"Could you repeat that?" I looked at my midwife in disbelief.
"Sure. One year. I want you to nurse your baby for one year."
She smiled and gave me that impassive look that was her way.
"Alice, I can't. I have to work. . ."
I shuddered thinking of the battles I'd had with a manual pump two years before. "I don't know about that. Besides, I only nursed Ashlie four months and then she got teeth. She bit me."
That smile flashed again. "So then you teach this one not to. I can't make you do this, but you asked me what's best, so I'm telling you. Nurse your baby for a year. At least."
I swallowed past the lump in my throat and tried to wrap my mind around her words. A year. My mind flashed back to college when a friend's sister was still nursing her thirteen-month-old. "That's weird," I'd said. Now here I was comitting to do the same thing. I chuckled, considering God's sense of humor.
That day in Alice's office, I made a choice to feed my baby—a choice that changed my life forever. My second daughter is now seven years old, and in a few minutes I'll be taking a nursing break with my twin boys, just over one year. Ben and Fill, two chubby blessings who arrived in between Michelle and the twins, introduced me to tandem nursing and extended breastfeeding.
The joy I have experienced from nursing my children could never have been explained to me. "Just do it," Alice said. Thank God, I listened. If I hadn't, I would have missed out on all the milky smiles, contented faces dropping into blissful sleep, and the sheer pleasure of providing my babies with life-giving nutrients and immunity. Worse yet, I would have missed out on all the much-needed naps I got when I pulled myself away from work to soothe a troubled toddler.
Commitment, verbal or written, is essential to breastfeeding. Without it, well-meaning family members and the tempting formula samples you kept "just in case" will overcome you. Your contract will not ensure successful breastfeeding, (you have to actually do it) but it's a good place to start. Too often, we begin with a "let's just see how it goes" attitude and at the first sign of trouble, we jump ship. Don't leave it to chance.
Keys to Commitment
1. Get informed. Read all you can on breastfeeding. Go to the library. Check the links on this page and the recommended books. If your your health care provider is supportive, discuss your breastfeeding plan with them.
2. Build a base of support. Look in the phone book for your local La Leche League and attend meetings if you can. There is online support available at www.lalecheleague.org. Contact a lactation consultant before your birth if you can. Visit your local WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office for information about breastfeeding support groups associated with your local Department of Health.
3. Find a breastfeeding mentor. Look for friends and family with breastfeeding experience, a caring heart, and a passion to help mothers feed their babies. If you don't know any nursing moms, keep your eyes open. We're everywhere. And don't forget to share your knowledge with someone else in the future.