I recently purchased a new couch. And learned a lesson.
Getting the beloved couch into our townhouse basement involved 7 people, 1 large hole in a wall, 2 walls removed, 8 feet of new trim, 3 sheets of drywall, 2 buckets of spackling and 1 bill from the drywall guy. I must really love this couch to go to all the effort. I may never get the darn thing out again.
But the truth is a do love this couch. It informs the feel and personality of the whole room. It invites you to sit, put your feet up, be in relationship with the others in the room.
And the first time I sat there, I thought “I wish I had a baby to nurse. This couch puts my body in the perfect position.” As I sit, my body naturally reclines into a easy position and I feel supported on all sides.
I first became familiar with the work of Suzanne Colson three years ago, after attending several classes, workshops and conferences on breastfeeding. I had come to a place of frustration in regards to how we, as professionals, were constantly giving moms a long list of rules that must be followed to breastfeed “successfully”. Hold baby like this, position nipple like this, get out your protractor and measure the angle of that baby’s lips (OK, maybe not literally…). My core belief about breastfeeding is that “We Were Created For This Job”. All the rules simply didn’t jive with that. Were we making it too hard? Were we setting moms up for failure and defeat simply because they couldn’t do everything “right”? Weren’t women nourishing and nurturing their babes for eons before we came up with all these rules?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have experienced personally and professionally the effects of a bad latch and supply issues. Sometimes mamas can find significant improvement in their discomfort level simply by changing a position slightly or encouraging baby to open a bit wider. Sometimes sharing with a mom about how the supply and demand of breastfeeding works if all she needs to move in a forward direction. Moving an arm, placing a pillow, checking a lip…all well and good. But I often feel as though we’ve given moms an impossible task, when really the task should be, “Relax and feed your baby.” More that I care to admit, I encounter moms who have healthy, nourished, thriving babies but think something is wrong because their babies aren’t positioned in the exact same way as the mom they saw on YouTube. My own first weeks of motherhood were fraught with the exact same thing. My wise mother said to me, “Put the breastfeeding books down and feed your baby.”
Suzanne Colson has shaken up the way so many breastfeeding professionals think. One colleague said to me that Colson was “delightfully eccentric”…my kind of lady. She’s taken the rules, thrown them out the window and taken us back to the idea that we were made for this. Her premise is that there are a number of innate reflexes that are often masked by all our “hold baby this way, do things that way” mentality. By simply reclining mama’s body, keeping her supported, placing baby skin-to-skin on her bare chest (more on the miracle of skin-to-skin coming soon!) and allowing them to simply be together, many of the breastfeeding challenges we have can be eliminated.
So now, when I sink into my beloved couch, I take a moment to think of the moms I encounter and how I can encourage them to trust in what they were created to do. And have incredible compassion for those moms whose bodies can’t do what they were designed to do. I’ve learned a lesson in relaxing from “the rules”. Oh, and I learned that it’s a pretty good idea to measure the couch you are purchasing before attempting to transport it down to the basement.
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