Wednesday, 11 April 2012

“Breast Is Best”

Nursing: I don’t know if there is a more loaded word in the first few months of
a baby’s life. I really had no idea how much time I would spend talking about,
thinking about, and worrying about the liquid being held in my two little (then big,
then little, now saggy) boobs.

Just the word “nursing” exhausts me, but I owe it to myself to document this ride
while some of it is still fresh in my mind (well, as fresh as anything really is in my
mind anymore).

My prenatal beliefs: nursing is the ONLY option; it is the healthiest (true), the
cheapest (way true!), and the easiest (dead wrong) way to go about feeding
your biological baby. While pregnant I attended breastfeeding workshops where
I held a doll up to my breast (how ridiculous!) and read books about mammary
glands and colostrum and engorgement. (Note: having an engorged breast and/
or blocked duct with a young baby truly is nature laughing in your face. Seriously,
how much more uncomfortable can you be? Remind the men in your life of this
double whammy the next time they have the sniffles.)

All the way along your pregnancy everyone (doctors, doulas, friends, co-workers,
random people at the beach…) asks you, “Will you nurse?“ and you don’t even
THINK about saying anything but “Oh, yes. Of course.” Then W came out, and
almost the first thing the hospital did was suggest formula. W was a little sick
at birth, and as a result we were apart for a few hours and missed that initial,
blissful skin-to-skin moment that every pregnant woman is told will be her reward
for hours (days?) of pushing and writhing. He was also completely jaundiced
and too tired to eat; I had hemorrhaged and was too tired to force the issue…so
formula it was. Then I pumped, I pumped, and pumped and pumped some more.
The hospital lent me the most beautiful electric double milking machine. It was
like the Royal Winter Fair right there in July! So W took the milk, but still no latch.

My little family was in the hospital for four days, and as tight as we were, we still
never latched. I felt terrible, like my baby would starve unless I pumped out two
(yes, TWO) ounces of milk and then finger fed it to him by a thin tube taped to
my finger. (Yes, we did that for a while.) The lactation consultant was out sick for
most of my hospital stay, and while the nurses tried, it was an uphill, awkward
battle. My dear husband offered tips and tried to repeat what we had learned
from the “Breast Is Best” poster (circa 1994) in the ICU, but it wasn’t working.

After countless visits to lactation consultants and clinics, we must have turned
a corner. I remember a lot of crying and spraying milk and heated exchanges
with my spouse, but I don’t think I remember the actual moment when the
latch worked. It likely happened gradually, like most things in life. One day we
couldn’t…then one day we could. I don’t mean to oversimplify, and if you are
reading this because you landed here by Googling “breastfeeding advice,” then
I am sorry. This is probably not what you want to be reading. However, I can say
that at 16 months we are STILL dragging out the final few drops of milk from my
tired, tired chest…so something worked. Maybe too well!

But if you are reading this and feel like you just can’t hold a Velociraptor up to
your swollen naked body one more time, just try one more time (and then four
more times after that) because you will get it…probably. (Helpful, eh?)

There are lots of benefits to nursing, this you know. There are also hardships
and pain and judgment. (“You are STILL nursing? How old is he now?” Shut up,
random mall lady. He is a baby. Albeit, a baby who can climb on a food court
table and jump to the floor holding a slice of pizza, but still a BABY!)

Is nursing worth it? Yes. If my next baby puts up this much of a fight, will I do it
again? I don’t fucking know, but due to enormous mom-guilt, yes. Yes, okay, yes.

-Tightrope Mama


  1. This still moves me every time I read it.
    -Drama Mama

  2. This is amazing. Love it! My boobs are dead, but i'm still nursing. Depending on my mood, it's like the best thing ever *quietly weeping and sooo thankful for this sweet, magical, precious time* (gagging that i said that),OR i'm ready to chop my boobs off, bury them in the backyard and give baby an iced coffee in a sippy cup.