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A Long Trip to Support Breastfeeding

Perry Missner
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 4, 2009, pp.34-35

For the first time in our eight-year marriage, my wife Devy and I have been apart for more than one night. She is from Indonesia and we repeatedly delayed a trip back to see her family because of my tight-to-nonexistent vacation schedule. Recently, she found out her sister was going to have a baby and her brother was getting married in the same month, so we made the decision that she and our soon-to-be four-year-old, Marsela, would make the trip to the other side of the earth without me. Yet, I wasn't worried about the long trip and how Marsela would adjust to a new culture, because her mother would be with her. Their relationship has always been strong and our daughter has always been able to rely on her mother when she needed anything.

The visit has gone very well for them, although I have to admit that the charm of watching ten straight hours of sports TV wore off a few weeks ago. They are three weeks into their five-week visit and Marsela, the first grandchild for both sets of grandparents, has finally gotten to know her other family.

I can't say whether the bonds of trust between mother and daughter are as strong as they are because my wife breastfed Marsela, but I don't think it is a complete coincidence that this little girl has become the confident, funny little presence that she is. Breastfeeding did not start so smoothly. Like many women who have their first child, I believe, Devy had a bit of a slow start to nursing. It took a few days for mother and child to figure things out. We visited our local La Leche League Group for support. We also supplemented with formula sometimes during those first few days. Fairly soon though, the milk was flowing and the feeding became one of the centerpieces of my wife's day (and almost assuredly my daughter's as well).

Other than driving around in the car (which we did a few times in the middle of the night), breastfeeding often seemed the best way to get Marsela to fall asleep, with a full belly of milk. Devy kept detailed logs of our daughter's feedings and various other productions, just to make sure things were following a correct course. When I asked her about it recently, my wife said the feeding interaction was indescribable and she thought that Marsela's calm and happy demeanor could somewhat be attributed to this good start. Eventually, we decided it was time to wean our baby off of breastmilk and that process seemed harder on the mother than the daughter.

Now, in Indonesia, our little girl gets to observe breastfeeding with a newborn. Her auntie had a baby boy two days after they arrived. The baby and my jetlagged girls were on approximately the same schedule, which made things a little easier for all of the members of the family. I don't think Marsela, even at four years old, has completely forgotten about breastfeeding, and Devy told me recently that our little girl is intensely curious about the relationship between mother and newborn. Of course, she is intensely curious about most things these days. My sister-in-law's breastfeeding has followed a similar pattern to my wife's, and she had to get a little help to get started in the right direction. It was probably a good thing that Devy was there to offer her support and to be a guiding voice.

When I think back on the breastfeeding interaction between my wife and daughter, I remember the happy greed of our baby suckling away and the contented look on my wife's face as she completed the natural transaction. There is something inherently right about that image and I think it has led to all good things.

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