This is how breastfeeding looks in my dream of the future. It’s how breastfeeding was for millions of years, actually. Someday, someday… a girl can dream, right?
Normal breastfeeding starts with normal birth. In normal birth, your baby is born when she is ready: birth is not induced unless absolutely necessary and labor is not rushed. In normal birth, you give birth at home, or in a calm, homelike environment, with as few interventions as possible. You trust your body, your body amazes you in what it can do, you amaze yourself at what you can do, what you can do for your child. If your birth cannot be normal in this way, you are respected and supported, the interventions needed are used as a last resort, and you are encouraged and helped to nurse your baby as soon as possible after the birth.
Normal breastfeeding is the baby in your arms as soon as she’s born, her cord left to pulse until it stops, the iron-rich blood filling her body, storing it up for the first half of her first year of life. Normal breastfeeding is your baby taking her time on your chest, smelling you, tasting you, using her whole body to move toward your breast (maybe with some help from you, if that feels right). In normal breastfeeding, the baby is examined while she’s on you, in the dim light, in a comfortable and private room. In normal breastfeeding, there is no rush: the baby is kept on you and finds the breast at her own pace.
Normal breastfeeding is you get help if it hurts. Normal breastfeeding is you get help if the baby won’t latch or doesn’t seem to be drinking. Or, someone tells you you need help and finds it for you. Maybe your midwife or lactation consultant comes, or your mother or grandmother (who breastfed all her children as well). Normal breastfeeding is no one will stop helping you until the pain goes away, until the baby latches, sucks and swallows. Your helpers will stay will you for hours, all night if that’s what it takes. Normal breastfeeding is there is no other way to feed and nurture this baby.
Normal breastfeeding is the baby staying on you, skin to skin, for most of the day in those first days and weeks. Normal breastfeeding is the baby nurses very frequently in those first few days. No one looks at the clock, you’re in bed, half-asleep, the baby attached to you, nursing. Normal breastfeeding is if your baby doesn’t seem be getting enough, you breastfeed more, several times each hour, any time the baby is awake. Normal breastfeeding is if you don’t have enough milk your sister breastfeeds your baby some, your best friend lends a hand; or, your friends express their milk for your baby. Normal breastfeeding is no formula in sight, that stuff is for emergencies only.
Normal breastfeeding is you stay in bed with your baby against you. Normal breastfeeding is no pacifiers—your breast is the only place your baby goes to suck. Normal breastfeeding is the father holds the baby against his chest, rocks her, walks her, talks to her, sings to her. Normal breastfeeding is the mother is not alone. Normal breastfeeding is the mother gets help with the housework, the cooking, the other children. Normal breastfeeding is the mother does not feel guilty about this.
Normal breastfeeding is a room full of mothers nursing peacefully. Nursing is normal, it’s everywhere, in public and private, plain and simple. Normal breastfeeding is if the baby fusses or cries the first thing you try is nursing. Normal breastfeeding is no one asks you if your baby is sleeping through the night. Normal breastfeeding is you’re tired, but you expect that, so you’re not anxious or resentful of your fatigue; you take a deep breath and go on. Normal breastfeeding is the baby falls asleep nursing, wakes up nursing, has to nap on you or someone else for the first several months.
Normal breastfeeding is your baby is nurtured and fed at your breast for years, not months. Normal breastfeeding is your breastmilk makes up a large portion of your baby’s diet for the first year or two of life. Normal breastfeeding is your breast continues to be a place of peace, solace, and reconnection even when it ceases to be a significant source of nourishment. Normal breastfeeding is you are not concerned that your child will never wean because you have seen children wean naturally your entire life. Normal breastfeeding is you will sometimes be impatient and frustrated with your nursing child. Normal breastfeeding is you will experience moments where you can’t imagine a purer way to nurture your child.
Normal breastfeeding is your child outgrows your breast on her own schedule — it happens gradually and suddenly at the same time. Normal breastfeeding is your child grows up knowing that she will breastfeed her children because breastfeeding is normal – there is no other way.