That fateful phone call was the beginning of the end of nursing my son. Even though I was producing plenty of milk to sustain him when I was with him, and was able, with my dinky little battery-powered pump, to set aside a few bottles when I wasn't, the wholesale disappearance of my initial cache of milk set me back enough that I was never able to catch up completely (or didn't have the energy to try), and so Thelma was supplementing with formula daily. Feeling defeated, I weaned Will from my still highly productive breasts when he was 6 months old.
Seven years later, I got pregnant with my second child. A lot had changed by then: Will's dad and I had split up, I'd remarried, and I'd started working as an editor at a parenting magazine. I share that detail because at my new job I received firsthand a steady stream of press releases heralding each new finding and urging me, as a journalist, to get the word out: Nursing staves off ear infections. It prevents obesity.
It promotes bonding. It lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
The effect that the brouhaha over breastfeeding had on me was twofold. First, there was panic: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was now recommending that, if at all possible, infants be nursed for at least a year. What had I done to my son by cutting off his milk supply when we were only halfway there? Was I to blame for Will's chronic ear infections? As a first-grader he was still sporting tubes -- his second set! And recently he'd become so fearful of letting me out of his sight that he would follow me five steps to answer the door. Was his anxious attachment some manifestation of my having put a bottle between his flesh and mine when he was still an infant?
Second, there was determination. I vowed the baby I was now carrying would never so much as taste a drop of formula. I would do as the AAP said and nurse my baby for a year, and after that for as long as she wanted, whenever she wanted. (Or until she got old enough to talk.) To cut to the chase: Eliza was born, and yes, I managed to avoid giving her formula for her first year, despite going back to work when she was three months old. The same was true of Lucas and Wyatt, babies number three and four. This collective accomplishment, I understand, was at the root of my love affair with my breast pump.