Having my son drink from a bottle is not a new thing—he gets fed both breast milk and formula from a bottle by anyone who is watching him during the day when I’m not around. However, when Lenny and I are together, I breastfeed him. As exhausting as it can get, I enjoy being the one to feed him when he wakes in the morning, as part of our bedtime routine each night, all day on the weekends, and overnight as many times as he needs it.
Although I’m not opposed to formula, I do try to feed Lenny as much breast milk as possible. I didn’t fully appreciate it until I became a mom, but I find breastfeeding fascinating. My milk provides my son with the exact nutrients he needs at the exact time he needs them. It is plentiful in the morning to give him a hearty start to his day, and fatty at night to fill his tummy and help him sleep better at night. It’s amazing what our bodies can do.
Breastfeeding is also something only Lenny and I can do together. It’s our thing. It’s a bond we’ve grown into. For something that was frustrating and difficult at first, is demanding of my time and body, is exhausting when we’re up every two hours of every night while teething, and not always convenient in public, it is also not something I’m ready to give up yet. There have been a handful of times when I show up at daycare at the end of the day, and Lenny is in the middle of the bottle. His teachers will offer me the bottle and a rocking chair to finish feeding him there, but I always decline and bring Lenny home to breastfeed if he’s still hungry. I’m fine with other people feeding him by bottle, but I just was not comfortable with it. What if Lenny got confused and upset, wondering why I wasn’t breastfeeding him? I just wasn’t ready for the possibility of those emotions.
Which brings us to this past Friday. I had an early day at work, and therefore my Father-in-law dropped Lenny off at home about two hours earlier than usual. Lenny was overtired, so I tried to get him down for a nap. He’s been extra fussy lately due to teething, and he just did not want to nap. I decided to try to nurse him to sleep. For me, this was off-schedule—I had already pumped for the afternoon while at work, and usually would not nurse Lenny until bedtime later in the evening. I was worried, with this extra nursing session, that he would deplete my before-bed supply and throw off his bedtime feeding. Therefore, my husband and I decided to give him a small bottle of formula at bedtime before hopefully nursing him to sleep. That way, his belly would be full but he would still find comfort in nursing before bed.
Of course, the bottle feeding needed to fall to me if we were going to do it at all, in order to stay on track with our usual nightly routine where my husband does the dishes and make dinner while I feed Lenny and do the bedtime routine. Although I was uneasy about it, I made the bottle and sat down with Lenny to feed him.
Surprisingly, Lenny willingly accepted the bottle from me without protest. While he ate, we were actually able to look into each other’s eyes, and I talked to him as I usually do while he is nursing. And then—he reached up and caressed my cheek. So deliberately, so gently. It’s something I’ve done for him a hundred times, to console him while he cries, to remind him how much I love him. And he did it while he ate from his bottle. I realized that we could still bond, no matter how I was feeding him.
While I will still continue to breastfeed as much as possible while we’re together, his one little gesture reassured me that we’ll both be just fine if I need to feed him from a bottle. He reminded me what I should have known all along, given my chosen career; food is love. The act of providing nourishment for someone, no matter in what form, can be the greatest gift.