For plenty of moms, exclusively breastfeeding is a coveted and important parenting goal, to the point that it can be romanticized to a ridiculous and often damaging degree. While it's recommended for the first six months of a baby's life, and there are a lot of purported and proven benefits, the pressure to exclusively breastfeeding can be dangerous. Personally, I think there are things your baby wants you to know about exclusive breastfeeding, too, because it's not the final word on your baby's health and happiness.
I wasn't able to make exclusive breastfeeding work with my first child. I tried for a while, I was successful for a time, but ultimately everyone was best served via combo-feeding. But the second time around I had a lot of things working for me that made exclusively breastfeeding work. For example, I had a vaginal delivery as opposed to a C-section (so my milk came in faster), I had almost a year and a half of breastfeeding experience under my belt, and I had transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom, so I didn't have to throw pumping into the mix. (In other words, a lot of what enabled me to make it work the second time around boiled down to luck and privilege.)
If I'm being honest, personally, I preferred exclusively breastfeeding to combo-feeding, mainly because it was less expensive and I didn't have to regularly wash bottles and pump parts. But you know what? While I found it personally enjoyable, I don't find there to be any qualitative difference between my kids. Like, if you examined all their health stats and markers of intelligence or emotional development, I highly doubt you'd be able to tell me which one was exclusively breastfeeding and which one was combo fed.
But, hey, don't take it from me. Just listen to what your baby (read: me writing in the voice of your imaginary baby) has to say about exclusive breastfeeding:
"This Is Great"
This is awesome. There's cuddling. There's soothing touch. There's food. It's just you and me and I love it. Thanks for this, mom, because I'm really enjoying everything we're doing here.
"This Is Not Entirely Necessary"
You know that you alone are enough for me, right? I don't just love you because you have food in your boobs. Don't get it twisted: you have to feed me, and frequently, but you don't have to feed me with your body. There are alternatives and I will do just fine with those if this doesn't work out for whatever reason.
"I Might Need Help"
If you ever feel like you don't know what you're doing when it comes to breastfeeding, please be reassured that I have no idea what's going on. I didn't know there was a world outside of your uterus up until a little while ago, so literally everything I come across is new and confusing to me. Sometimes I don't know the best way to latch or suckle or whatever, and it has nothing to do with you.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's not always you. Sometimes it's me.
"My Poop Is Weird"
So, so weird. First of all, it's bright yellow — somewhere between saffron and mustard. Secondly, it's seedy. I don't know how it gets that texture, but it's like no other poop you've ever seen in your life. And it smells like yeasty bread, or sometimes buttered popcorn. It doesn't smell good, but it really doesn't smell bad, which is not something you hear a lot about literally any other kind of poop.
"I Might Go Days Without Pooping"
You shouldn't worry, either. That's normal, I promise. I mean, there will definitely be times when I'll poop every single day... sometimes more than once. But if it's been a few days and I don't seem bothered you shouldn't be either. It'll come. Trust me.
"Your Boobs Are Awesome"
So. Freaking. Awesome. I don't mean to be weird about this or anything, but I'm super into them. I could nuzzle you all damn day, and you know what? I think I will!
"I Will Be Obsessed With Your Boobs For A Long Time"
Even after I'm no longer breastfed, I'm still going to see your breasts as a source of comfort and will be shoving my hand down the front of your shirt for a while. Like, to the point that you may need to work on teaching me boundaries.
"Your Food Has An Effect On Me"
You can make food for me with your body, which sounds like science fiction but it's totally normal. The annoying thing about making food for me with your body, however, is that I'm pretty picky about the raw materials. In other words, if I have a milk allergy, for all intents and purposes, you have a milk allergy until I'm weaned. If I'm sensitive to garlic or spicy food, it will be in your best interest to avoid garlic and spicy food because I will explosively poop over everything you love (or possibly just scream in gas-pain induced discomfort for the rest of the night).
"Your Milk Adapts To What I Need"
Our bodies are working together in a truly magnificent communication. Depending on the frequency of my nursing, how long I've been nursing, or even if I'm sick, your milk will adapt to give me exactly what I need when I need it. We have some sort of totally natural yet otherworldly, unspoken mind-meld. It's really fascinating and I'm here for it.
"This Is A Great Way To Bond"
Even if we take out all the chemical changes that are happening in our bodies and brains when we breastfeed together, it's just nice. It's cozy, it's frequent, and it's a really nice way to have mandatory one-on-one time together. Yeah, it can be tedious and even draining for you (literally and figuratively), but you can't deny the fact that there's something special going on here.
"This Is Not The Only Way We Bond"
The possibilities are endless, and you will discover more and more possibilities the older I get. This parenting thing can be frustrating, I know, but the cool thing is there's no one way to do it.
"I Think Formula Feeding Is Cool, Too"
Seriously, it's awesome. It's a healthy and nutritionally complete way to feed a baby. It's great that I live in a magical age of options!
"I Know That When I Smile When I Nurse It Melts Your Heart"
That's why I do it.