My first baby was two weeks old when the pediatrician gave me my first advice in breastfeeding.
“Five to seven minutes on each side.” He wrote down the times of day (6 times in 24 hours) on his little prescription pad. “If you don’t follow this schedule, you will always be at the whim of your baby. You won’t have a life other than breastfeeding.”
My ever so impressionable postpartum brain geared to wrap itself around this advice. It sounded rational. I gave it a try. I thought that my baby would simply fall into this schedule. On some days, she almost did. But watching the clock and not the baby seemed like a very wrong move to me.
It didn’t take long for me to rip up that little prescription paper and throw it in the trash. Here’s why:
1. Breastfeeding recommendations from the scientific world support maternal and baby instincts
I did some reading. It didn’t take long to find scientific evidence that pointed towards following my baby’s hunger cues. Even a simple article about how the mammary glands work was enough to convince me that my breasts and my baby should not be separated for very long. I looked for research to support the pediatrician’s advice and found… none. I even had a baby book from 1991 that recommended watching the baby and not the clock. But the most important source was the World Health Organization. They stand firm that “breastfeeding should be “on demand”, as often as the child wants “day and night.”
2. I wanted to seize the peaceful moments
Maybe the clock was reminding me that it was feeding time, but my baby was content to look around and kick her legs in her play area. “Should I feed her? I really need a shower.” I would waver. Either feel the warm water flow over my shoulders and calm my senses or try to breastfeed when neither of us wants to? Shower.
It’s also inevitable that babies want to nurse as soon as you start doing something that you care about. Sleeping, for example. Yes, it’s annoying. But letting go of my expectations and embracing my new role was such an important lesson for me. I let the oxytocin flow, enjoyed the quiet, and we would usually fall asleep together in the end.
3. I trusted my baby
Sometimes I am hungry or thirsty at random times. I don’t eat on the same schedule every day. Why should my baby have to? Some days I am starving, some days I’m not. I trust myself to eat enough, and I trust my baby in the same way.
4. A timetable around affection is absurd
It didn’t take me long to realize that sometimes my baby was more interested in the cuddling aspect of breastfeeding than actually gulping down milk. I realized that this is a two way relationship. Breastfeeding is a conversation, a dance of give and take, an act of love. Affection is personal. I should not be hearing anyone else’s voice in my head or looking at a clock while I kiss my husband, hug my mom, or rub my friend’s back. Acts of love are between the lovers.
5. I wanted to give the kid a break
She was JUST born. Learning to feed yourself in a new world is HARD. She was learning about me, how my breasts work, how I work, and how the world works. I’m sure it was exhausting! So if she fell asleep at the breast after 10 minutes of nursing, slept for half an hour, and then wanted more milk, who am I to say no? I knew she would get the hang of things sooner or later. In the meantime, I learned patience, she learned how to nurse, and my breasts learned how much milk to make.
It took me a long time to feel confident in my decision to throw that paper away, but I’m glad I listened to my inner voice.
I thought about the pediatrician’s words a lot. I still do, because it was such a delicate time and they made a huge impression on me. “You won’t have a life other than breastfeeding.”
Well, I guess in a way he was right. My life is not my own anymore, but that’s the nature of parenthood. The thing is, Mr. Pediatrician, is that I’m not trying to escape parenting. The breastfeeding phase is coming to an end, but my life will never, ever be what it was before I had children. Everything is different, and if I embrace the newness, along with its challenges, I will find happiness. If I resist (and I admit that I do often resist), I will always see my children as an obstacle on my road towards a fulfilling life. I’m glad that I did not listen to his advice and I trusted my instincts in breastfeeding. I think that my babies are glad, too.
Did you get any breastfeeding advice that seemed contrary to your instincts? How did you deal with it?
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