A Nursing Love Poem: A Conversation With Author Michelle Neyland
Rebecca “Beck” McCormick, Virginia
Michelle Neyland is a mother of two and author of A Nursing Love Poem, a sweet, rhyming children’s book that captures universal moments from birth to toddlerhood. This sturdy, gorgeously-illustrated board book is a delight for parents to read together with their little ones and to celebrate the gift of breastfeeding. In addition to writing, Michelle worked as a communicator for the federal government, became certified as a yoga teacher and wellness coach, and has gotten way too excited about Myers-Briggs types. The book is available through online retailers, and you can learn more about the author at www.findmybalance.org. Michelle recently took a break from her work to speak with New Beginnings about her new book.
Tell us about A Nursing Love Poem. What led you to decide to write a children’s book about breastfeeding?
I don’t remember the exact moment I decided to write a children’s book about nursing. I try to stay in touch with my creativity and intuition and to keep my mind as quiet as possible. When I have a new idea, even if it seems out of left field, I don’t think, “why do this?” but instead, “why not do this?” Maybe this idea needs to come to life through me.
I do remember lying in bed next to my son, warm and peaceful, nursing him to sleep. As darkness gathered around us and I could barely see him anymore, his long lashes started to flutter closed, and I felt completely overcome with gratitude. One of my favorite love languages is touch, so nursing felt like saying “I love you, I love you, I love you” over and over again. I wrote some poetry in my journal about this experience, and more similar snippets over the next year. I collected this poetry and shaped it into A Nursing Love Poem.
The book does an amazing job conveying the beauty of breastfeeding. What did you enjoy most about nursing?
I hadn’t anticipated that motherhood would open up these doors to creativity and deep feeling for me. Like many young working women, I had put off the idea of getting pregnant for a good few years, worried about the ways it might complicate my life and tie me down. However, when I was ready, I felt very ready to welcome a child into our family. I was able to experience a natural birth, and in addition to those exhausted, worn-down moments of early parenthood, a burgeoning new deep purpose in my life that marched to the rhythm of caring for my son: breastfeeding, comforting, and caring for his needs. I realized that as I was falling in love with him, I was falling in love with myself, because I had started out as a new, sacred baby just like him. In fact, every person had! I think my capacity for empathy grew 100-fold in that moment.
Was it a challenge to find time to write and illustrate?
I worked on the book over the course of a year during my moments of downtime — an hour here, an hour there. I was lucky to work with an amazing illustrator to bring my story to life. I gave her some photos of my family, including one of my cat lying on my head while my son breastfed, which I hear from other cat-owning mothers is a favorite feline tactic. She interpreted them so beautifully.
We love the line, “You taste some new food at each family meal, and still love to nurse for the closeness we feel.” How has breastfeeding been more than just food for you and your children?
In popular culture, I don’t see a lot of discussions or articles about the positive, emotional, transformative benefits of breastfeeding. In children’s books, I struggled to find even one book covering the topic and depicting breastfeeding through the ages and stages. My son nursed until 3 years, 3 months before self-weaning, and I wouldn’t trade that time for the world. I don’t take it for granted, because I know how many women struggle with breastfeeding issues. I was extremely lucky to have that tool in my toolbox for so long, to be able to nourish, bond with and comfort him.
Who do you think should buy this book?
I think there’s a lot of hunger among mothers for a book like this that both normalizes and celebrates breastfeeding. I chose to publish in a board book format so it would be sturdy, long lasting and easy to read with babies up through older nurslings. One (online) reviewer made me chuckle when she rated it 5 stars with the title “Warning: Will Make Your Child Nurse!” That made me wonder whether it might help families looking to resolve nursing strikes. Last year, I was proud to share the book with 30 La Leche League (Groups) in 19 different states and look forward to continuing this partnership! At a local Live, Love, Latch! picnic, a man came up to me and said, “I loved your book. It made me cry.” That fact that my book is touching so many people brings me joy.
Now that I have a second child, a baby girl, people have been asking me what her book will be about! A Nursing Love Poem applies just as much to her as it did to her big brother.
We are excited to give away 5 copies of A Nursing Love Poem! Enter HERE for your chance to win one of the five copies.
Please send your story ideas to Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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