A Personal Adventure Into Parenthood

The Selfish Breast-feeder: What’s in It for Me? November 11, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 10:14 am
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Note: This post does contain pictures of a nursing baby. If this offends you then I’d recommend putting on some Netflix and carrying on!

Brace yourself! This isn’t another one of those blogs that goes on and on about how breastfeeding is the be all, end all of raising your new son or daughter. If you choose to nurse, awesome! If you choose to formula feed, right on! And if you choose to pump you straight up deserve a gold medal. We all have breastfeeding shoved in our faces on a pretty consistent basis as mothers and honestly I’m getting sick of it. It drives me crazy to hear uneducated harpies (#sorrynotsorry) pipe up in conversations, both IRL and online, with made up statistics and unhelpful admonishments. You know the ones that start ​with ‘Well only about 27% of women ACTUALLY have trouble producing enough’ and ‘Dark beer with help you up your supply!’? Yeah those… A note to those ladies: Quit selling your half-baked advice to fragile new mothers who think they’ve started off as a failure if they don’t take to nursing like a fish to water. You’re not helping anyone and really just seem to enjoy the sound of your own voice…

Perspective shot during a nursing session. You get the same angle bottle feeding btw...just in case you were worried!

Perspective shot during a nursing session. You get the same angle bottle feeding by the way…in case you were worried!

For V I pumped…and pumped…and pumped… so when I had A I knew there was no way in hell I could do that again. I set my goal to pump and try to transition to breast within three months or that kid was going to be getting his nutrients through whatever formula I could buy in bulk. As second time mom I felt empowered to make my own decision that would allow me to maintain a happy, healthy baby AND mother. So long as you have a full and sassy kid on your hands, however you choose to get there you’re doing the right thing.

He sure does...and formula...and really any type of food he can get in his mouth.

He sure does…and formula…and really any type of food he can get in his mouth. He’s not picky so long as he’s full.

Anyways as it turns out A was a champ. Switched to nursing like it was nothing and we settled into a great routine. I never had any mastitis, engorgement, blocked ducts, cracked nipples, etc. Honestly, and hate me if you want, it’s been awesome. But not because I’m providing that ‘Liquid Gold’ to my son. There are a host of other benefits that I’m revelling in, even at one year in. He’s still had a bottle of formula or two a week up until a year ’cause honestly Mom needs a break sometimes but let me fill you in. I’m a selfish breast-feeder. I do it more for my benefit honestly than his…and there are tons of upsides here. Check this out:

A) Cost

It’s free!! I didn’t have to pay to feed my kid for 6 months. I never even bought a nursing bra (giant waste of money…sports bras are a zillion times more comfortable and come in convenient 3 packs at Walmart). I did buy a cover and that was a mistake. Infants may be okay with cloth dangling on their face while they eat but try doing that with a 7-8 month old and see how fast it gets tossed on the floor.

B) Laziness

I hate cleaning bottles with the passion of a thousand suns. Seriously. Have you ever tried to clean out a bottle with gooey, caked, congealed formula at the bottom. The smell alone could clear the room. Also you need to buy bottles, a sanitizer, dishwasher rack, bottle scrubber, drying rack and be prepared to give up half your counter space to the various feeding gadgets. A’s feeding source came attached directly to me so…win!

C) Laziness Pt. 2

I didn’t have to get up to prep bottles at 3am. I literally grabbed the baby, lifted up my shirt and went back to sleep. Feeding my infant went from a 30 min production in the middle of the night to a drowsy, 15 min snuggle. Have you ever stumbled downstairs at midnight, in the dark and tried to measure the correct water to formula ratio while half-awake? It blows.

D) Space Saver

When I packed the diaper bag for V I always had to make sure I had pumped milk, knew how long it would be out of the fridge, etc. It was stressful and took up too much space. Plus when bottles spilled all over the inside of the bag, wiping out diapers and clean outfits, it was enough to pull my hair out. This time, when I left the house all I had to do was make sure I had a change of clothes, wipes and enough diapers to get back home again. No fuss, no mess, no stress! My food supply was kind of obligated to come along with us.

I refuse to live in a world where I'm the only source of nutrition for my kid! Although a bottle of water is less gross to clean than milk...especially if you forget!

I refuse to live in a world where I’m the only source of nutrition for my kid! Although a bottle of water is less gross to clean than milk…especially if you forget!

Now there are definitely some downsides to nursing as well. I can tell you more people have seen my rack in the last year than have in my entire 30 years before that. It bothered me to start but honestly at this point it doesn’t even phase me. I’m not someone to push my nursing on anyone else though. If I’m not at home I’ll usually leave the room or set myself away from the group after asking the host if they’re okay with me breastfeeding. I don’t think the fact that I’m lucky enough to nurse my child means that I have to become a warrior for a cause. Breastfeeding is like religion, it’s a personal choice and doesn’t need to be rammed down anyone’s throat.

Milk drunk. Infants make this face with a full belly, formula or breast milk.

Milk drunk. Infants make this face with a full belly, formula or breast milk.

I’ve also seen the differing reactions from family, friends and strangers now that I’ve reached the year mark. Those who tipped their hat to me about what a great service I was doing my child at 4 months suddenly ask, ‘Oh, you’re STILL nursing?’ I should be clear here that I’m not still nursing because I believe in extended breastfeeding (and it’s totally cool if you do). I’m actually actively trying to wean but A still enjoys the comfort and snuggle in the morning and before bed, so it is what it is. I’m going to take the fact that we’ve gone from 5-6 times a day to 1-2 as a victory here and find comfort in the knowledge that we’ll stop before a) he can actively remember it and b) before he can verbally ask for it or start pulling down my shirt in public. No free peepshows courtesy of my toddler thanks!

Gotta make sure Mom doesn't go anywhere...

Gotta make sure Mom doesn’t go anywhere…

In the interest of full disclosure, I did also have my days where I struggled with breastfeeding. Not because it was uncomfortable or hurt in any way. It was because I felt trapped. I’d literally be ‘touched-out’ by the end of the day and just want 30 mins of complete solitude where no-one was crawling all over me. I was A’s main source of nutrition so I couldn’t leave him for extended periods of time, go on a long weekend with my husband or even drink more than a glass or two of wine at a party or celebration. Also I’m not sure if I just have a slow metabolism or love food too much, but it’s also done absolutely zip for my post-pregnancy weight loss strategy. Those moms who say that they lost 50 lbs purely based on their boobs are full of crap.

Funny part of a breastfed kid? They'll literally try to nurse off of anything. Exhibit: A trying to nurse off the wall.

Funny part of a breastfed kid? They’ll literally try to nurse off of anything. Exhibit: A trying to nurse off the wall.

Another load of baloney that mothers are fed is that your bond with your child isn’t as strong if you don’t breastfeed. Hooey. I never nursed V and I love both my boys just as fiercely. How your child eats isn’t the basis for love and anyone who tries to sell you that load of garbage is obviously dealing with some serious issues of their own. Smile, nod, and walk away slowly.

Breastfeeding is a huge commitment. Not as big as pumping honestly, having done both, but still a pretty big deal. I was very proud that I’d managed to stick it out for a full year and I decided to celebrate reaching my goal by having some nursing pictures taken. We never did newborn pictures with A, like we did with V, and I wanted to do something special and unique to celebrate getting through the first year happy and healthy. I’m lucky that we know a very talented photographer who had no qualms about capturing what ended up being a very sweet moment between mother and child. The pictures honestly brought tears to my eyes, not because I’m breastfeeding, but because you can see such a strong bond in the pictures, something that’s hard to find words for. I’ll treasure them forever.

Courtesy of Grace Barnhart Photography.  Adore this.

Courtesy of Grace Barnhart Photography.
Adore this.

So in the end, breastfeeding is awesome and not for all those reasons the crazy mothers will drill into you. There’s definitely an upside for you in there but if it’s not what you want, then do what keeps you and your child happy and healthy! Just in case no-one has told you lately, you’re doing a great job, enjoy a virtual high five from me!


The ‘B’ Words: Breastfeeding and Bonding August 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 7:58 pm
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I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before but as soon as we’d found out we were pregnant, one thing that A and I both agreed on was that we wanted to at least attempt to breastfeed; give it the ‘old college try’ if you will. Not only did we feel that it was the healthiest start we could give our baby, but it was also significantly cheaper than formula. Formula feeding also opened the doors for confusion over the insane amounts of brands and choices, potential food allergies, lactose intolerance, stomach upset, etc, and we figured the less variables we introduced the better we’d feel as first-time parents.

Now this being said I was aware that breastfeeding isn’t necessarily an option available to all mommies and I’d never take anything away from any mother that did what they had to to feed their baby. Sometimes milk just doesn’t come in, or at least not in adequate amounts to feed tiny, angry, growing bodies and other times there are physical difficulties with a good latch, lactation support, colic or a host of other small things that stand in the way. Breastfeeding should be a positive experience and if it’s causing nervous breakdowns or panic attacks, a trip to the Walmart formula aisle might be just the ticket to restored sanity!

I’ve already posted about my personal relationship with my pump and the good luck I had with my production, but figured I’d dedicate some time to reliving our first attempts at natural nursing, although we ended up, unfortunately, abandoning the concept later on in favour of getting V home with us as soon as possible.

Once we reached the NPCU (aka the feeding and growing room), one of the things I started to bug our nurses about was breastfeeding V naturally as opposed to syringing it through his nifty little gastro tube. Since they had introduced a bottle that same week it seemed to reason that he would also be awake enough to try and nurse. We set up a meeting with our LC for the first attempt so I could be taught how to properly hold, adjust and latch the baby onto my ‘lovely lady lumps’ (am I showing my age by quoting ‘old school’ Black Eyed Peas?). The nurse set up a privacy screen, handed me a nursing pillow, and told me to strip down my top half while she weighed V.

The NICU is absolutely fanatical about weighing the babies before and after any breastfeeding attempts. Since the amount of milk swallowed can’t be tracked like a syringe or a bottle the baby is weighed before and after each feed with each gram gained equal to one mL of milk swallowed. V was up to 35 mL every three hours so we were hoping for a 35 gram gain!

Starting the breastfeeding session prep: Baby stripdown!

I eventually had to learn the art of weighing a newborn since we did attempt nursing every visit after the first experience. This is hands-down the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do as a parent! Imagine holding a 3lb baby covered in monitors and tubes, stark naked, squirming and screaming, all while trying to reset a scale, lay down a cloth so you don’t freeze their tiny buns off and then cap it all off with this crazy flip to rest them on their tummies which the nurses seem to be able to do in their sleep for the most accurate measure you can get. The first time I tried to weigh V I literally stared at him, then the scale, then him again and then asked for help. For some reason my brain could not send the message to my hands on how exactly to get my face up, in my arms baby to end up face down on the scale without dropping him, or his head falling off, or some other scenario my hormone filled and sleep deprived brain was flashing through my consciousness. I eventually got the hang of it, but was never something I was truly comfortable with and gladly pawned the chore off on Daddy when he arrived for his evening visits.

Anyways, back to the first attempt. After I was sitting half naked , mostly shielded by the screen, in the middle of a room full of other parents (have I mentioned having a newborn rids you of any modest, inhibitions or shame?) the nurse handed me my diaper-clad baby and helped me get the hand of the nursing hold. For anyone who has never nursed, or attempted it, it is this slightly awkward one handed grip when you hold your infant across your chest and use the other hand to mash their face into your cleavage. Due to my post-baby voluptuousness this whole concept made me very nervous as I was sure he was not going to be able to breathe! The LC assured me that infants will tip their nose to make sure they are able to get enough oxygen and then went to help me get V to latch properly.

Well much our surprise V didn’t need any help at all, he just hooked right on and went to town. I about hit the ceiling since the sensation is like nothing you can describe. Weird definitely covers it, but natural at the same time. The LC would only give me 20 minutes to get all I could into him and then we had to call it quits since breastfeeding is very energy intensive for little babies. V actually stayed latched the whole time until we had to pry his tiny self right off! The nurse went to weigh him and I had high hopes, he stayed on the whole time right? Well, yes…but he’d apparently been using me as a soother since he only went up 4 mL. Ugh… This was followed by a lesson in observation so that I was better able to determine if he was actually swallowing or just sucking…tricky on a tiny infant and in V’s case swallowing was actually a rare occurrence.

Step 2: Untangle cords and head for the scale – no pics of that since there was no way I was juggling a camera on top of that whole hot mess of a production!

The next few attempts we tried all sorts of tricks to get him to take more than he was getting. This first attempt had been post-pump, so the next time we tried before I pumped. Well V almost drowned! He just wasn’t able to deal with  the letdown, breathe and swallow at the same time so he started to choke. From then on we went back to the post-pump timeframe and tried to see where we got. Unfortunately due to his size V wasn’t capable of putting out great suction and my letdown just wasn’t quick enough for him. We spent a solid 3 weeks with him using nursing as self-soothing and bonding time, but not for any actual nutrition. Frustrating to say the least.

He would also fall asleep while nursing and because we were on a strict time limit we had a whole bag of trick to try and wake him up. I guess cuddling skin to skin with his mommy was nice and cozy! We tried keeping him uncovered so that he’d stay a bit cooler, and theoretically awake, but that didn’t work. We tried tapping his cheeks and the bottom of his feet, re-latching him, switching sides and even putting him down on the couch/chair/bassinet to wake himself up…no dice! This kid sure was one deep sleeper.

Step 3: I apologize for the terrible picture but please feel free to focus on the adorable, completely asleep baby in my arms. This is heading into a private room to try and wake the kiddo up and get some milk into him!

The one plus to nursing was definitely the bonding time I got alone with V and the immense pride I felt as a mother and woman that I was fortunate enough to be able to ( or at least attempting to) provide nutrition for my son. We got to snuggle, the two of us, skin to skin and just enjoy the time we had together. I can definitely understand why a lot of modern mamas try to keep up nursing as long as possible, although don’t get me started on that crazy Time magazing cover…

In the end, V’s inability to take a full feeding from the breast (the most we ever got to was 20mL over the 8 months we attempted – you can’t say we didn’t try!) most of our experience with breastfeeding was frustrating. We were hoping to take him home completely breastfeeding but the nurses wouldn’t let you piggyback a nurse, then bottle then tube if all else failed. V had to get his meals either with breast/tube or bottle/tube, not a combination of the three since it was both exhausting and confusing for him. Double Ugh! Being that our whole criteria for getting V home was that he had to eat tube-free for 48 hours we definitely had some hard decisions to make….

On a random sidenote at the end of this post: Sometimes I wonder what V will think of this blog when he’s old enough to understand. I may keep it for blackmail purposes when he’s trying to be ‘cool’ in front of his little 13-year old buddies…