Some new mamas aren't worried about pregnancy or the act of actually giving birth, they are more nervous about being a good mom. How will they know what is best for their baby? What if they do it wrong?
La Leche League has some thoughts and encouragement on the all-so-important aspect of getting to know your baby. Following is an excerpt from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:
Getting to Know Your Baby
Mothering is not something you can learn from a book. We can tell you, for instance, that most young babies like the secure feeling of being snugly wrapped up and cuddled. We can tell you that at about three months, most babies like company. They like to be propped up in the midst of the family. Instead of wanting to be fed or cuddled, what they often want is just to be sociable. The may be perfectly true observations for many babies - but your newborn may prefer to have his arms and legs free, or your three-month-old may be overstimulated by too much activity and end up feeling miserable. You have to be sensitive to the individual needs of your baby.
The sensitivity that helps you do the right thing at the right time comes from knowing your baby. It develops as you spend time with him, but it develops more quickly, and to a greater degree, if you are nursing your baby. The very closeness and intimacy of breastfeeding give you a quicker and surer perception of the feelings and needs of this tiny person, and help you to know how to meet them.
Ann Van Norman, a mother from Ontario, Canada, tells how breastfeeding helped her learn about her baby's needs:
I thought I had prepared myself for mothering before Sarah's birth. I learned about diapering, bathing, and breastfeeding, but there was no way to prepare for "mothering." I found out that mothering is only learned by doing. Learning to respond flexibly to baby's needs for love, care, and stimulation, putting our own desires on temporary hold, and accepting the constancy and intensity of baby's needs are lessons only learned by living them.
I believe nursing has helped make my learning relatively painless, mainly through the positive reinforcement I have received from Sarah. She showed me how much I was needed and loved. Nursing her meant that I had to take time to respond, relax, and reflect. I am a different person now. Sarah has changed me from a compulsive time-and-task-oriented tiger to a go-with-the-flow housecat.
Your joy in mothering grows as you experience the quick, strong feeling of affection so natural between a nursing mother and her baby; as you develop an understanding of your baby's needs and gain confidence in your own ability to satisfy them; and as you see the happy dividends from the good relationship as the baby grows. As one nursing mother, Shirl Butts, from Louisiana, expressed her feelings:
Those who have never nursed a child might find it hard to understand just how special a nursing relationship can be. Now as I nurse my second child, I can appreciate what I missed with my toddler, whom I did not nurse.
My favorite moments are just before bedtime, nursing my four-month-old daughter. We snuggle together in our rocking chair, her tiny mouth eagerly searching for the warmth of my milk, until at last she latches on and drifts into peaceful sleep. Her chubby little hand is outstretched on my arm, her cheek nestled against my breast. I continue to rock, lovingly studying every crease and fold of her soft body. Times like this make me look forward to the next night and the next. Sometimes she stops nursing to look up at me and give a big smile as if to say, "Thanks, Mom!" and then resumes nursing again. Those moments make me wish time would stand still.
Breastfeeding is not a guarantee of good mothering, and formula feeding does not rule it out. The most important thing is the love you give your baby and the fact that you are doing your best to be a good mother. Mary White, another of LLL's co-Founders, reminds us:
We're all learning, all the time. We're all still reaching up to the top of the ladder, and we've all got a long way to go. But for each and every one of us, the person from whom we can learn the most is out own baby; listen to him. Give to him; in the giving we are growing, as mothers and as women. As we watch him grow and thrive, we are watching an achievement we can really be proud of.
So keep doing what you're doing, mama - you're doing great! The more you keep trudging through the more you are going to learn, and the better mama you will be because of it.
And never ever forget that you've got a village here rooting for you! Join us on Wednesday this week for Milk Monologues at 1:00 pm and Thursday for the evening Milk Monologues (breastfeeding support group) at 6:30 pm. We are here for you and look forward to helping you in whatever way we can!