Breastfeeding: beyond the milk

When Harley was born early, I was stuck in the ICU for a bunch of days. Thankfully, when I transferred back to the maternity ward, I managed to get the hang of breast pumping within a few days, feeding my little preemie with exclusively breast milk. I am incredibly lucky that I was able to do this, and proud that she was exclusively breastfed even though we weren’t able to nurse. It wasn’t easy, but with the importance and benefits of breast milk, I was glad to be able to feel like a good mom to my little one while she was still in the NICU.

Upon getting her home, breastfeeding was still an issue. She was so small and would get so hungry that instead of latching onto the boob, Harley would just cry and scream. It was way easier to give her a bottle of expressed milk, plus it seemed to be the only way to feed her. It was time consuming to need to pump and give bottles, but we had to do what we had to do and again, I was proud to be her food source even if she wasn’t drinking straight from the boob. Now, that she is taking the breast, I realize that breastfeeding is about way more than just milk.

Sure, the nutrition is a big part of it, but breastfeeding does something more. First of all, there’s the necessary cuddles. Unlike a bottle which can be put in the little one’s mouth regardless of holding her or not, being on the boob means we have to be close. I have to hold her tiny body against mine, feel her movements as she drinks. This can be done while bottle feeding, too, but is inherent in feeding from my body and feels much more intimate and loving. There’s a familiarity that develops from holding her that way so much, a closeness that we both develop as she comes to associate my touch and smell with being warm, fed and comfy.

There also is a definite chemical response. The endorphins and hormones and whatever else are incredible, and a huge help towards overcoming my postpartum hormonal issues that have been bringing me down. In fact, the combination of breastfeeding and my meds kicking in has made me feel like myself again; I’m happy, hopeful and enjoying my time with the little princess. We are bonding so much more, and I’m even managing to have fun with her.

I know not all women are able to breastfeed, and I consider myself incredibly lucky for being able to do so. Any form of feeding can help a baby grow, but I’m just so grateful to have a way of nourishing her that also feeds our relationship and bond.


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