On Nursing


Hi. So this post is a bit, um, revealing.  I want to be open about the topic of nursing because well, it's totally natural. But it can be a taboo issue. I know, in this day and age? Yup, a woman's bosom still makes some people squeamish. Unfortunately, I think the association will always be sexual; "breasts" are "boobs" and boobs are lusty. Despite that, I'm willing to write about my experience breastfeeding (with a certain amount of modesty, of course). I mean, I hardly know you. bat, bat, bat. *blush*  So please go easy on me as I bear my, er, soul and please avoid the temptation to direct conversation to my breasts next time we have a casual run-in. 
When I was pregnant, breastfeeding was not something I really thought about. More weighty on my mind were the day-to-day changes going on with my body and, of course, the actual childbirth. I knew that I wanted to nurse and for as long as possible, but that was about it. For me, it was an afterthought that didn't require attention until my baby had already arrived. One step at a time. Get through delivery, then worry about how you're going to care for him. "Mother's instinct" should get you pretty far on your own, I reasoned.  Kinda backwards, I know. We did cover newborn care in our birth classes, so I had a bit of that knowledge. And I did have resources in the way of my older sisters, who had all nursed their children. So with the combination of those two, I figured I had the elemental information needed to make my way through the rest.

I knew that there were loads of advantages to breastfeeding, that went beyond basic nutrition. I also learned that in addition to providing baby with the essential vitamins and nutrients required for early development, a mother's milk also can also protect her baby from a long list of illnesses. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop allergies or become obese. Nursing also lowers the baby's risk of SIDS and reduces the chances of a woman developing postpartum depression, as well as some types of cancer. As if those benefits weren't enough, it is also cheaper than buying formula and way easier than preparing bottles(as long as you're with baby). Plus, I'm an organic kind of gal and it's all natural so, you know. What I hadn't considered were the logistics. I had the what and why but was missing the how, when, and where (listed in order of complication).

HOW: Things were tenuous at first. It was a case of the blind leading the blind with 'little a' and I. You know that party game where one player has their hands tied behind their back while the other player is blindfolded and has to spoon feed the restrained one? That was us in the beginning: him, voraciously rooting and me clumsily attempting at a latch. We made a meager connection though and, much to my peace of mind, it was validated by soiled diapers. But then, at his first pediatric check-up, 'little a' had lost nearly 12% of his initial birth weight. Clunk. My heart fell to the bottom of my stomach. Clearly, I wasn't doing something quite right. It wasn't for lack of milk that he lost the weight though - I was engorged from an oversupply (which, by the way, ranks right up under the actual birth in terms of pain). Our challenge was in the delivery and consumption of the goods. I was like one of those Hula Girl Dashboard Dolls with a coconut bra, only I couldn't enjoy the connotation of that analogy because my little, weak-jawed baby didn't have the strength to crack the hard shell containing the sweet, sweet life-sustaining milk. I'm not going to put it all on him though. It was, after all, my cups that runneth over. I just had NO idea how to handle the spillage. We needed some help. Enter my multi-talented pediatrician/lactation consultant. (A twofer!) She was attentive and encouraging - all essential traits in the kind of people you want to surround yourself with if you plan on nursing. I was ready to abandon my convictions about exclusively breastfeeding because let's face it, when it comes down to your child's safety or health, all goes out the window. But thanks to her and the rest of my support-group, I didn't have to make that compromise. Turns out the solution was simple: the boy needed a straw. Let's just say that the puzzle pieces weren't fitting quite right, anatomically speaking. So we left her office armed with a breast pump and a nipple shield and, long story short, 'little a' was not only back to his birth weight in five quick days, but well beyond it by his follow-up visit. 

The next challenge was ensuring 'little a' was getting the nourishment he needed. Since breasts don't come with ounce measurements tattooed on the side, I had no idea how much he was consuming. As long as he was healthy and gaining weight at his checkups, I knew he was getting enough. But what about between doctor's visits? It's hard to quantify how much he's getting when it goes straight from the source into his mouth. I had to rely on other indicators. I already mentioned how output is a good, tangible measurement. If your trashcan is overflowing with little stinky packages, then baby is probably getting the food he needs. Mood is another reliable indicator - a happy baby is usually a satiated baby. A baby's animations are another thing to pay attention to. If he's still hungry, 'little a' will cover my chest with drool while his open mouth desperately searches for more food. If he's had enough, I'm covered in milk that has dribbled out the side of his mouth or he's spit up. Either way it's a sticky mess. When energy levels begin to run low, 'little a' will also give warning signs like dinosaur noises. Ignore them and he resorts to crying out his demands. That's what's amazing about babies; they're actually GREAT communicators. We adults just need to learn to speak their language and pick up on their cues, which can be subtle at times. Fathers should be at an advantage because women expect men to read our minds all the time - you guys should be used to it. 
WHEN: Again I have to give credit to my pediatrician here. She suggested an aggressive feeding schedule during the day and one that was more strung out at night. That way, 'little a' would learn to differentiate between night and day. When it's light, we're up and eating; when it's dark we're tired and sleeping. But that mean nursing every two hours during the waking hours, which gave me all of forty-five minutes detached from the little sucker (a term I now endearingly use, but which may have been said with the slightest hint of sarcasm at the time). On the flip side, I'm pretty sure 'little a' was more than annoyed by my constant disruption of his napping. But it was a very logical schedule and an effective one too because he was sleeping 4.5 hour stretches at night as a two-week old. Baby thinks; Good God, Woman. Can't a baby get some sleep around here? I'm DONE with your milk. Get off my grill.  And so, at the end of the day, baby is happy to finally be left alone to sleep. Now that 'little a' is more sturdy, we're at 3.5 hours between daytime feedings and a full seven hours at night. What's more amazing is that his and my bodies have synced up too. In other words, supply meets demand. I can tell the time of day merely by groping myself. Squeeze, squeeze. Yup, it's 7 o'clock. The boy must be getting hungry. As he continues to grow, he's become more efficient too, so what used to take us 45-60 minutes, is now accomplished in twenty. 

WHERE: I defer to 
Hollie McNish who says it more poetically and poignantly that I ever could. Her delivery was so well done, it gave me goosebumps. Watch it. 

The stages of milk induced coma

There is SO much more I could write about with regards to breastfeeding, which would probably make for an obscenely robust post so instead, I highly recommend Start Here: Breastfeeding and Infant Care with Humor and Common Sense, which was written by my pediatrician. (I know, I thought the same thing: Geeze, she's published too?) I read it cover-to-cover during a couple of nighttime nursing sessions and now I unabashedly endorse it. There are so many commonsensical pearls of wisdom in there, that it's sure to address any situation.



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