Breastfeeding and Bonding

There are lots of studies about how breastfeeding helps mothers and babies bond with each other.  What I’m not sure about is how much people have looked at how breastfeeding can help mothers bond with each other.  For me, breastfeeding my son is a fundamental part of the parenting experience (so far — I’m sure at some point it will switch over to being all about something else).  In a lot of ways, it’s my answer to most of the problems we run into.  Jesse fell down and hit his head?  Nurse him!  If that calms him down, that’s good in and of itself, and it also tells me that he’s not THAT hurt, so I don’t have to worry too much (I subscribe to the “toddlers are made of rubber and short for a reason” school of thought about falls, so we tend to not worry if he falls from his own height or lower).   Ran out of cheerios and string cheese while out and about?  He can just nurse more.  Won’t nap because the surroundings are too exciting?  Jesse is usually willing to nurse in lieu of napping if the nap just isn’t working.

Because breastfeeding is such a critical part of my parenting experience, a lot of the bonding I have done with other mothers is on this topic.  It’s the kind of shared experience that I just couldn’t fathom before it because part of my reality, as much as I tried to read up ahead of time.

Last week, we ended up at a U.S. Naval Academy Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF) cookout.  My in-laws have gotten very involved in OCF since moving to Maryland.  It makes a lot of sense for them — My father-in-law was in the Coast Guard for a long time, they’re both devout Christians, my mother-in-law writes Christian books… clearly these are their people :)  I was a little nervous, when we were on our way over.  Bunch of people I’ve never met, many of whom are college students, all of whom connect with each other over something I don’t share (religion — I’m Jewish).  Add to all that that we’d be showing up late — something I *hate* doing, even for something as informal as a cookout.

Jesse was a little fussy when we got there, so James grabbed the Boba from the car and I started nursing him in the carrier, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw another mom with a baby in a carrier!  New mom friends — I’ve had practice at that game!  We ended up having a great time chatting about motherhood, breastfeeding, life, everything.  It all started off when we started talking about breastfeeding, and doing so in a carrier, in public, wherever…. it was a great bonding moment, and I felt much more at ease, knowing there was someone I could talk to about the things that are most important in my life (and hers) right now.

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Thankful

Thanksgiving week was too busy to blog, but I want to pause and take a moment to reflect on how thankful I am for our community, our families, our friends.  We are incredibly, incredibly lucky.  I am especially thankful that Jesse got to spend time with so many people who are so dear to me over the holiday. Here are some of the moments from our recent trip for which I am most thankful:

A hike on a gorgeous, perfect fall day, in a beautiful natural setting, my father-in-law having the energy to play with Jesse, Jesse hanging out with his third cousins, hanging out with more cousins, including one who was totally uninterested in the newborn last year, but seemed charmed by the toddler this year, seeing the cousin I tried to teach how to read (when he was three and I was ten) read to my little boy, my parents sharing a book with Jesse, a family trip to the zoo, lunch with a good friend who I know only because my mom and her dad went to high school together.  It was the best Thanksgiving week I could possibly ask for.  On the drive home, I spent a while thinking about how lucky we are to have the wonderful support network holding up our little family, laughing with us (and sometimes at us, but not in a mean way!) and sharing in the turning seasons.

What are you thankful for?

Parenting in Public: Smiles and Games

Yesterday, mentioned one of the most annoying things about being car-free — having random strangers come up to you and criticize your parenting.  Lest you think it’s all annoyances, I thought I’d balance that post with one today about some of the joys of interacting with random strangers on a daily basis.

We ride the bus a lot.  We know there are lots of people who would prefer we not take up any more space than possible, and we try our best to be compact, but sometimes, my back is bothering me and I can’t wear Jesse in a carrier, or we’re going somewhere all day (or overnight) and need more stuff than we can easily carry while also carrying him, so we use a stroller.  I feel lucky that only a couple of people have given us a hard time about this (one woman yelled at me as I was getting on a (not at all crowded) bus that “those things” are illegal, which is blatantly not true).

Usually, the opposite happens.  People smile, make funny faces, and generally engage with a baby in a way they wouldn’t be caught dead doing with an adult.  Especially in Boston, the general code of conduct is “pretend nobody else is there and you’re in your own little world.”  I don’t say this to be disparaging — I grew up here, and it’s what I’m used to and I totally admit to getting kind of weirded out when random strangers seem to really want to talk to you.  For years, I’ve known that there are a few exceptions to this rule:

1)  The weather is awful in some way and you’ve been waiting outside for a while

2) The bus/train is having major problems

3) You want to know if you just missed a bus or train

Those are pretty much the only things that people won’t look at you oddly for starting a conversation about — hey, everyone loves to kvetch about the T and the weather, right?  Turns out, there is a fourth topic on that list:  babies.  I’ve had so many people start gushing about their own kids and how fast these early years go by, or what their grandkids are up to, or comparing notes on strollers, carriers, or other baby gear.  It’s amazing, and you meet some really nice people.  Some people speak just enough English to say “cute baby” but then they spend the rest of the bus ride playing peek-a-boo.  It’s an amazing way to really restore your faith in humanity, ride the bus with a baby.

Congrats, SomervilleMoms!

One of my local parenting listservs, SomervilleMoms, is an excellent source of parenting advice, used babygear, and tips on what to do with kids locally.  When I was pregnant, pretty much everyone I talked to said I should sign up, and I’m very glad I did — I’ve learned a lot from the list over the past year.  Babble, a parenting website, apparently agrees that SomervilleMoms is an awesome list — we ranked #11 on the east coast in their recent ranking of parenting listservs!  Congrats, SomervilleMoms — keep up the good work!

Do you have a local parenting listserv?  Is it very active, and do you find it helpful?