Friday, February 6, 2015

Rant: On Breastfeeding (TMI, as always)

Every time I pump, there's a little bag in which I keep the milk. On it, you write the date and the amount of milk. There's also a space for "name." At first I was writing my first name--for my whole life, whenever I've encountered a form that asks for "name," I've written my own. Then I took the milk to Baby Leopard's daycare and the woman who runs the place wrote his name on everything. (Straight across our favorite pacifier, a duck; "the worst thing she's done," as Francisco put it, but that's a story for another day.) That's when it occurred to me: that space isn't really for my name; it's for Baby Leopard's.

I think of this every time I pump, dividing my milk into 3 oz. portions, one for each feeding. I pump 3-5 times per day that I'm at work, squeezing as many possible opportunities as I can make, rushing down to my office after class, before I meet with students, in the few minutes in between classes. I'm scared I won't be able to pump as much as Baby Leopard needs; I'm scared that pumping will reduce my supply. (Thankfully, everything has gone as swimmingly as possible thus far with pumping.)

But basically Baby Leopard's name is on almost everything I do--from what I eat (lots of protein; no dairy, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, or baked beans) to pumping (and washing pump parts!) to breastfeeding in general.

Breastfeeding sounds idyllic--I guess I've been taking in by the propaganda pictures of women holding their child looking lovingly into their eyes. But it is hard work. I would assume that I've nursed Baby Leopard around 1500 times so far. And around 2 months or so, it did become probably easier than feeding him with a bottle. But before then, it certainly wasn't: in the first couple of days somehow we had a bad latch that led to intense, dreading-the-next-feeding pain. That lasted many weeks--like at least 6.

And leaking: I assumed that my body and the baby would even out my supply in like, a week or two (say 70 feedings). Nope. Only massive (expensive) wool nursing pads have helped with this problem, and even they fail after about 2 or 3 hours. I had really intense leaking for 6 or 8 weeks, and it's still significant (and I've been doing this for 5 months). I only manage now by sleeping on a thick towel.

All that to say, as one of my aunts said to me soon after the baby was born, I think our mothers made it look too easy.

And then there's pumping: I'm grateful for it, because it allows me to do my job. But boy, it's a lot of work. It's 15 minutes at a pop, several times a day. (And once a day even when I'm at home with the baby for the last several months.) You definitely feel like a cow being milked. You have to rinse all the parts out after each pumping and then carefully wash them at the end of the day. And carry a cooler and pump and pump parts to and from work each day. (One of the mothers in my bf support group wrote a great haiku with the line, "my child ate a pump part," which stemmed from her experience.)

Wow, and I never even wrote about how tricky it is to figure out breastfeeding in the first few weeks. I guess I barely remember even now. You basically just wait for the baby to open his mouth and then you shove it in. I remember once Baby Leopard opened his mouth to sneeze (which I didn't realize) and before he sneezed I got my nipple in there. Oh, and then milk goes everywhere. Baby Leopard is getting it down now, but now he's more distracted, so he takes a sip and then stares out the window for a while. So each stage has a new adventure.

The good parts (because there are good parts to this, too): breastfeeding quiets Baby Leopard every time, anytime. I don't think he's ever once suggested that he isn't interested. It's a great way (albeit a little lazy) to put him back to sleep quickly in the middle of the night. He's fat as can be, which gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I know it's good for him, and one of my aunts tells me it's way easier than feeding them regular old food (she's had many children and she puts off starting solids for as long as possible). And he's ever so cute when he's nursing--he grabs my face all the time, especially my nose. And he pauses nursing to smile when I act silly. And boy he's cute when he knows it's coming: he gets excited like a little puppy who can't wait for his food.

But the rest of this post is just for my record, when nostalgia clouds any record of how hard all this is. I feel like it violates the mom-code of no complaining, but I never signed up for that anywhere, so here's to admitting how hard it is and not in any sense making it look easy. And here's to writing Baby Leopard's name on everything.


Hannah said...

Let's be pioneers on the new-mom-code of complaining! Or at the very least, of telling it how it is and being willing to admit that there are some REALLY hard parts to the whole mom thing. I've been working on a blog post about that very thing for a while now - there have been so many difficulties that I feel like I've been blindsided by.

Emily Hale said...