Before I had a baby and started breastfeeding, I didn't really get why everyone was so obsessed with it. Why there are hundreds of books and classes on breastfeeding, or why every breastfeeding mom talks about the activity so much. I'd think to myself, "You put the baby on your breast, and the baby eats and that's that. What's the big deal?" But now that I've joined the throngs, I get it. The other day, for instance, J was reading a passage from this really interesting article in The Wilson Quarterly aloud to me, about the presidential race and religion, and when he finished I looked at him and said, "Yeah. Can you look at at the baby? Does this latch look right?" Breastfeeding is all consuming because there are so many facets that make it a success and, therefore, it is very easy to second guess yourself. There's a lot that can go wrong. There are clogged milk ducts and cracked nipples. There is leaking and soreness. Then there's the fact that you, as a mother, are solely responsible for providing the substance that allows your baby to grow and thrive. Is the baby eating enough? Is she eating too much? Does she seriously need to eat again, 20 minutes after I just fed her, for the love of God?
I laughed at the idea of "lactation consultants" before I began breastfeeding. Now I know their true, unmeasurable worth.
Because breastfeeding has become such a major part of my life, and because I didn't think J deserved a 24/7 commentary on how the process was coming along, I began attending a breastfeeding mothers support group through Yale when Nora was two weeks old. Attending that group is one of the best things I've done so far during my maternity leave. The group is a chance to get out of the house and socialize with other mothers. And naturally the other moms, with babies of all ages, are a great source of advice on breastfeeding, but also on all other aspects of motherhood.
The group has also allowed me to get over my modesty. I grew rather concerned at that first meeting when one of the moms whipped out a boob and began feeding her baby. "Oh no," I thought. I wasn't embarrassed at seeing another woman's breast, of course not. What worried me was the fact that I might be expected to do the same. Because if I didn't, I wondered as more and more women happily hiked up their shirts and offered their huge, swelling bosoms to their hungry infants, would I be viewed as the stingy, uptight mother? Furthermore, I may have no choice. The meeting ran an hour and a half long and if Nora got hungry, well, I would need to provide or else face the agony of dealing with the screaming, red-faced reality of her rage.
I decided I better just get it over with, sat back in a chair, let her nurse, and the world didn't end. I mean, it was a breastfeeding mother's group, after all, and no one cared one bit that my chest was on display. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I had overcome a major hurdle for the first time.
We're coming along. I had delved into breastfeeding with all my might, attending a class before Nora was born, another while I was in the hospital, and had read every thing on the subject I could get my hands on, over and over again. I think we've reached the precipice, and now that things are going really well, we are retreating back towards normalcy. It is possible to go too far, I think; to abandon all hobbies and interests in favor of an obsession with the sport that can border on non-healthy.
On a recent lazy day I was checking the on-demand options on cable and noticed there is an entire channel dedicated to pregnancy, childbirth and baby care, which included a program on breastfeeding. I excitedly clicked on the option and was about to press "play" when I realized that I was over-saturated with knowledge, and that baby and I need to continue doing what comes naturally. Things are going just fine and I needed to return to the world of intellectualism, literature, politics and intelligent conversation. I needed to look up, away from my breasts, to the world beyond. With only a moment of reluctance, I ventured away from the breastfeeding program and explored my other options. "Enough," I thought. "Enough."