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The New Breastfeeding Rules

"Want me to take him to the nursery so you can get some sleep?"

I glance from the postpartum nurse to the still-unreal bundle in my arms. Henry. My son. There's a nursery here? I'd chosen this hospital partly for its policy of having newborns "room in" with their mothers. Rooming-in was one of those items on the get-ready-for-baby checklists I'd lived by that sounded as critical as it was amorphous and alien. It had something to do with bonding.

Back when I was researching state-of-the-art birthing centers, though, I hadn't counted on spending 39 straight hours awake -- a day at work, an evening rabidly cleaning out the linen closet, then a long night and a morning in labor, followed by a packed day, counting amazing little fingers and toes, a lesson in getting a baby to latch on to a breast twice the circumference of his tiny head (mine, speaking of amazing), and making giddy phone calls. Adrenaline had powered me through that last part. Then it abruptly left the building an hour ago, along with my exhausted husband.

Take him to the nursery? Hey, you're the expert. All I know about babies is what I read in books.

"Sure," I say.

There is no painful, ripping Velcro sound as my baby separates from my arms. There is only quiet, and the relief of imminent sleep. I'm too tired to care that barely 12 hours into motherhood I've already veered perilously off course. I'd messed up my candidacy for Mother Supreme even before the umbilical cord quit pulsing.

For the record, that first night in the nursery, Henry didn't appear to miss me either. The nurses did not feed him a bottle of sugar-water, as the pro-rooming-in tracts had warned they might. At least, nobody told me he got sugar-water, and I do have fuzzy memories of being awakened to breastfeed once or twice. But the nurses could have fed him coconut milk for all I cared that night, so long as they did him no harm. Rooming-in was just another abandoned ideal that suddenly didn't seem important. I had sleep. The baby was still alive. So far, so good.