Except that it kind of is…
(This post is about boobs. Fair warning.)
August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, so I thought it would be a good time to check in on how nursing has been going with Ellis and me. I’m sure those of you who were around a year ago were probably completely turned off to the idea of breastfeeding after I shared the hellishness that were those first few weeks. I mean, it was awful. To be completely honest, maybe the one thing that really got me motivated to succeed was that my MIL was coming to town to stay with us for a couple of weeks and nursing was the one thing that only I could do for my baby. I was worried that she would come in, take over, and I’d never see my baby again. Again, hormones and being a new mom made me overprotective. I wanted to be in full control of caring for Ellis’s feedings and naps. I felt that was MY duty and responsibility as a mom, and I didn’t want to share it. I had flipped out when my own mom gave Ellis a bottle while I took a nap the first week we brought her home, and I was worried my MIL do the same. So, I decided no bottles, no pumping, all boob. And because I forced myself to not offer bottles, Ellis and I had to figure out the nursing thing. The first weekend was hard because she would cry but not latch on. It was entirely frustrating, but we soon got the hang of it.
Here we are a year later, and we are still going strong! Ellis is a bit of a picky eater, in the sense that all she really wants to eat is fruit and cheese, so I love that I don’t have to worry whether she is getting enough nutrition from her food. I can offer her a variety of foods, and if she throws it, no biggie. If 2/3 of her meal ends up on the floor or in her lap, I’m not stressing. Well, I am a little, but that’s because I have to clean it up! I’ve always nursed on demand, so if she asks for it, I give it up. She learned the sign for milk real quick! Her main nursing sessions, though, are first thing in the morning, and right before her naps and bedtime. But there are other times she asks for it, often in public, at a restaurant, when I’ve just ordered a glass of wine.
Which leads me to nursing in public. I’ve done it everywhere: in the car, in a fitting room, restrooms, at the airport, on airplanes, in a support group circle, a bench at the zoo. I am not, however, a “lactivist.” I don’t particularly feel comfortable pulling out my boob in front of strangers, and so I don’t do it at the table in a restaurant, for instance. Not out of consideration for others, but out of consideration for myself. I am not nursing to make a point; I’m doing it to feed my child. I am lucky that I haven’t really heard or been given any grief about nursing. Everyone seems to be pro-nursing. But sometimes it doesn’t work, or it’s not someone’s choice, and that’s okay, too. I’m not telling anyone that what works for my child is what’s best for everyone.
Last weekend there was a big kick-off to World Breastfeeding Week with an event called The Big Latch On. Here in Jacksonville, it was held at a popular baby-play center. They had an incredible turn out; I think 30 something latched babies, but the first time I heard about it, I just wasn’t interested. First off, my daughter would not be in the least bit interested in nursing when she is surrounded by the awesomeness that is Bay & Bee. I’ve been there enough to know that hunger and tiredness do not exist once she’s walked through those doors. Second, she is always distracted if there is anything remotely interesting going on around her, including other people. I could never nurse her in the group circle at our mom meetings, because she would always pull off and look around, leaving me exposed. Lastly, I only nurse for my daughter. I don’t want to put her in a situation where I’m like, “Here, honey, you HAVE to eat right at this exact moment. We’re changing the world!” Force feeding is never a good idea. I just don’t care about making a statement. I feel like if someone wants to nurse badly enough, there is support for them. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had ever experienced any negativity from breastfeeding, but I guess I’ve just been lucky.
Oh, and a couple more things:
- You lose weight like crazy. For a while I was eating donuts and cookie dough every other day and was still losing. Of course, that didn’t last, especially after Ms. Ellis started sleeping through the night, and her feedings dropped off. But the trade off was worth it.
- When baby is born and for the first three or four months at least, it feels like all you do is nurse. That’s normal. It won’t last.
- For most women, your period doesn’t come back until nursing sessions are significantly reduced. For me, it was when Ellis started sleeping through the night and didn’t need night feedings any more. Again, trade off worth it.
- Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t hurt to nurse a baby with teeth. Teeth are not involved in the sucking action. What hurts is a baby biting you. Which has only happened less than a handful of times. I have worse memories of her biting my fingers, shoulder, neck, leg. Yeah, those were painful. Also, babies are pretty smart, and they know not to bite the boob that feeds them.
- This one’s controversial, but you can drink if you’re nursing. You just have to plan wisely. Like, don’t drink around her meal times, but once she’s fed, you can go for a drink. (Admittedly, this is harder in the first few months when they are constantly nursing. My suggestion then is to pump milk ahead of time, if your baby will take a bottle.)
- Pumping is the worst. Spilling or wasting any pumped milk is even worse. It doesn’t hurt, but the stress involved to make sure you produce enough does. Babies nurse more effectively and efficiently than a pump, so you might take twice as long to pump and get only half as much milk as a baby can provide for herself.
- Nursing is convenient. You can never forget to bring food or supplies to feed while out and about. Just pull out your boob, and it’s all good.
- Downside: All of my shirts have to be easy access. I hate pulling my shirt up and exposing my soft belly. Ellis wasn’t use to seeing my belly one of the times I had to do it. She started slapping my stomach and laughing. Thanks, daughter! Lots of v-necks and button downs for me.
- You won’t need nursing pads after your supply and demand has evened out. Engorgement goes away. The only time I really feel full and NEED to pump or nurse to relieve them is in the morning.
If you are considering breastfeeding, if you are not considering it, if you started and had difficulties, there is information and help out there for you. You were made to do this. If you’re pediatrician ever recommends formula over breast milk for any reason: baby not gaining enough weight, intolerance to certain foods, etc., you don’t necessarily need to find a new pediatrician, just know that they are not all as well-informed as you’d think they should be. Just get a second opinion, and stand up for yourself. “That’s great, doc, but I’d rather continue nursing. How else can we help Little Suzy gain weight?” Don’t compare your baby to formula babies, which many pediatricians are likely doing. I was lucky, and my pediatrician supported me, but I also didn’t really encounter any serious issues with nursing. Again, some women have difficulties that, if I had encountered them, I would have probably stopped altogether and said, “Eff this sh*t!” The information and knowledge about nursing/pumping was overwhelming for me at first, but it soon became second nature and a breeze. I’ll say it again, I’ve been very lucky.
So when am I going to stop? That I don’t know. I’m hoping Ellis will be done before I am, because I think it would be easier if it’s her decision. I really can’t see myself going past two years. I’m hoping once all her teeth have come, and she’s less finicky about food, she won’t care to nurse as much, and we can start to phase it out.
KellyMom – http://kellymom.com/
La Leche League – http://www.llli.org/