Thursday, August 05, 2010

Get Your Boobs Here

It’s (National? World?) Breastfeeding Awareness Week, and I’m here to say YAY BREASTFEEDING. I’m like a borderline lactivist. I don’t judge people who don’t nurse though (much). And I found Giselle’s comments distasteful, at best. I mean, because being a supermodel makes you an expert on how to hold your chin when posing for a cosmetics ad - not how to feed a baby so it grows and thrives. (And I really want someone to ask Christina Applegate why she's not going to nurse her baby...answer: because she had a double mastectomy now don't make her cry. I hope she comes out swinging if anybody gives her sass.) Ahem.

I nursed both of my kids, BUT I felt like a failure while nursing Chuckles. After infertility, I was strangely invested in nursing as a way to prove my womanhood.

It was never easy, he woke up to eat a lot, I had trouble keeping up with his bottles for day care while pumping at work, I let the hospital nursery give him 3 ounces of formula when he was a day old (why couldn’t I resist?…I mean I had just spent 13 hours in labor, 3 hours pushing, and had a c-section…why would I let them do that to him?), and by 7 months, I was near a full-on raving lunatic.

I hadn’t slept more than 4 or 5 hours in almost a year. I was like little shards of glass held together with piano wire. I was nuts. But if someone had said to me that I needed sleep and why don’t I let someone give the baby a bottle overnight (not that anyone offered or that I knew to ask), I would have freaked out. Don’t you think I can feed my own baby? What I really needed was for someone to acknowledge that it was hard and offer to bring the baby to me to nurse so I could stay horizontal and possibly only marginally disturb my sleep. And my goal was to nurse him a year. I failed. I nursed 05-05-05 to 04-12-06. Not that I’m counting or anything (and that was not exclusive by the end…there was some formula started right around that fragile 7 month mark).

Fast-Forward. Anyway, by the time Bobo came along, I had resolved that I would make it a year. They tried to give him formula in the hospital but being a seasoned pro (who had a c-section without the labor and pushing and thus had more mental and physical energy), I resisted.

And they didn’t badger me about it since I was a second-time mom and had some very good arguments, which I had practiced in advance knowing that the nurses would push formula in the wee hours when no one was watching them guilt new moms. I ended up nursing Bobo for 13.5 months (pretty much exclusively, possibly exclusively, I don’t actually remember because the stakes seemed lower after a year). I nursed him 11-16-08 to 01-01-10.

I figure if I had a third baby, I would do like I did with Bobo. I have very few regrets about how things went with him and the nursing. I would have like to have kept nursing a little (maybe once a day) until 18 months, but he was ready and biting, so it doesn’t feel important.

And sure, it might seem like I’m pro-breastfeeding because I was ‘successful’. My kids knew how to latch (eventually), and I made milk (eventually). With PCOS, this is not always the case.

I would like to mention that post-c-section with Chuckles (who lost 11% of his birth weight), the only time I took narcotics was before nursing because the pain was excruciating (literally toe curling and eye-closing), but by 3 weeks it had mostly dissipated. For the first 3 weeks, I would curl my toes and press my eyes closed and just wait for the piranha to latch. I would have Mr. Long-Suffering double check to make sure the latch was good because I couldn’t open my eyes right away.

A few times I had cracked and bleeding nipples and wound up pumping blood. Nothing says love like milk tainted with blood (it separates out in the refrigerator into a blood layer on the bottom, then the clear-ish milk part, and the cream on top). I always had a fear he would wind up part-vampire after that.

And I had none of that with Bobo. There were a few days of discomfort in the beginning, but my body kind of remembered what it knew from Chuckles and toughened up quickly. The milk came more quickly, I pumped early and often and froze a lot of milk to take the pressure off when I went back to work (and supercharge the supply). It was like awesome wrapped in chocolate.

So, if you nursed the first time and it wasn’t great (or couldn’t nurse at all), Keep the Faith and know that things can be unicorns pooping rainbows the second time around.

And if you're a nurse, lay off the new moms, OK?


  1. Ok, I'm really late to comment... but wow. There was absolutely no pressure to feed formula at my hospital. Almost the opposite. But the lactation advisers were all wonderful and caring and didn't make me feel like crap for the fact that Pumpkin got some formula supplementation early on, while we sorted out her latch. I ended up nursing her until she was 23 months old.

    Petunia hasn't had formula (yet... my supplies are struggling to keep up with her these days), and she always latched like a pro... but good lord, was it hard to nurse after a C-section. The things you don't realize that you need your ab muscles for....

    Anyway, I always tell new moms who want to nurse to give it 6 weeks before they give up. That is about how long it took both times for all the pain and awkwardness to work itself out. I had thrush both times (thank you, antibiotics....) which SUCKED, too.

    Anyway, hooray for you for making it as long as you did both times.

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