Community Advocacy and Support by and for Young Mothers

Adventures in Breastfeeding by Jess DelBalzo

Adventures in Breastfeeding by Jess DelBalzo

When I was younger, I swore up and down that when I had children, I would never do it.

My mother reminds me now and then: I was adamant about it. But as soon as my baby was born, I forgot all of my previous promises, and now I can't seem to stop. I do it all the time, and everywhere I go. I've done it in the mall, and in the movie theater. Once I did it in a fancy restaurant because my daughter was fussing and disturbing my birthday dinner.

It's the easiest way to quiet her down and get a moment of peace when I need it. I breastfeed. That's the boldest way I can put it. Other people call it nursing, which has a much more pleasant connotation but somehow never stuck in my vocabulary. I hope some day my daughter will have her own silly name for it. And yes, that does mean I hope she is still doing it when she learns to talk.

I honestly don't know what changed my mind. I just remember that by the time I got pregnant, it was assumed that I was at least going to give it a try. At first, I told myself that if it wasn't easy, I would stop and never look back. I couldn't figure out why other mothers spent years regretting their inability to breastfeed. I didn't think of it as an important thing. I was of the mindset that it would be nice if I could, but no big deal if for some reason I couldn't.

In my first trimester, listening to my boyfriend's pregnant sister-in-law vow to breastfeed her daughter for the first year, I decided to aim for six months. That sounded like more than enough, as I couldn't get my mind around the idea of prolonging what I expected to be a serious aggravation. My boyfriend was happy with my decision, although I think he secretly hoped I would continue.

Somewhere between the middle of my second trimester and the birth of my daughter, I upped the ante to a year. I have considered myself a "nature girl" and proponent of all things natural for years. Wouldn't I be a hypocrite if I didn't really make a go of it? After all, aside from bringing her into the world, breastfeeding is one of the most natural things I can do for her. I know that it took participating in the act to make me see how truly amazing it is.

My partner and I *made* her, and now I am *growing* her. There's something awesome and empowering about it. The aggravation I expected just isn't there. Almost immediately, I realized that I would never be able to handle lugging formula and bottles every time we left the house. I'm not organized. I would never know how much to bring, never feel that I was bringing enough, and certainly never want to take the time to deal with it all when I was shopping, socializing, or just trying to relax and have fun. Now I can't leave home without bringing along everything I need to feed her.

All I have to do is unhook my bra (if I've bothered to wear one), hike up my shirt, and latch the little one on. Instantaneously, whatever was bothering her disappears, as if a "reset" button is activated in her head as soon as she begins to suck. Breastfeeding is easy. I remember being modest, a long time ago; so modest that even my own mother wasn't "allowed" to see me changing my clothes or getting out of the shower. Now that I'm breastfeeding, I don't care who sees me. I feel more comfortable in my own body than I ever have.

The only time I exercise caution is when I know someone else is uncomfortable, and then I feel agitated because I am expected to leave the room or hide my baby under a blanket. She's not doing anything wrong, and neither am I. It's only food, and may I add that it's nicely packaged, as well! I wish I could pinpoint the person or event that pulled me out of my ignorant, anti-breastfeeding haze so that I could express my gratitude.

I am so thankful for whatever it was that woke me up and convinced me to put my breasts to good use. They had always been too small to attract men, too small to fill out even the tiniest bra, and definitely too small to earn me a living as an exotic dancer, but they're just the right size to grow my daughter up healthy, happy, and wise. Even if they never do another thing for me, I'll know they served the highest purpose imaginable every time I see her bright eyes and ecstatic smile. I don't want to think of her first culinary experience as anything less than the miracle of nature it has been.