Thursday, September 5, 2013

Let Me Ramble About Breastfeeding

I expected breastfeeding to be hard. I was prepared for a low supply. And I was committed to exclusively breastfeeding if at all possible.

We lucked out. Our hospital is Registered as Baby Friendly, this is an accreditation earned by hospitals that comply with factors that increase breastfeeding success: initial skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby, babies and moms room together (they only have a NICU nursery), all nurses have some lactation training, there are on-call lactation consultants, etc. I'm sure these measures went a long way to helping me and my Little Guy form a successful breastfeeding relationship...that and his insatiable hunger. 

As I have disclosed, I had a c-section. But they still brought him to me almost immediately, up to my face while I was still being stitched up. I got to nuzzle against him, marvel at his big, open eyes. He, in turn, tried to suck on my face.

They brought him to me while I was in the recovery room before he was bathed. The nurse laid him on my belly and he performed a perfect, and speedy, breast crawl. I watched his little head bob up and down as he centered himself before latching tightly to me. It was amazing.

Later, in our room, R brought him to me between diaper change after diaper change to suck greedily. We experienced his angry cry the very first night when, after 4 straight hours of nursing every 20 minutes, I tried to prevent him from going to the breast, trying instead to jiggle him to sleep. Like I said, first angry cry.

During the first several weeks, he cluster fed in stretches as long as 7 hours. He was only a week old when I ventured to a breastfeeding support group with the ends of my nipples completely raw. His latch was pretty good, though some minor adjustments in my hold helped us both. By day 11, I could nurse without pain (mostly, and most of the time, let's not get all uppity).

One of the things the lactation consultant there suggested was to allow him to lay on me and latch himself. He excels at this. He actually prefers to do it himself, and will often lunge for a nipple while giving an impatient grunt.

In truth, my road to breastfeeding has been a relatively easy one. Rather than low supply, I have been "gifted" with over supply and a torrential let down. Initially, he would often choke, sputter, pull off (or worse, bite down and rear back as his need to breath competed with his desire to suckle). Most memorable is the guilt-inducing memory of milk actually erupting from his nose. Again, the breastfeeding support group helped me, and I was shown ways to modify my hold to avoid drowning him.

I leak a lot, so breast pads are my constant, and hated, companion. If he gets distracted and pops off, milk sprays across the room. If I haven't fed him recently enough, I'll start dripping when I get out of the shower - and I'm not talking about water. I caught half an ounce in a bottle one time after I got out of the shower. Being partially engorged is my baseline.*

*Speaking of engorgement: the sight of my swollen breasts when my milk came in was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced! Also, I can attest to the effectiveness of cabbage leaves in reducing the OMG-levels of swelling. 

Part of the reason for my abundance is his feeding pattern: every hour, except for the long stretches of sleep he has at night (already as long as 7 1/2 hours!!) or the occasional 2 hour nap during the day.

However, as the bags and bottles of milk stack up in the freezer, ready to accompany him to school (or allow mommy to have the occasional alcoholic beverage), I'm grateful that my body is so efficient. He's at the Childcare Center today. In one pumping session, I got over 10 ounces.

The only thing I really hate about breastfeeding is that there are times I can't just hold my baby. My closeness makes him hungry. Whereas his daddy can cuddle him during those times, if I try to just hold him he works himself into a tiny fury. The flip side, of course, is that mommy has the ability to make everything better; it's like keeping magic in your bra. Well, different magic than what you had in there before.

P.S. I thought of one other thing I hate about breastfeeding: people actually referring to me as a cow. The most egregious breech of etiquette came from a lady at the Farmer's Market who, upon asking how much weight he'd gained since birth, smiled and said, "You are such a good cow!" I still delight in fantasies that involve slapping her.

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