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The Important Things In Life

Elizabeth A. Lang
Lexington KY USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 1, January-February 2004, pp. 11

My 16-month-old daughter Sophia's first words were "mama," "no," "dada," and "ooby," in that order. These are the most important things in her life. Her mommy, her ability to refuse, her daddy, and my breasts.

I was really hoping that she would learn to say "nurse," or some variation of that. But now we have the request for "ooby" when she wants to nurse. Whether at home or in public, the demand for "ooby" is accompanied by the lifting of my shirt, which erases all doubts anyone might have about exactly what she wants.

I remember trying to put my nipple into her mouth so that she would latch-on properly soon after she was born. I never imagined she'd be the nursing fiend she is today. The nurse who helped me breastfeed my daughter in the hospital told me that Sophia had a strong suck. She rooted like a champ and latched on like a barracuda. She took to nursing quickly, asking to nurse in little clusters all day for her first few days. Her pediatrician told me that she was using me as a pacifier, as if that were a bad thing.

Despite the frequent nursing, my milk didn't fully come in until about her fifth day of life. When the milk arrived, it was plentiful. Sophia gained over a pound during her first two weeks. Her pediatrician said that she looked plump and healthy and he wished that all mothers would breastfeed their babies.

I eagerly awaited her next doctor's visit, and was overjoyed to be told once again that she was thriving. Of course, I could see that with my own eyes, but I desperately wanted expert confirmation that my eyes were not deceiving me.

There were several things that contributed to my uneasiness during her early months. First, Sophia was a spitter. She spit up a lot. Every day. All day. It was a laundry nightmare. Second, the only other breastfeeding mother I knew was my sister-in-law, who lived 400 miles away. Third, I was a new mother in a new town where I didn't know a whole lot of folks, which left me feeling isolated.

Luckily, I had attended a La Leche League meeting two months before Sophia was born. I knew that I planned to breastfeed my baby, and wanted to ask some questions of women who were already doing it. I went to another meeting when Sophia was about seven weeks old and was greatly relieved to find that my fears were eased by the women I met.

Once I had the names and phone numbers of the Leaders, I called them a lot. I called when I realized that breastfeeding, while natural, was certainly not easy for me. The Leader said to hang on because it would get easier. I hung on, and during the eighth week, I suddenly realized that it was, in fact, much easier.

I called my Leader when Sophia vomited for the first and second times because it looked like a lot and seemed to travel pretty far. I had read enough to know that some babies have a serious condition that results in projectile vomiting and requires surgery to correct. For a brief period of postpartum insanity, I was sure that Sophia was one of those babies destined for the operating room. My Leader told me that occasional vomiting wasn't uncommon. I calmed down, and Sophia was fine.

When my breast started to ache and turned rock hard on one side, of course I called my Leader. Just my first plugged duct, she explained, and the recommended hot bath got the plug out immediately.

The nurse at the hospital taught me how to keep a nursing log that noted what time Sophia started nursing and how long each session lasted. By Sophia's third month, I realized that she was only nursing for five minutes at a time. Despite her beautiful growth and development, I was certain that she would starve. My Leader assured me that some babies become such expert nurslings and they get everything they need in five minutes. She helped me relax enough to stop keeping the log, which provided a wonderful sense of freedom.

As time passed, breastfeeding not only got easier, it came to be a source of joy. I have nursed Sophia in cars, in stores, in a hotel lobby, at a highway rest stop, in the park, and on an airplane. We've never worried about (or spent money on) bottles or formula or any of the other trappings that come with "non-momma" milk. Sophia has only had one ear infection in her 16 months, and her pediatrician believes that it's because she's breastfed. I also like to think about how I'm giving her a few extra IQ points, too.

I am happy to say that Sophia is still my little nursling, and she will be until she's ready to wean, which probably won't be any time soon. She has just started to take a liking to solid foods. We are learning that she has allergies to dairy, eggs, and nuts so far. She still nurses several times a day and about twice at night. My family teases me that I'm going to have to go off to college with my daughter, who will probably still be nursing when she's 18! While I look forward to the day that she weans and I can have my body back, the thought also makes me sad. The bond forged during nursing is very special-unlike anything else I've ever experienced. As a result, every day I try to be mindful that she won't nurse forever and am glad that, right now, I can offer her "ooby," with love.

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