My leave has come to an end, five days before Owen turns six months. I started working full time today. It’s a soft start since I’m working from home this week. Once back in the office, I hope to be able to work from 8am to 5pm and then log back on at 7:30pm. Consulting can be a stressful industry and we could go from slow to busy in a matter of minutes. I am grateful to have been able to have so much time off with my new little family and to have the occasional flexibility to take care of things at home.
Before I had Owen I logically understood that babies need their parents and extended parental leave is crucial for bonding, recovery, and infant development. It wasn’t until I actually held and nursed my own baby did I realize on a physiological and psychological level just how much an infant needs its mom. Short of some major impairment, I firmly believe that every mom is absolutely the best carriertaker for her baby. To separate moms and babies in the early weeks and months, as the overwhelming majority of moms are forced to do in this country, is simply inhumane. Even at six months old, Owen still wants and needs me constantly. And even as inexperience as I am, I know as matter of a fact that no one can provide to my baby the way I can.
I have been following the La Leche League on Facebook for the last few months, where moms send in breastfeeding related questions for discussion with LLL leaders and other moms. Two of the most common questions raised are: why does my newborn cry when I put it down and how I can go back to work? The questions vary but the answer remains the same. A newborn seeks nourishment, warmth, comfort, and security from its mom through breastfeeding, comfort nursing and being held, constantly. A mom is more than a food delivery mechanism and a baby is more than a digestive system. I find it hard to comprehend why some people say babies use their moms as pacifiers. A baby is literally incapable of doing that. It does not know what a pacifier is. It knows of nothing else other than its mom. A baby uses its mom as nature intended to for every need. We are the ones who have been trying to replace ourselves with pacifiers and expect babies to be comforted by it. In the same vein, we try to replace breastmilk with formula and the comfort of our arms with vibrating swings. I know every family is unique and some of these modern consciences are tools necessary to get new parents through from one day to the next. We have been lucky in the sense that I have had the luxury to devote all my time and energy on our baby until now. I didn’t have to figure out a way for him to sleep on any surface other than us. I didn’t have to feed him through any delivery method other than my body. I didn’t have to find alternative ways to sooth him other than what we can provide ourselves. We had neither the need nor interest in seeking alternatives. Our expectations for moms and babies are completely out of whack. We didn’t know what to expect with Owen but even before he was born I told Peter however our baby is we’re just going to have to roll with it. We tried to keep an open mind. Of course, no one makes a profit from breatfeeding and cosleeping. Manufacturers, advertisements and authors are eager to sell the latest sleep solutions and breastmilk replacements promising restful sleep for the parents and well fed and well behaved babies. We are lucky to not need these solutions.
I wish things were different. I wish mothers are more supported so that babies can gently ease into this world and thrive at its own pace. It is gutrenching to know how early some moms have to leave their babies. Returning to work at six months is hard. Returning at six weeks is unthinkable. My heart breaks for parents and babies. There is simply no time to heal or to establish breastfeeding in that minuscule amount of time. I do stay up at night wondering what kind of society we are creating with this kind of infant care system. The view that babies are private goods for the benefit of the parents and therefore are solely responsible by their parents is flawed at best and detrimental to the human race. Few can argue that healthy and productive individuals are fundamental to the stability and florishment of the society. But to become that one must start from the cradle or even the womb. Healthy moms and healthy babies is quite literally the future. They are a common and societal good. Without them we simply can’t thrive individually or as a society. I hear too many Americans say that they don’t want to pay for other women’s birth control, other mother’s maternity leaves, other kids’ education, other people’s illnesses or retirement. But in this world there is no “otherness.” So I lay awake at night while my baby sleeps. He knows of no otherness and we have a duty to keep it that way through our words and action.