to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week: two nursing poems & writing prompts
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I want to share two poems from Birth & What Came After. These two poems deal with the breastfeeding journey. The first poem, Feeding, comes near the beginning of the book.
I thought it would be easy, said a
new mom at the baby shower.
What more is there?, she said.
But it is easy for us, little one,
and it has been since the beginning.
I’ve always known these breasts
I just misunderstood
their divine purpose.
They are not for enticing men
into buying me drinks
on a dark dance floor. They are not
for showing off on a poolside
These perfect nipples are,
have always been,
Your wide wet eyes were open
from the start,
shining black with the density
of a universe.
Your mouth open and hungry,
your head rolling like a drunk.
You were perfect at it, too, the sucking.
We feed everywhere, when and
wherever you tell me you’re hungry.
I did not know how much I’d like it.
This is something no one talked about,
or not much anyway, not in a way
I could grasp.
I duck my arm out of clothing
and free my breast.
You swivel your head toward me,
This is a dance that we’ve perfected,
Twin lines of electricity run through me,
up and down, head to toe.
O, drink from me, sweet son
who came from the black depths
of my body.
You latch on and power up,
drawing energy from my currents.
I shoot you little shards
of bone and with them your body
continues its work, building the bone, brewing the blood, fattening
the folds of you.
You suck and I tingle from skull to heel,
struck with a tuning fork and humming
in the blue light of a darkened bedroom.
I try to feel my own edges in the
low light. I send my mind to the
outer edges of me — where do I end?
I send myself to my innermost edges,
and I see that in both directions
I am infinite.
Everything is soft, every part of you and
every part of me. I hold you long after you’ve come unlatched.
Your sleeping mouth sucks
a phantom teat, your fingers clutch
my thumb, and turn white.
That perfect invisible boob has you
sleep smiling, sending you off into a dream, into dreamland,
la la, the whimsical dust of sleep whisking you away
somewhere I cannot follow.
I shuck the husk of you into bed,
feet twitching and eyes rolling, lips
open and circling into ecstasy.
Ahh, ecstacy. Anyone have similar feelings while breastfeeding?
And then, when I decided to wean my son, I wrote this next poem. It’s almost at the end of Birth & What Came After. As I wrote it, I knew it would be one of the final poems. It felt like the book was coming to a natural close.
I did not know you would love it so
that I’d love it so
and now here we are more than
two years later, still nursing.
People are ready for us to stop.
I am one of those people,
and other times I’m not.
It has been a great comfort.
It has been a burden.
It has been an honor.
It has been a sacrifice.
We will find a new way to love
each other, new bonds, new comforts.
You probably won’t remember suckling
at the teat.
but I will. I will never forget.
But then I realize it’s time, and I point
to a square on a calendar and say, Here.
This day, we quit.
When I pick the date, I nurse you to
sleep for a nap,
and I stare at your little body in my
arms, not so little
anymore. I weep onto your body. Will I
know how to comfort you? How to
mother without milk?
For a month we nurse less and less,
gradually, we stay busy at the library
and seeing friends and taking walks and
splashing in mud puddles. I practice
saying, No. Not right now. Not until
bed. You practice understanding,
waiting. You practice moving past anger.
On the date that was once far away and
now is here, I am nervous. I know,
though, it is time. It is the date
and I am ready, but still, how? The day
goes on and you ask and I say, No,
there’s no more milk at all, it’s gone.
And you don’t nap, just keep eating
more, happily, running around
the house, practically running
down the stairs. You are big. Bigger than
ever. Still, milk is the only way
you’ve learned to rest, only way
I’ve learned to rest. Before bed
I take a long shower.
I squeeze down the length of my breast,
I watch for the last time as milk squirts
several tiny lines, haphazard, magic.
I have a superpower, creating food
from the folds of my body. I have used it
I will use it again for another.
In bed, nighttime, you try to burrow
into my body, crawl beneath the sheets
searching for my breasts,
fling yourself away when I say, No,
no more milk, we must learn to sleep
without it. There’s just no more.
I feel guilt, because there is more.
It’s a choice. I’m making it
for all of us. I’m making it for you. You
will grow once you don’t need me
for milk, for sleep. You will learn
how to be you, how to count sheep and
calm the body, you will learn
how to be alone and so will I.
Once your rage subsides and your
I pull you onto me, your body warm,
weight welcome, and I breathe and
breathe. You breathe and breathe.
Then, I can tell you’re out, the breath
slowed and peaceful.
With you on my chest I think of
the first time I held you this way,
skin to skin, in the bed of a hospital,
body tiny and skin dewy.
I have never loved you more
than I do now, finally resting,
sleep found without the comfort of my
Weaning is difficult and also sometimes necessary. I wanted my son to self-wean, but after 2.5 years, it just wasn’t happening. And since we weaned, he’s grown leaps and bounds. I’m proud of both of us.
Breastfeeding is tough. It requires a lot of stamina and strength. And if breastfeeding isn’t the best option for you, don’t fret. Fed is best, and no mother should shame another mother’s choice.
Sending love to all the mothers with leaky boobs this week and always. And if you enjoyed these poems, take a look at my book Birth & What Came After on Amazon.
Moms, for World Breastfeeding Week, you can write your own poem!
WRITING PROMPTS: Write an ode to your breasts. Write about your first latch. Write about the first time you breastfed in public. Write about how and why you weaned. Write about your own milk. // If you write a poem, PLEASE share it with me @ jessicabateswriter @ gmail DOT com //