MaternalMusing

A Personal Adventure Into Parenthood

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

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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 Milk Mafia and Other Tales from a Monday in the NICU February 17, 2012

After that busy and stressful weekend, Andrew, Vaughan and I settled into a somewhat regular routine of visits and appointments. I would head to the hospital after my noon pump session and walk to St. Jo’s to perch on my stool next to Vaughan’s isolette.

A note to be made here was that I always tried to pump at home as much as humanly possible, not because I was shy or weird about pumping in public (childbirth will definitely cure you of any illusions of feminine modesty you may have), but at this time I thought there was only one pump room, with one pump, for a NICU full of Mommies squeezing out that liquid gold. Anyone who’s pumped or nursed before knows that if you miss your time it becomes quiet painful, almost to the point of tears and you’d step over your own mother for 10 minutes alone with that ugly green machine. The sign-up sheet for the single room was almost always full and it used to stress me out. I’d spend the 45 mins around my pump time watching the door like a hawk, and when it was empty,  darting in before my opportunity was lost and it felt like I had a 25 pound weight crushing my chest. Considering my pump times were 2 hours apart this added up to a lot of stressful hours watching an ugly laminated door as opposed to my beautiful son.

Now why all of the anxiety towards making sure I made my times you ask, besides the threat of engorgement? Well that 1st Monday in the NICU I received a visit from Michelle, the resident LC (also know as a lactation consultant, or milk goddess). She approached me as I sat by Vaughan’s bed and asked to see my equipment and my log book. She checked over my various bottles, lids, labels, cords and attachments before flipping through my orange notebook. The room got very quiet as she looked over my times and amounts and followed up with ‘Is this it???’. I must have looked like a 6 year old getting scolded for sneaking cookies before dinner and I decided silence was my best weapon…wrong! She began peppering me with questions: How often are you pumping? How much are you getting? What are your daily totals? Any signs of infections? Etc etc etc. It was probably the most personal version of 20 questions I’ve ever played but her heart was in the right place.  I answered that I felt fine, no infections and I was pumping about 400 mL a day and pumping every 3 hrs or so and every 4 overnight. You could practically see the steam coming out of Michelle’s ears. She pulled out her pamphlets and very sternly told me that I needed to pump every 2 hours, absolutely no exceptions, even over night for the next 14 days. This time period is essential for setting up a solid milk supply that will last your child for the whole time you’ll be breastfeeding or pumping. She then told me that I should be recording my amounts down to the mL, bringing in frozen or refrigerated milk daily and make follow up appointments with her on a weekly basis. There was no way to say no to this lady, so I frantically agreed to anything she said. It felt like I’d just become a huge disappointment to her, my husband and my son and I was desperate to make it up. Therefore for the next 2 weeks I became attached at the hip to that Ameda Elite. Opening night of Andrew’s play? We went home between the show and cast party so I could have some private time with my plastic tubing! I didn’t want to hear that stern voice again when she checked in the following week.

Bless her heart though, Michelle was right…I went from a halfhearted 400 mL/day to a 1.7L/day dairy cow and eventually both the NICU and my home freezer ran out of room to store all of that nutrient rich milk. Three cheers for me and my pump!!  I definitely recommend following that schedule for anyone thinking of pumping or even nursing. It’s a huge time commitment especially when you’re dealing with hormone changes, mood swings, new baby excitement/anxiety but it was totally worth it. My supply never went down until the day I decided to start weaning.

Another exciting moment from that first Monday was when the resident NICU doctor decided to try their hand at removing V’s umbilical line. They thankfully asked me to step to the side because it was not a pretty sight. Like an open sore, the umbilical cord dries up over time and for most kids falls right off. Well V’s was stuck to his lines and getting it unstuck and the lines removed wasn’t pleasant for him, the doctors, nurses or Mommy. It became a team effort as two residents, the regular doctor, and three nurses all threw their hats in the ring. There was blood,  towels and gauze all over the place, and if I hadn’t known what they were doing I would have thought something serious was going down in that isolette rather than a ‘simple’ line removal. V screamed his tiny head off (he sounded kind of like a kitten, so cute/pathetic at the same time) and flailed his arms but at the end of a very long half an hour he was finally minus some of the colourful attachments that had been getting tangled around his little legs. One more step in the right direction! Each little bit of progress he made lifted our spirits. We were a little less anxious as we went home for the night, and a little more hopeful that one day, hopefully soon, we’d be a complete family of three, at home, where we all belonged.

Daddy came to visit after work and before rehearsal and we finally got to give our little man his Pooh Bear layette. What a hit!! V must have been excited to finally have a permanent snuggle buddy because he nestled right in. Over the next 6 weeks the layette was sometimes used as a rolled support, a blanket or, just for comfort. Even at 17 months it is his favourite toy. We actually have 7 rotating Pooh Bears, just in case one bites the dust, but more on V and his buddy later. For the moment we were just glad that he had something with him that was ‘his’ and for comfort when we couldn’t be with him.

You can't see him very well, but the yellow blanket on top of our little guy is actually part of his Pooh Bear layette!

Obviously it is emotionally crippling to see your child alone in their isolette and have to leave them there, but to top it off, the NICU is also incredibly impersonal. It’s all white walls and beeping equipment, not your typical newborn nursery covered in animals or flowers. The only thing Vaughan wore at the beginning was a diaper and he was always wrapped in hospital receiving blankets, sucked hospital soothers and bathed with hospital washcloths. All of those cute things we had at home were sitting in his empty room just waiting to be used…and all of those clothes would be waiting for a very long time. Newborn sizes go from 5-8 lbs and at under 3 lbs even preemie clothing was a suffocation risk, so our little man went naked. We could have brought in our own clothing and blankets (and we did later on) but the NICU is a crazy busy place and sometimes your personal clothing, even when clearly labelled, has a tendency to become part of the public clothing pile, never to be seen again. We weren’t ready to take a chance on something we might later regret losing, so at that time we stuck with the ugly blue and pink blankets.

Having done our parental duty in spoiling our umbilical line-free little guy with his first toy we headed home for the night and I ended my day the same way it began, spending quality time with my pump!