Even though this is my second time breastfeeding, I had forgotten how days blur into nights and I would live in two-hour windows of time (if I’m lucky enough to not be answering a cluster-feeder’s constant demands).
I am fortunate that breastfeeding came easily for me and both my girls latched and loved nursing more than anything else in those early weeks and months. But to say that breastfeeding is easy is a fallacy. It is anything but.
Motherly recently posted a statistic in honor of World Breastfeeding Week sharing that it takes 1800 hours to breastfeed a baby for its first year. For comparison, a full time employee with three weeks’ vacation time equates to just over 1900. To say that breastfeeding is a full-time job is not an exaggeration, it is a reality. And of course the fact that many working Moms breastfeed and pump on top of their full time jobs, compounds the demands.
So if breastfeeding is so time consuming, so physically and emotionally demanding, why do so many of us choose to prioritize it? Beyond the well-published health benefits both for Mom and baby, the real reason for me is much more intangible. It is because we want the absolute best for our children and know that it is a fleeting stage that we will desperately miss when it’s gone.
So this second time around, I know to cherish that no matter how beautifully she bonds with my partner, this is the one time she will need me over anyone else. No matter how often she squawks and cries in the middle of the night, even if it feels like I just finished feeding her, I will reach over and pull her close, feeling more love than even exhaustion.
I know to hold onto her little fingers as they mindlessly open and close, finding their way in the world, as they cling to my chest. I will relish those plump, perfect lips that were made for suckling and know they will likely never be so full the rest of her life. I wish I could bottle up her warm, open-mouthed breath when she’s fallen asleep mid-meal and slumbers in that milk drunk state that nothing can replicate.
I will even treasure the sweat-soaked sheets no one told me about as my body’s hormones attempt to bring it back to its prenatal state and yet still produce the perfect amount of nutrients my newborn needs. And yes, I will even enjoy the near-constant diaper changing that comes with breastfeeding babies, realizing those tiny diapers will never be so small and neither will her cute little butt.
I might not ever appreciate milk math, the equations unknown to anyone outside the nursing world, as I constantly plan my days around when she will eat again or when I will need to express my breasts if I’m not near her. Two hours go by unfathomably fast, but I will never resent her for keeping me from the passion projects that I know can wait. She is only this little, this dependent, and this in need of no one but me for a very short time. And this time I vow to cherish it all.