical and romanticized. . .but I can tell you. . . this breastfeeding relationship is SATISFYING, it is BEAUTIFUL, it is AMAZING. . .

When I watch my babies cradled in my arms, or on my lap, holding me with both hands, caressing my skin as their little eyes roll back in their heads, sometimes tired out of their minds and just thankful to finally be at peace with their mommy, as I stroke their hair, or kiss their foreheads, or touch a cheek, rocking, swaying, singing, telling them over and over "I love you little girl". . . there is no better place in the world, no more magical moment than to know that my body was made to provide everything that these little wonders require to grow healthy and strong in the first months of their life, and to continue to provide substantial amounts of nourishment as well as emotional and mental nurturing, and that I am allowing myself and my daughters to take part in the exact thing we were both meant to do in this very moment.
 Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.


Katrina said...

beautiful! i'd write more but i am nursing my baby and only have one hand. :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

While reading through this, I kept thinking of phrases I wanted to quote back to you to say I agreed. By the end, I'd have been quoting back your whole article! I love this post, and while I did not have that wonderful Fijian experience of total acceptance of breastfeeding (but wish I had and enjoyed experiencing it through your description), I know exactly what you mean when you say "nursing solved the problems of the ENTIRE WORLD. . . about forty-six times every single day." It just changes you to actually be in that relationship and realize how special and right and yes it is. Thank you for this post! I enjoyed every word. :)

I also love the breastfeeding images you've captured. I only wish I lived closer!