When I was little, my mom was a lactation consultant, so I saw a lot of breast feeding. Boobs to the left, boobs to the right, and you're the only kid in town....wait, those aren't the lyrics to that Jimmy Buffet song....but anywho. Bottom line, I didn't know what else you did with a baby. I was the only kid in my house, so I didn't have little brothers and sisters to watch, but I did see more breast feeding than the average kid. I also had a tendency to walk around Walmart with my baby doll plastered to my bare chest because again, that's all I'd ever seen a baby do. Babies also take bottles? Wha?
I knew from the beginning that breast feeding was something I was going to do or die. In fact, that's what inspired my hell-bent, worry-your-face-off obsession with trying to have a natural birth. Besides feeling unholy amounts of pain and shaking and the psychological despair of being told you're only three centimeters, the other thing on my mind when I asked for the epidural was breast feeding. When you start doing research about how to have a good breast feeding relationship, one of the first things you see is natural birth. If you get an epidural, your baby will be sleepy from medication at best. At worst, you'll have a c-section and then you'll never ever make milk and you'll start supplementing with formula and then the world will explode into 36 million tiny pieces. Okay, maybe I made that last part up. But that's what I felt would happen.
When they told me my baby was here, it was 2 in the morning and I was dog tired and just about delirious from being so exhausted, but I remember thinking I had to get that baby up on my chest. And I did, and with a little help because a) I had no idea what I was doing and b) I was so tired I felt like I was made of cooked spaghetti noodles - we had our first little nursing session.
Honestly, I had it pretty easy during those first few days. We had an appropriate number of wet and dirty diapers, I seemed to be making something, and Ira would nurse for about 10 or 15 minutes at a time, usually. I was so grateful to have it easy those first few days, because I know that doesn't happen for a lot of people. The word "formula" was never mentioned to me, but I know at some hospitals, your nurse is pushing you to give your baby formula so you can sleep, or at worst, telling you that you "have" to give your baby formula because you're basically starving him because he isn't getting enough to eat. I can't imagine hearing that, and I'm so glad I didn't have to.
When we got home, things were still easy by pretty much anybody's standards. Sure, I was a little sore, because nobody's used to having a little piranha attached to you for hours a day. But for the most part, we were golden. He was gaining weight, he seemed pretty happy, we were good to go. But then when he was two weeks old, I went to bed feeling like I just couldn't get warm and feeling pretty achey. I decided to take my temperature when I woke up feeling that way in the middle of the night. Of course, I had a fever, and it turned out that I had endometritis.
Y'all, that ain't no game show. It hurts to lay the baby on your belly, your fever is so high it makes you feel like you have the diphtheria or something, and the last thing you want to do is sit up and nurse your baby. Fast forward to 24 hours later, and I had a rock-hard, bright red and painful lump on my left side. Helloooooo mastitis. Insult, meet injury. I don't know why though, it never occurred to me that I couldn't feed my baby. Maybe it's some sort of evolutionary drive or something, but I felt like the world would end if somebody bought formula for him. Honestly even giving him a pumped bottle at that age was out of the question because I was afraid pumping wouldn't be enough stimulation for my supply, or that he'd get the dreaded nipple confusion. So we pushed on and we both survived that bump in the road.
And now, I can't imagine not nursing. First, let me say that breast feeding is the lazy mama's dream. Baby crying in the middle of the night? Haul him into bed, lay down while feeding him, go back to sleep. If I had to get up and heat up formula, I'd be totally awake and I'd never go back to sleep. Then, you have to wash bottles. You know what I hate? Washing bottles. What a pain in the butt. If that has to be part of your daily life, I am sorry, friend, because that is terrible slave work. And then, there's my favorite benefit. Need to get away from somebody? Pretend to be shy and go nurse. Sometimes, you just need a break from 10,000 visitors or family dinner or whatever else. "Sorry guys, baby's hungry." Another benefit is that I can't forget my boobs. I have forgotten everything else. A pacifier, a blanket, another outfit, diapers, wipes, a sun hat, socks, you name it. But at least I won't have a hungry baby who is loudly expressing his opinions!
For that last part to work, you sort of have to be ok with nursing out in the world. Because again, that whole pumping and bottle washing? That's for people who are much less lazy than me.
The best way to do it? Wear your baby. My ring sling that Mom made works best. Drop him down a little further, and bam, happy baby.
I'll have to talk about baby wearing more soon. But that's my favorite part of baby wearing!
And also, just snuggling with a baby and having him look up at you and grin, or stroke you with his little fingers while he eats, or snuggle next to you at night is just amazing. There's nothing I'd trade for that. Sometimes when we nurse I just try to memorize every second because I know he won't be a baby long.
I just hate that so few people get to experience exclusively breast feeding their baby. I hate that so many women are told that they don't make enough, that their body is broken, that they're starving their baby. The solution is always to give your baby something else or something more, and that just perpetuates the issue - because if your baby is getting milk elsewhere, that's all the less milk you'll make for him. I also hate that so many negative things are said about nursing.
"He'll sleep more if you give him formula." He'd sleep more if I gave him Jack Daniels too, but you don't see me busting out the liquor.
"You'll stop all that once he gets a few teeth!" Um, they basically stick their tongues out over their teeth (or where their teeth would be) to nurse. They don't chew on you like corn on the cob. Or if they do, you're doing something wrong.
"You should just give him bottles sometimes so you can sleep more/go out/do other things." But then I have to make bottles. And then I have to pack bottles. Wash bottles. Go out and buy more things with which to feed my kid, none of which are as good what I already have. That's also free. Plus, who said I want to go out and do other things? I like having my little monkey come along. I think he's pretty cute.
"Nobody else ever gets to feed the baby!" And nobody else got to carry the baby before he was born, nobody else got to birth the baby...it's sort of part of doing the whole "mom" thing. You're not really designed to have somebody else feed the baby.
So if you're struggling with breast feeding, keep your chin up. There are hard parts, but I promise it's so worth it. I wouldn't trade it for anything, and it might just be my favorite part of baby wrangling.