make mindfulness your default mode

The Zen of Breastfeeding


Ah, breastfeeding. Such an intense and controversial topic. Let’s just start by saying that I breastfeed; it is my choice and I feel that everyone should make the choice that is right for them. Alternate circumstances may have taken me down a different path, but this is how my story goes.


Breastfeeding has not always been easy for me. In the beginning I found it to be exhausting, worrisome, and far too demanding. I may not have felt this way (or felt it so strongly) if things had taken a different course. Babies are unpredictable, though, and mine came an entire month early. This meant that in addition to giving birth earlier than I expected, I also had to contend with things like pumping at home for a few days and visiting my son in the Special Care Nursery when I could. We tried breastfeeding at those times, but let’s just say it was a learning process. He didn’t have a strong “suck” and he also fell, a lot. So there I was, massaging milk out for him and trying to wake him up every couple of minutes.

It was hard going for the first few months at least. Besides the crazy amount of energy breastfeeding takes, the hunger I felt was out of control. It was worse than when I'd been pregnant, and I was too tired and busy to feed myself properly. Hunter continued to need the assistance I described above until he was almost four months old. Once I got the hang of it, though, it was easier to feed myself (like grabbing some hummus and pita before sitting down for one of our forty - yes, forty - minute bf sessions). I also started to download  books to my iPhone and read. When it was time to turn a page, I just had to swipe my thumb. That came in really handy at night when I needed to stay awake (or thought I did).

Then my baby got older - and more distracted. Watching television or reading while I held him was not working out, and he constantly looked around our living room to see what was going on. I had long loathed the act of going into his room to breastfeed. Having to go back there and sit in the glider, quietly breastfeeding, felt like being exiled. That was what I did when we had company, and it always felt so dull to me. After a while though, it seemed like the best choice. I was no longer interested in trying to keep Hunter focused on the main event.

Soon, though, those moments in the glider became somewhat magical. It helped that Hunter was much quicker now and that he didn't need my help. I was free to hook on the Brest Friend and let him be, while I leaned back and enjoyed the solitude. It took me awhile to realize what I was doing during these quiet times, but I realized I was restoring my mind, sorting out thoughts, daydreaming, praying. The truth of this hit me one day while perusing a copy of Parents magazine. There was an article about working meditation into your parenting life, and one of the moments to take advantage of was while feeding your baby.  The section states:

"Consider your rocking chair or glider to be your meditation cushion, where you focus exclusively on your baby and your breath. 'Instead of thinking about all that you should or could be doing at that moment, allow yourself to rest and be soothed by the rocking and quiet time with your baby:'"

Now that I'm more mindful of that time, I've been careful to keep to-do lists and other "working" thoughts out during that time.

Hunter is seventeen months old now, and he still seeks out that time together. At times it can seem inconvenient, but mostly I want it too. I wouldn’t say that I’m meditating, and I’ve never really tried to at that time. I do, however, relax my body, close my eyes, and enjoy the freedom from busyness. I am doing what I need to do, and there is nothing else that I need to do at that moment. It’s especially wonderful at the end of the work day, when we’ve just gotten home. My natural instinct would be to jump right in to chores and other “always-there” tasks, but this forces me to take a break and spend time with my darling dear son. Of course, I also like it when he starts playing games with me and launches into a giggle fit. So worth it - for me.

If someone had told me a year ago that breastfeeding would become one of the most peaceful and pleasant moments of my day, I would've given them the side eye. But now it's true. It’s just one of the many, many aspects of parenthood that has surprised me.

Has anything about parenthood turned around for you?