The core of our parenting is responding to our children with sensitivity.
There are eight principles when it comes to raising our children, and responding to our children with sensitivity threads itself through all other areas of parenting including feeding with love and respect.
During this year's World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, Nurturings recognizes that breastfeeding can be difficult in our society. It is hard to do something different than our family and friends, our social network prior to becoming parents, and to find a new support system for our choices.
Our choices can only be choices when we have the support and resources in place to allow us to make them.
It is hard to navigate new motherhood relatively alone, compared to other cultures where family rallies together to give the mother a babymoon, a time when Mom and baby can bond uninterrupted while housework and caring for other children are taken up by others in her life.
It is hard to make the choice to return to work and then try to integrate a child care provider into our parenting.
It is hard to pump breastmilk while away from baby.
It is hard to continue to push through difficulties, whether it be a poor latch or milk supply issues or teething or night-waking, when so many others in our lives are trying to convince us to just give a bottle of formula.
But breastfeeding, like any parenting choice, is ultimately about responding with sensitivity to our babies. There are great nutritional and health benefits to feeding breastmilk, but what makes breastfeeding special enough for many mothers to continue despite societal pressure and their personal hurdles is that breastfeeding is more than a way to feed their babies: Breastfeeding offers the beginnings of a relationship with their child that cannot be replicated in any other way.
Every mother-baby pair is different, and while peer counselors and lactation professionals can offer help for various problems that arise, each situation is unique. Breastfeeding is not easy; it was designed so that a relationship is borne our of the effort: Each mother and her baby learning about each other and what works or not, the gaze between one another, the oxytocin rush each receives, the gentle discipline necessary in teaching baby not to bite or to eventually night-wean, the mother finding her balance while caring for her baby and learning to be flexible as baby grows and needs change. We can find a bit of each parenting principle within the act of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding behavior is very literally the embodiment of responding with sensitivity to our babies, and responding with sensitivity is a skill and artform that all mothers need no matter their child's age.
However you chose to feed your baby, how do you respond with sensitivity to your baby?