By Chef Centehua:
For me, nursing is the ultimate expression of divine motherly love. Nature’s law is giving. Mothers give nourishment
through their bodies so that their babies may thrive. It’s a beautiful and poetic metaphor for the way our earth mother cares for all of us, feeding us generously as we find refuge in her arms.
I know I learned to love myself through loving and caring for my baby. I lived for him, and I was by his side 24/7. My life’s purpose was to keep him alive and well. In return, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of awe, for I was experiencing firsthand a most remarkable miracle. I struggle to find words that can describe the love that took me to higher states of self-expression and self-acceptance. Motherhood is an empowering journey, and I must note that it’s sad our culture often makes mothers feel ashamed for doing the most beautiful thing any mother can do, which is to love her baby and feed him well.
I remember the looks I would get if I chose to nurse my child in public. I tried covering up with a blanket, but my boy tore it down, for he enjoyed the soft breeze on his face as he enjoyed the sweetest elixir of life. I too enjoyed gazing at his sweet face as I nursed him, but others seemed to find the flesh of my breast offensive. Are nursing mothers destined to live in exile in their homes? Meanwhile, we are bombarded daily with images of over-sexualized men and women showing more flesh in soda ads than any nursing mom shows. Mothers are to be honored and supported in every way because it’s a hard job and one that demands full dedication and care. We could all do better with fewer judgments, and more understanding and love.
Nature is amazing and perfect in her design. When women nurse, they release a mammalian neurohypophysial hormone called oxytocin. This hormone plays a key role in the neuroanatomy of intimacy. This is how we secure the bond between mother and child. In fact, oxytocin is also referred to as the bonding hormone. You’ve heard the phrase “breast is best”: of course, what nature provides is naturally best.
This is not to embarrass or put down mothers who for any reason choose bottle feeding. Whether breast or bottle, the important thing is the love transmitted through that close heart space, eye gazing, caressing and whispering of kind words. Babies are brand new, open to the experience of life. They are extremely sensitive to the vibrations in our tone. They know our voice, they have heard it since their days in the womb. Now they get to be in our arms as we nourish them physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Breast milk is loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals and antibodies; however, it also carries any unwanted substance the mother consumes. It is of utmost importance that nursing a mother’s diet is as clean as possible since studies have found that the food most concentrated in chemicals and toxins is none other than breast milk. It’s all there and in concentrated form, so please choose organics, and avoid nicotine and any synthetic ingredients in processed foods. This is a time of nutritional integrity. Babies are great motivators for us to take nutrition to the next level of health and well-being.
It’s not always easy. I was a very skinny and unhealthy ballerina before I got pregnant. I lived on nicotine and caffeine until the day I saw my baby’s heartbeat at the doctor’s office. My life changed right there and then. I threw away my pack of smokes and proceeded to eat all things good. I was a young mother at the tender age of 19, so I was scared but hopeful. Nine months and sixty-five pounds later, I gave birth to a healthy eight-pound, two-ounce baby boy. I immediately placed him on my bosom and felt the most genuine and transcendent human connection of my life!
It was challenging at first, no doubt. He didn’t always latch on right, and I was sore and engorged. My nipples where cracking and borderline bleeding, but with the help of coconut oil and ice packs, I pulled through and succeeded in nursing him for almost 2 years.
Nursing provided spiritual/emotional nourishment for me as well. It truly is a symbiotic process. I felt alone at times, dealing with postpartum blues, a new country, new neighborhood and – well – still being a teen. Nursing was the time I slowed down. It became a meditation on love, resilience and nature. I felt good in my ability to feed my child and, in doing so, I was motivated to feed myself right. I began for the first time in my adult life to take good care of myself.
My babies are now 18 and 12, so now when I see a nursing mom at a park or cafe, I bless them and thank them for showing up just as they are. I am transported to that time of motherly bliss and I hope I see more mothers boldly doing their thing wherever they may be. This artificial world needs more women standing up to express an authentic, natural way of raising their kids just as they see fit in spite of the stares and ignorant comments. Every aspect of motherhood is divine and it’s time we got over our inadequacies. Breast milk is free food, medicine. It’s nature’s way to humbly tune us in and remind us of where we come from and what is real, true and always available – unconditional LOVE.
Blessings to all the mamas!
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