Breastfeeding is a beautiful moment between me and my baby. A precious moment to rest, connect, and exchange. During breastfeeding, there is a direct energy connection between the baby and mother. Skins touch, hormones soar, reflexes act, milk flows. It is a deeply intuitive process that taps into the most ancient parts of both our brains.
It matters how we spend our time
As nursing mothers (and actually this goes for all baby feeding parents) we spend up to several hours each day sitting with our little one. In stead of browsing social media, checking messages or watching Netflix, why not spend this time with them consciously connecting, breathing or meditating? You are here sitting still anyway.
Your baby, whilst drinking from your breast, is very much in tune with your body (and you with hers). She unconsciously and immediately picks up on every signal: your heart rate, sweat response, muscle tension, and breathing rhythm – to name a few.
Just imagine the difference for your child when she looks up to look at you face and sees you either distressed by the news/watching a screen as opposed to lovingly looking at her/eyes closed gently in joyful meditation. She probably won’t remember consciously but the vibration of these early experiences will be stored in subtle layers of the body-mind.
Because I am convinced that baby picks up my ‘vibe’ and all those hours of breastfeeding add up in the end, I have made a commitment to spend nursing time either mindfully breastfeeding or reading a book/listening to audio that instills happiness and insight. Roughly, I spend 80% like that, and 20% in social interactions with friends or family.
A gift to mother and child
Nursing my baby has become a daily recurring practice of playfulness and mindfulness in the last 11 months. The time spent with her at my chest is so incredibly precious. The sensation of her tiny chubby fingers stroking, squeezing and tapping my chest (causing my oxytocin to soar and milk to flow – oh! delicious miracle of nature). Her deep blue eyes looking up at me, sometimes smiling, sometimes drunk with milk. Watching her fall asleep, breath becoming deeper and deeper, as she drinks or suckles. Her giggles as she pushes my face away and back again with her hand.
The more attention I bring to the process, the deeper and more subtle are the layers I start to notice and I realise the intricacies of our humble role in the circle of life. Nothing is more normal and yet nothing is more sacred than this moment between me and my little one. Consciously breastfeeding like this is a gift to us both.
Read this wonderful poem for a much more poetic account of nursing.
And of course, in a different yet also very much the same way, much of the above applies to parents and caretakers bottle feeding babies as well.
Mindful breastfeeding/nursing exercise
When nursing your baby, become silent. Breathe deeply and relax. Soften your belly and feel it rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Sense the breath of your baby. Gently notice what comes to your attention: maybe a sound, feeling or thought. Maybe many thoughts, that’s ok too. Simply gently notice and let it stay or pass, like a white cloud in the clear blue sky. If your attention has drifted away for a moment, gently bring it back to the awareness of the breath and the sensation of your baby’s body and yours touching.
Your baby may soon relax into your caring presence, which is very comforting for her. By your breath alone, she knows she is safe.
If you are not used to this kind of practice, know that you are not just sitting still. You are ‘holding space’ for your baby, that means: providing a safe container for her to move through all the phases and experiences of being a baby. The quality of your presence is worth so much for her.
If you choose, you can now proceed to practice the 4-8 relaxation breath to invoke the relaxation response which is very beneficial for both you and your baby, or possibly even the conscious connected breath if you are free of emotional charge. More about that later :).