I often think about what it must have been like to be a nursing mother in a small town a few hundred years ago. New moms probably kept each other company, their babies socializing and growing together. They probably also all nursed around each other. Young girls probably grew up seeing their mothers and mothers' friends nursing their own children. It must have been so organic for women to birth and nurse their babies. It was just the way their mothers had done it. Nowadays things are different. Our apartment is on the 17th floor, isolating us from the world below. Our families are states away, so its really just us. As a 21st century mother, you have to work at creating your own village.
Sammy and I joined a playgroup a couple months ago and thank God we did. Before making our friends at the playgroup I had little confidence in myself as a mother. I questioned everything, especially nursing. Was Sammy eating enough? Was I nursing too often? Was I doing it right? That first Monday afternoon when we joined the playgroup was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I felt so happy to be walking into this room seeing tens of moms and babies. I was amazed and impressed to see nearly every mother nursing their babies. You know what? No two mothers nursed their babies in the same way.
Becoming a parent can be so overwhelming and confusing. There are literally thousands of parenting books, in fact, a search for "parenting" on Amazon brought up over sixty thousand results. What I have been privileged to learn through Sammy over the past four and a half months is that my best guide as a parent is my own instinct. My goal since Sammy arrived has been to learn his cues, to understand what he is asking for even though he can't speak words yet and I have to say, I'm impressed with how much I've learned.
Sammy eats about every three hours, but every once in a while he's ready to eat before then. At first I was confused: why is he doing his "hungry" cues so soon? But as soon as I get Sammy to my breast I hear him swallowing hungrily and I know that I've made the right decision.
The best aspect of the playgroup is the realization that I'm not crazy, these issues happen to all new moms. I was relieved to hear that nursing was not simple for anyone. Even the moms who were adamant about nursing before their little ones arrived admitted to being tempted by formula. Let's be honest: nursing can really be a pain. There is no way to ensure exactly how much your child is eating. There is no way anyone else can share the responsibility of feeding your child, if you're nursing it's just you and your baby.
Sammy is almost five months old and our nursing relationship has improved astronomically, but it is still a challenge. However, I feel so fulfilled in being able to use my body in such a meaningful way. With each feed Sammy and I grow more comfortable with each other. As he becomes more confident in my unwavering love and adoration I become more confident in him, and more importantly, myself.
My new friends at playgroup have let me see the light at the end of what I now call "the three month tunnel." The first three months can be scary and new, but with the help of friends and community you will make it. With the help of the playgroup not only did my self-doubt disappear, it was replaced with confidence. I have become so aware of how well I know Sammy. I realized that Sammy isn't a baby, he's my son, he's Sammy. I hope you too are getting to know your own little one with the support of family and friends.