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Discovering the Joy

Sara Jo Poff
Zimmerman MN USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 2, March -- April 2007, pp. 60-61

In the past year, I've discovered that no matter how many children I've already had, a pregnancy is another chance to discover the wonder and joy of breastfeeding.

Currently, I belong to the 10 percent of mothers across the US who breastfeed their babies until 12 months. Even making it to five months put my baby in the 22 percent of exclusively breastfed infants. I wish I could say that it was this way with all of my children, but it wasn't. Four months was the longest I breastfed my three older children. At that point I'd say I couldn't do it anymore and would find a reason to quit.

With my fourth child, I did something different. I committed to breastfeeding and set a tangible goal of six months. In the past, my goal was to breastfeed for "as long as I can." I've discovered that concrete, objective goals are much more likely to be achieved than something subjective like "as long as I can." And I've discovered the joy of breastfeeding for my baby's first year.

When I became pregnant with my fourth child in June 2005, I wanted to make a much more dedicated attempt at breastfeeding, no matter what the circumstances were. The fact that I was homeschooling my three children, ages two to nine, posed a potential obstacle. Toward the end of my pregnancy, the fact that we were trying to sell our home posed another potential obstacle. As if all of this wasn't enough, my fourth child was born five weeks premature. As is common with premies, my son, Gabriel Titus, had difficulty latching on. When I was ready to throw in the towel, my local La Leche League Leader brought me a breast pump and encouraged me to keep trying. What a blessing she was!

Another source of support was one of the nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit. She made sure all of the other nurses knew that my son was to have momma's milk and that a bottle of it would be ready at feeding time. Amidst the bilirubin lights, heart and lung monitoring, and endless tests, the nurse was also very gracious about my many attempts to breastfeed before giving Gabe a bottle. At one point, the need for a feeding tube came up. My emotional state was very weak and I was greatly saddened. I let the nurses know that I was going to persevere with breastfeeding. Because of my persistence, the feeding tube never became a reality. Gabe didn't master breastfeeding during our five -- day hospital stay, but he became a pro by the time he was about three weeks old.

In the first six months, there were times when I thought that maybe formula would have been more convenient. When I had those thoughts, I had the support of my husband and reminded myself of the wonderful antibodies, nutrients, and other benefits that only my milk could provide for my son.

After the first six months of breastfeeding, it was time to decide how long I should continue. Since my goal setting method had worked so well, I figured I would try it again. My next goal would be to breastfeed Gabe until he was 12 months old. The second six months was much easier than the first, but sometimes temptation to formula-feed still crept up, especially when I wanted to do things like get my hair done or go out with my husband. The wonder of my body providing my baby with nourishment and infection protection, however, was too much to ignore. We always planned ahead, made sure bottles of my milk were ready, and I pumped while I was gone. And now that I've recently achieved the second goal of breastfeeding for 12 months, I'm ready to set the next one!

Breastfeeding through the first year of my baby's life has been a joyous adventure. I'm thankful to know that Gabe has received the best I can give to him. I still wish I could have done this for my other children, but at least I seized my opportunity to discover breastfeeding at its fullest the fourth time around!

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