This was the word that ended nearly every question during the first 6 weeks of Nila (my eldest’s life).
Was she eating enough?
Was I making enough milk?
Was she sleeping enough?
Was I feeding her enough?
Was I checking on her enough?
Is she growing enough?
For me, the first 6 weeks of her life was harder than undergoing chemotherapy. Of course when I first saw her my heart was full of love instantaneously, unconditionally for her. Of course I was so happy to be a mother. Of course I was so happy that she had arrived , was healthy and that I felt blessed to have her as my daughter. But the first six weeks were tough. Really tough. Despite the classes I took, books and articles I read, NOTHING could prepare me for motherhood in all its glory. Her latch hurt for a while. Wearing tops hurt for a while. Engorgement hurt for a while. Between the pain of recovery from delivery, sleep deprivation, the massive hormone drops leading to emotionality,it was hard. It is the hardest role I have to date, but it is also my favorite, and most gratifying. After going to many breast-feeding support groups, and a lactation consultant, waiting on baited breath to weigh her on the pre/post feeding scale, I learned that it seemed that she did not feed that long because she was a very efficient eater. That was it. My experience was normal.
Almost 10 years later, having had a second child, and not being able to breastfeed her due to my bilateral mastectomies for cancer, I was invited by my dear friend Carly Marks, RN, IBCLC to a donation based yoga class, benefitting the San Diego Breast Feeding Coalition. Walking into class, I suddenly had an idea. While my experience was within the normal spectrum of early motherhood, there were aspects that could have been eased, and treasured. Looking back I wished I had taken more time to enjoy those weeks and months, more- to fully experience more moments with my baby. I wished I had the skills and support to be able to do that. So I asked her, “Want to collaborate on developing a program combining mindfulness and breast-feeding?”
And hence Mindfulness-Based Breastfeeding was born. We quickly changed the name to Mindful Infant Feeding because we wanted to be inclusive of all the different ways a pre-crawling infant could be fed: bottle fed, inclusive feeding with breastmilk and formula combined, with donor milk, with breastmilk but from mothers who were exclusively pumping, or completely formula fed. Our curriculum covers 6 topics: thought awareness, using the senses, honoring our primitive origins with art (where the science of breastfeeding/human milk and other mammals is covered), non-judgement about numbers, discomfort, and communication. Through each of these sessions, mindfulness, the ability to focus on the present moment, without judgment is applied in experiential exercises, along with home practice. While the classes somewhat build on each other, they are different enough to be stand-alone. Because we realize the unpredictable nature that is early motherhood, drop-ins are welcome. This class is donation based, benefiting the San Diego Mother’s Milk Bank.
Carly and I created a course that we wished we had when we were going through the beginning of our motherhood journeys. I look back longingly at the times where breastfeeding was more angst filled than joy filled. And it didn’t have to be. My insecurities and my perfectionistic tendencies and worry about whether everything was enough for my baby got in the way of my present moment experience. Together, in community, with unconditional support, Mindful Infant Feeding helps reclaim the present for mothers. I was enough, I am enough, we are more than enough.
To sign up for classes: https://www.markslactationsupport.com
To donate milk or make a monetary contribution to Mother’s Milk Bank: https://www.milkbank.org/get-involved/donate-breast-milk-in-san-diego