I’ve discovered, two kids later, that feeding your baby is a discovery of your own mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It’s a term we hear in yoga class or on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday but its meaning and application is actually incredibly simple. Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to what’s actually happening in the moment and that our actions play out from the truth that’s revealed. Breathing and an open-minded perspective accompany mindfulness, as both help us clear out emotions and pre-conceived notions.
As a yoga instructor and an entrepreneur, I use mindfulness frequently. It helps me breathe into a posture safely as much as it helps me listen to a question that a client might be asking me or solve a problem on my website when my programmer is explaining a glitch- mindfulness helps us pay attention and thus find solutions. How does this relate to feeding my baby you might be asking? I’m going to tell you.
Nursing my son was far from easy. He latched just fine but hungry like a little monster, he tore my nipples apart and I discovered quickly that I wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy him. Not producing enough milk was a disappointment for me and I still don’t know why it went that way, but using mindfulness and of course the practice of chatting with other moms (super important!) I realized that I had all I could give him and that whatever he still needed I would have to supplement. So for one full year, I nursed him, pumped a lot, and gave him formula too. Like many mothers, I prioritized exclusive breastfeeding but discovered that reality was a little different. I had to breathe, relax and accept what nature was doing in our situation and rather than fight against it, flow with it. This is an act of mindfulness.
When four years later my daughter arrived, I assumed that again I would produce less than my child needed. I even purchased a container of formula just in case I needed it to soothe my hungry babe in the middle of the night. Much to my surprise, my feeding story with my daughter was completely different. My milk flowed with ease, my daughter nursed like a champ and before very long, my freezer was full of baggies of frozen milk. This was unheard of in my prior story! I confess I felt like a goddess and remained incredibly grateful that this time things were different. But no story is simple right? This little girl loved nursing so much that she refused to take a bottle! The pressure in other aspects of my life began to build. My company demanded my time, I needed to hold meetings, I simply wanted to work out! But my baby screamed unless she had my boob! What was I to do??? And what was I to do with all that frozen milk? After a few days of panic and frankly the feeling of being trapped, I decided that I had to begin my mindfulness practice and assess the reality of the situation (not the reality that made me feel trapped by our overly successful nursing!).
My conversation with myself went something like this: At three months old, my baby needs me a bit more than I’d assumed and I should breathe into that truth. (deep breath) I’m a mom and I love my baby. Ok, so how do I show up for her, feed her, but also accomplish what I need to? Through this grounded dialogue with myself I recognized that in a month or two she would begin starting on solid food so the reliance on milk would ease a bit… so how could I, in the next few months, manage my time around her nursing schedule? As an entrepreneur, I decided that I would start holding meetings in my home or near my home, so that I had access to my baby. This is a luxury that not every woman has, but I do, so gosh darn it, I would use it. I invested in some beautiful nursing clothing (my favorites are Loya Hana and Mitera!) so that I could look presentable and professional but easily access my breast when I needed to. I would wait until she was down for a nap and get my workout in at that point. If she woke up before I got back home and she cried for a few minutes, she would in fact, be just fine. (deep breath!) This schedule isn’t forever I began to recognize, it’s a brief moment in time and one that allows me closeness with my babe.
I began to relax.
And somewhere in that relaxed state, I began to feel grateful for this time and for how naturally nursing was going and for the blessings I had (from beautiful nursing clothes to a flexible schedule) which allowed me to be present for my baby. Somewhere in there, I tried giving her milk from a first stage sippy cup. At about six months she decided that sippy cups worked for her and though bottles were not her thing, she would accept her milk this way from time to time. And thus began my ability to step away just a bit more.
I’m sure you can relate reading this through your own feeding story, of the unexpected turns and the presence we must have to find solutions. Mindfulness is key. Calming our anxiety down, taking deep breaths and tuning into the moment so we can really see what’s necessary for our kids and for ourselves. And how lucky are we to also have such wonderful resources when we need guidance, advice, and quality products to turn to? For more feeding ideas and guidance check out The Honest Company’s Feeding Page!
Featured image by Lauren Crew