Breastfeeding: Why Quit When You're Ahead?

11.18.08 Baby's 28th Week


We're about to embark on a new era: solid foods! In honor of the occasion, our cheery, flirty little boy has popped a first tooth through his gums. There it is, like a craggy, snow-covered mountain peak, a crowning achievement for all of us.

It's also slightly scratchy on the nipple, and I don't think there's any way to communicate to a 6-month-old that he should lay off the nibbling. I'm not complaining though. For all my excitement about realizing my long-awaited dream of cooking for three, and sharing my love of food with Leo, what I'm really focusing on right now is how much I love breastfeeding.

Nowadays, when Leo gets a little squawky every 3 hours or so I just sort of hold him sidewise so he can burrow under my shirt and get down to business. A few minutes later he emerges, hair fluffy and cheeks pink, with a milk mustache and a goofy drunken look on his face. It's easy, it's sweet, it's charming, it's free, it's convenient, it's quick, and eating for two is quite nice.

Last weekend when we flew to Chicago to visit Leo's uncle, aunt and cousin, our plane was delayed. "Do you need anything for the baby?" the kind stewardess asked. Nope, we had everything we needed right there in aisle 18. The stewardess seemed committed to offering something so she came back with a bottle of water. Eventually, out of boredom, we fed Leo a few drops. The look of discerning disapproval that he gave us after a few sips was priceless. I think solids are really going to blow his mind.

Feeding Leo real food is also going to ring in a time of great messiness, some pickiness I imagine, and some confusion as I try to give Leo fresh, real meals that taste good to me and seem to align with the general health advice out there. But I'm sure it will bring at least as much pleasure as nursing him now does.

Lord knows breastfeeding didn't start off well for us (remember my post "From the Milk Mines"?). Back when it was so hard I couldn't believe our species had survived for so long on such a system, I stuck with it out of stubborn determination. Breast milk is supposed to be healthier and I figured since our species had survived, surely there must be a way to succeed. Now that it's paid off so beautifully, I have no interest in stopping.

Luckily, there's no need. At our 6 month appointment, the pediatrician explained that for the first several months breast milk will continue to be Leo's main source of nutrition (i.e. I'll still be eating for two, yay!). Beyond then, he can continue to nurse for as long as it works for both of us. My sister-in-law is still nursing her 18-month-old, albeit only for a few minutes a day. They both find it relaxing and cuddly so why not? It really took a full 4 months before my breastfeeding woes were behind me, and that's a long, long time (especially since the first weeks with a baby should be multiplied by 100 to communicate how they feel to a new parent). I plan to enjoy the rewards of my and Leo's success for months to come.

I don't miss how Leo used to cry when he tried to nurse, how I had to sterilize bottles every few hours around the clock, how I cut so many foods from my diet I was basically left eating rice cereal in rice milk, and how when Aaron tried to comfort me by saying "there's always formula" I felt so undermined I cried inconsolably. But I'm already missing Leo's wonderful toothless smile. I know I can't freeze the beautiful times of parenthood any more than I can fast forward through the rough ones.

Stay tuned as we start feeding Leo solids next week! For this week, I plan to just cherish the hard won joys of breastfeeding.