In support of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m re-posting a favorite breastfeeding story.
Sitting at the dinner table, our youngest, Anna, asked me why she’s the only one without allergies, and the first answer (as a doula and lactation counselor) was, “Because I nursed you for two years.” “Huh?” she asked.
So I dove right in, “That’s what boobs are for,” she giggled, “for feeding babies. Cow milk is for calves, goat milk is for baby goats and human milk is for …” I paused to let her answer, “Human babies!” Her eyes twinkled, and at her age of increasing modesty and bodily awareness, she giggled and challenged, “Boys have boobs… and pecks.” I responded, “They have nipples, too, but can’t feed a baby.” The word nipples was also met with a chuckle.
We’ve talked about breastfeeding before many times, as a toddler she used to put her dolls to her breast routinely and if she ever used a play bottle, she’d tell me it had breastmilk in it. This discussion reminded me that in parenting, things need to be repeated and not just the pick-up-your-towel repeated, but relearned in new, age-adjusted ways. She was revisiting this topic with some more life experience under her teeny belt.
She was fascinated as I explained that breastmilk changes it’s flavor and content from day to day, feeding to feeding, during the same meal, and year to year. A Mom’s body even knows if the baby is a boy or a girl (Moms nursing boys produce milk that is higher in fat content). Amazing!
Breastmilk is the perfect food for human babies and as we chatted, it just popped out: “Boob Milk is Best!” She completely cracked up. I joined in and we were laughing as Anna repeated, “Boob Milk!”
Who knows how kids’ minds work, but she zigged to a new direction and wondered, “Did I cry?” It gave me the opportunity to tell her about how nursing made her stop crying, how she’d snuggle in and drink and doze off to sleep in my arms, how it was such a special time for both of us. Nursing is really something I mourn the loss of now that our family is whole and my breastfeeding days are behind me.
I’m not really sure why Anna doesn’t have any allergies, she could lick a dog and get no reaction, she eats nuts with me by the handful while the rest of our family would go into anaphylactic shock from nuts. It may or may not be related, but breastmilk DOES have a protective factor against allergies. I often wonder if the older two would’ve been better off if I’d nursed them longer (about 14 months each), but on the flip side, I also wonder if their allergies would’ve been worse had I not nursed them as long as I did. Science and anecdotes alike confirms that boob milk really is best!
I love having my daughters and son understand the beauty and gift of breastfeeding and breastmilk. Our chat reminds me to bring it up now and then now that there is no one in our home drinking boob milk.
*I believe that with a mother’s commitment, desire and the right early support, most mothers will be able to nurse their babies. There are certainly factors and situations which create hurdles and struggles, but I encourage any mother who wants to nurse to seek out lactation support right away. Contact someone before your baby is born if possible, it’s trickier to find someone you connect with once you’re into that postpartum bubble.