It’s Canada’s birthday today. So much to be grateful for… we live in a beautiful, welcoming, baby-friendly country and breastfeeding is embraced by the majority of new parents. Sure, it’s not perfect, and there is lots of room for improvement (breastfeeding rates decrease significantly by six weeks) but overall, Canadian parents have lots to celebrate on Canada’s 149th birthday.
In baby’s first year, every month is a birth-day celebration…first four weeks, then eight, twelve and so on, until the first twelve months are upon us and we have a first birth-day with cake and presents.
How does each monthly milestone affect our breastfeeding relationship? Have our breastfeeding goals changed as our babies grew? Are we realizing that breastfeeding is so much more than we had anticipated it to be? A relationship beyond nutrition, not measured in birth-day weeks or months as we may have presumed, but inexpressibly special and intimate…immeasurable. A bond with our babies that we could not have predicted.
For many of us, breastfeeding, while natural, doesn’t occur as naturally as we had hoped. We must overcome sore nipples, latch problems, supply and demand, fussiness at the breast, and often much more. We struggle through the early weeks, wondering when things will improve. We are tired, our breasts are full and leaky, we barely have time to feed ourselves, and still we persevere because we know that breastmilk is best for our babies.
All the while, we are falling deeply in love. And then it happens. Baby lets go of our nipple, mid-feed, and smiles a big lop-sided grin, and we swoon. We see how important we are to our little ones, the centre of their universe, the ying to their yang, and we know that every sleepless night, every tired tear that we’ve shed, has been worth it.
Before we know it, our babies are easily distracted while breastfeeding. Something catches their attention, and they turn to look, stretching our nipple, spraying milk, engaging with the world from the safety of our arms. Once again we are frustrated but intrigued. We soon come to realize that babies’ nurse best when they are falling asleep, waking from sleep or needing comfort. Busy babies do gymnastics at our breast while grinning at life, confident that we are close by. Quick feeds, sometimes only minutes in length, and growing babies are done. 1, 2, 3 and let go… fun, laughter, exploration.
Sitting babies, reaching babies, crawling babies, standing babies, cruising-round-furniture babies. Developing in leaps and bounds, helped each step of the way by confident mothers who have learned babies’ cues, responding with smiles, hugs and warm mother’s milk. Breastfeeding continually creates strong immune systems, providing superb nutrition and brain-building enzymes, creating human attachment and so much more. Our breastmilk is altering as our babies grow, specific to their gestational and developmental needs, always ready and available.
No wonder our breastfeeding goals change from the ones we had when we were pregnant or nursing a newborn! Did we know how easy it would be once breastfeeding was established? Could we have predicted the attachment we’d feel? Or the deep connection our babies would have to us? Could we have envisioned the healthy, vibrant, delightful baby we’d be breastfeeding?
Lucky baby, lucky mama…there is no time limit, nothing set in stone, no reason to wean. Goals can change. Expectations can soften. Babies of all stages and ages need their mother’s milk.
Let’s celebrate each birth-day, the ones we count in weeks, months, years… knowing that breastmilk is the perfect way to feed and nurture our babies…for as long as we choose.