Breastfeeding is a personal choice, but it can also be a biological decision. My first experience with breastfeeding was challenging. As an expecting new mother, I spent my nesting months obsessively researching. The literature said the science was conclusive; breastfeeding provides the optimal nutrients to enhance babies’ eyesight, brain growth, nervous system function and a host of other essentials.
Breast milk is alive, practically dancing with immunity cells when microscopically compared to store-bought formula in the Youtube videos I watched. It is dynamic, able to adjust to a baby’s needs during growth spurts and even produce serotonin at night to help them sleep. Breastfeeding is instinctual, natural, easy and free. All a woman needs is a pair of boobs, a baby and a glass of water on the nightstand. I was convinced.
No problem, I thought, we’ve got this. “Breast is best.” The slogan can leave a large swath of new mommies feeling inadequate, isolated and guilty, as I would soon discover.
Once my baby arrived, the colostrum cleared and my milk came in, I had no doubt I would win at breastfeeding. I was producing enough milk to feed two babies, but I struggled to feed my one. Luckily, the Aspen Valley Hospital had a weekly Bosom Buddies program, which I attended as if I had a lactose addiction.
The calming presence of the lactation nurse kept me going as I attempted, in vain, to get my baby to latch correctly. She showed me how to firmly press my baby to my breast, nose to nipple, baby’s head tilting back, large yawning mouth to achieve good suction. The nurse demonstrated different positions for nursing, more than eleven in all, from reclining to side lying, cradle to cross-cradle, and a favorite for the younger babies, the rugby ball hold.
My baby and I seemed to fumble like an uncaught ball. I had to revert to pumping, but we kept trying. My life seemed measured in ounces: ounces out, ounces in, ounces gained, ounces lost, ounces pumped, frozen and stockpiled. “Don’t cry over spilled milk, unless it’s breast milk because that is liquid gold,” became my mantra as I pumped for hours each day.
For two months, nestled in a semicircle of new mommies with matching Boppies and suckling babies, we shared our tips, tricks, techniques, tears and triumphs. Our friendships grew as we charted the milestones of our wrinkled babies’ development.
In the end, I emerged, my breastfeeding desires defeated but confident in my maternal capabilities, with a healthy baby, a village of support and a freezer full of milk. I would go on to exclusively feed my baby breast milk, via a bottle, until she was six months of age and the friendships I made during Bosom Buddies lasted even longer.
Three years later and pregnant again, I swore I’d skip breastfeeding my baby, remembering myself sobbing in the bathtub for months while I soaked my sore mammary glands. My maternal instinct took over when my son was born, and I put him to my chest. He naturally latched and then went on to demand feedings every 45 minutes around the clock for months. The pediatrician called him my barnacle baby.
During the day, I latched him to me, and we went on to destigmatize breastfeeding in public with discrete new clothing designed for the lactating woman on the go. I breastfed him during a cave tour at the Glenwood Caverns, while wearing solar sunglasses to watch the eclipse and even while pedaling a Surrey bike. Exhausted and elated, I finally understood how some women enjoy the natural process of feeding their babies with their bodies.
I went on to feed my son through that year’s perilous flu season, knowing the antibodies from my milk would help protect him. He won’t remember our breastfeeding adventures, and those sleep-deprived days are already hazy in my memory, but we have the pictures, and I have two healthy children raised on their mother’s milk thanks in part to Bosom Buddies.
Now, Eagle County has partnered with Mothers’ Milk Bank to bring the mid-valley its first “Baby Cafe” in El Jebel. A board-certified lactation specialist offers free guidance, weight checks and support weekly in English and Spanish. The Bosom Buddies Baby Cafe is a relaxing environment where pre and post-natal parents and newborns can learn from the shared experiences of motherhood.
Open Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Bosom Buddies Baby Cafe is located at the El Jebel Community Center, 0020 Eagle County Drive. To learn more, visit www.babycafecolorado.org or call 970-328-9819.