Breastfeeding a Beast
I believe in breastfeeding—I do. It's good for babies and mamas, and it's magical and weird and amazing. Every time there's some controversy about breastfeeding—like the ridiculous brouhaha about showing nursing on Sesame Street—I find it hard to believe. I mean, I can kind of remember before I had children thinking, "Wait, what? Humans make milk? Out of boobs? That's pretty weird."—mostly because it's just so mammalian and, I don't know, useful. But the idea that there's anything inappropriate or sexual about breastfeeding; the thought that it's something that oughtn't be seen is just silly. I know, I know—they're BREASTS! WOW! But trust me, by the time you've given birth, you're not too precious about any of your body parts.
I'm lucky that breastfeeding has come easily with both my babies. It's one of those things you assume will happen—like getting pregnant when you're ready, or somehow becoming fabulously wealthy, and when it doesn't work it can be really heartbreaking. I have really cherished the sweet, snuggly moments of bonding with my babies that nursing has provided.
That said, man, am I ready to take my boobs back. The ladies, as I would call them if I were being creepy, are ready for a good night's sleep and a sturdy bra that doesn't hinge open at the sound of a baby's cry. Part of it is that my baby, a joyous creature and my dearest love, is also a cannibalistic beast. As an hours-old infant, the pediatrician offered a finger and then exclaimed, "Wow! That's a latch! Strong kid!" And that was a finger. Now, all these months later, we settle in for a cozy session of nursing, I nuzzle his sweet-smelling scalp, and my beloved boy chomps his four razor-sharp teeth right down on my nipple. "No bite!" I say, like the pediatrician told me too, and take him off the boob, at which point he looks up at me and grins. Does this say something about the males of our species? I will reserve judgement for now.
This happens so frequently that when my toddler play-nurses her dollies, they bite her too—she thinks it's just part of the deal. The other night I dozed off while nursing and had nervous dreams about mouse traps. Then there are the boy's newfound motor skills, which cause him to stand up in my lap and step around while nursing until it's kind of like breastfeeding a tap dancer. Watching the baby stand on one leg and twirl his hands while nursing the other day, my husband said, "He's ready for the And1 tour of breastfeeding." It's really true.
So while I have loved being a breastfeeding mom, between the chomping, the squirming, the lusting after chicken fingers (he regularly pops off the boob to demand whatever the rest of us are eating), and let's not forget all those blocked ducts and mastitis, sometimes I'm not sure how much longer we're going to make it. I wanted to breastfeed until he was one, but this biting business is giving me PTSD. Well, that's being a mother for you. You offer a small person the tenderest part of you, they dig their teeth in, and then smile so winningly that you instantly forgive them.
Amy Shearn is the mother of two small children, and is the proprietress of Household Words, a blog about babies, books, and Brooklyn. She also writes for Oprah.com and MommyPoppins.com. Amy is the author of the novel How Far Is the Ocean From Here (Shaye Areheart/Crown 2008) and a forthcoming novel about, what else, a Brooklyn mother, which needs a title and will be published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in 2013.
Video: mom breastfeeding baby
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