And for the lactationally challenged…LACTATION WARS!!

So one of the most annoying, and downright aggravating things about the first few weeks of my being a mom  is that I got 9 billion conflicting opinions about how to feed my little one.  Between the 2 pediatricians, 4-5 nurses and the lactation consultant, not to mention well-meaning family and friends – everyone had a different opinion on what I should be doing.  Don’t give a pacifier, it’ll confuse the baby. Nurse, nurse, nurse. Supplement. Don’t supplement, the baby will never go back to the breast. Give a pacifier. Give baby to the nurse for the night and get some sleep. Room-in and do skin-to-skin. Do what’s right for you (as IF I knew what that was given I’ve never done this before, I just wanted the baby to be ok, wanted to do what’s best for her but also wanted to live without constant pain). “It’s a process..” – that might have been my favorite at the time.  Meanwhile I was drugged up and hormonal and couldn’t make a decision to save my life and I really wanted to tell everyone to f*ck off. Between the pain, frustration and problems Maya had gaining weight (she is still only slowly gaining)….I was ready to throw in the towel…but I persisted.

So fast forward 6 weeks… I gave the baby the pacifier so Evan and I could sleep (though now she rarely wants it as she is smart enough to know it is NOT my nipple), and she still goes to the boob. I supplemented, and not only did that help Maya gain back her birth weight while she was learning to nurse, but the baby went back to the breast…now better than ever and she still gets two bottles a day, one of breast milk one of formula (and she hasn’t yet grown horns or done any of the other terrible things all the lactanazis threatened she might do if she ingested the dreaded formula).

I thought I had a breast infection this past week and was having excruciating pain while and especially in between feeds so I called my OB. She checked me out and sent me to the lactation consultant (I’m still convinced I had an infection which was cleared up by antibiotics I was taking for something else but that is another post)…I was reluctant to do this as this was the woman who made me feel like dookie in the hospital for supplementing.  We had a phone consultation and she was helpful which convinced me to go to the breastfeeding support group at the hospital.  The group got me out of the house, helped me with my latch (Maya now usually only takes 1-5 minutes to latch instead of 25) and positioning, and showed me that some ladies are way worse off than me in terms of handling the stress of this “natural” thing we are supposed to be doing and/or their supply.

My real wish is that before anyone gets pregnant or at least delivers their baby and has intended to breastfeed – it is made ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that lactating/breastfeeding is an acquired skill. Even if you take a class – your newborn didn’t and it might not come naturally to her.  She might chomp down as she is afraid the boob will never come back. She might get so excited she is getting yummy food that she will flail her little arms, blocking the nipple from entering her mouth, preventing the exact thing she wants (thus making her scream and her mother cry.) Also, the fake baby you used in class did none of these things, so no matter how well you did there – you could suck at all the “holds” in real life. And no matter how well you did in high school or college, you might suck royally at this. But, miraculously – it does get better (Sonya and Nancy you didn’t lie!). And I have made it to the 6 week magic mark and I find myself wanting to breastfeed instead of pump as it is less of a PITA. Still hurts sometimes, but totally tolerable at this point (thank you ibuprofen) and the look in her eyes as she nurses is all worth it.

4 comments

  1. To be blunt right back atcha, you state the obvious when you say “lactating/breastfeeding is an acquired skill.”

    Yes, it is. So are many other things we do naturally as human beings: none of us walked or talked perfectly when we first tried out those perfectly normal, natural biologic activities. Being pregnant was something at which you slowly acquire “skill” over nine months of time. Think, ahem, about how you GOT pregnant. That is certainy a biologic urge that is made better with time, and practice.

    BF is no different.

    What *is* different is that our modern culture, particularly in the USA, is not very supportive of mothers and babies — no matter how they are being fed. As new mothers, we need LOTS of support. Think of how you felt when you started first grade, or moved to your first apartment, or went off to college or started a new job. Scared, excited, looking left-and-right at your peers to make sure you were doing what they were doing, so as not to make a fool of yourself. Asked trusted peopel for advice. Wondering why the advice didn’t all jive.

    BF is no different.

    What your story demonstrates isn’t that BF is something that needs to be “taught” better. Rather, it shows us that motherhood is a process … and mothers need support at every step of the way. No question or fear is too silly when you are home with your newborn. Think about how awkward and goofy you felt, the first several times you changed a diaper, gave a baby bath, put on baby clothes, dealt with that umbilical cord.

    BF is no different.

    Congratulations! You’re a mother! It is a wonderful role, even if you may hate it at this particular minute, and loved it at noon.

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    • @Liz I definitely consider myself a feminist but I think that whole movement screwed us in a way – made us think we can have it all at the same time and therefore many are not fully prepared or willing to endure/sacrifice what motherhood requires (the willingness to take the time to breastfeed without worrying about having to go back to work or how you are going to deal with all the other things going on in our busy lives)….we go to school for how long for our careers, but what do we do to become mothers/parents? Some people read and take classes, but I would say that the majority of people do absolutely nothing and are ill-prepared for what is required. I have always thought that people should have licenses to have kids….but that is a whole other post 😉 Thanks for reading.

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  2. You are so right, Joy! It is an acquired skill. I remember wailing, “He isn’t doing it right!” during feedings with N. I felt so guilty that I was blaming my sweet little baby for anything, but it was just so obvious that he was having just as hard a time learning a new skill as I was. I think every lactation conultation should begin with the statement: “Breastfeeding is never easy in the beginning! Even if you’re doing it ‘right!”

    The honest truth is that I only stuck with breastfeeding because it eventually became so easy (much easier than lugging around and warming bottles) and not for any noble “it’s so much better for the baby/formula is evil” reasons. I’m glad you’re getting there too!

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    • I had many conversations with Maya along these lines “If you would just stop flailing I could feed you!!!” in not the nicest tone – it didn’t feel very nice to be irritated with my newborn and then that just made me more bitter about the whole situation.
      I keep setting little goals for myself. 2 month is the next one which is only a week and a half away…if by then I am still going I’ll aim a little higher….for me it’s about economics….that Similac stuff is hella expensive! With one income, breastfeeding is the way to go. We still haven’t bought any formula – only going off samples from Dr. Frend’s office!

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