Tuesday, March 1, 2011

lactation lamentations

I'm not too keen on pumping, which is probably why I currently have four ounces (but four precious ounces) stashed away in my deep freezer. Lydia and I have been able to nurse almost exclusively since day one, which means that a) she's juuuuuuuuuuust starting to take a bottle well and b) I make juuuuuuuuuuuust about enough milk for her and a few ounces on the side. I have friends who have bags and bags of the stuff hanging out in their freezers, and, in the words of a favorite cousin, "If they say one more time that they've up to here in breastmilk, I'm throwing them off a cliff."

Pumping sucks. I'm not going to lie, sitting there for the better part of an hour watching tiny little drops form tiny little ounces isn't exactly how I want to spend my time. Lydia watches me pump and I can see the confusion written on her face (by the way, having my baby near me while pumping increases the number of letdowns I have); it's like she doesn't understand that I have to be gone at times and she'll have to eat from the hands of someone else. But I believe with all my heart that it's how Lydia wants me to spend my time, so that she can reap the benefits of my milk even when I'm away from her.

I think it's obvious by now that I believe with a fervent passion in breastfeeding. I will do everything in my power to retain my ability to nurse my daughter for as long as possible. She's rounding the bend on being six months old, and for six months I have breastfed my daughter, supplementing occasionally with some solids here and there. And I hope to continue for another six months. I hope to continue maybe for another year, with pumping after weaning. Maybe by that time I'll be awesome at pumping and we can sell the stuff on the breastmilk black market (by the time I get around to making enough to sell on the side, I'm sure the FDA will have regulated every facet of breastmilk transfer in the United States; no more borrowing from friends, I guess).

It hasn't all been buttercups and roses. The best advice I have received to date with breastfeeding has been "Survive the first two weeks. Just survive. By then you'll be ready to make the call as to whether you'll remain steadfast or quit." And survive barely describes how I was feeling at the end of those two weeks. I felt accomplished that I'd made it that far, but I was also suffering from chapped and cracked nipples, a lack of sleep, dehydration, emotional distress, and, on the side, all the other fun things that came along with delivering a child.

But if I'd formula fed Lydia, thrown in the proverbial towel, I'd still be tired. Probably even more so, from having to get up and get bottles warmed and all that hoohah that goes along with it. I'd have lost out on burning 500 or more calories a day just from feeding my daughter. I'd have lost out on the incredible relationship she and I now share. I'd have lost out on seeing my partner look down at us nursing with an incredible sense of pride on his face (and the many times I've heard Charlie utter the phrase, "Man, sometimes I wish I could nurse her, you guys always look so cozy").

So steadfast I remain. It's my hope, my wistful, passionate hope, that all breastfeeding mothers will at one time in this crazy world receive the true support, time and encouragement they need to continue breastfeeding our sons and daughters. Charlie and I have been blessed by support from people on both sides of the nursing fence, which doesn't happen too often. I've nursed Lydia in front of his friends, and my friends...well, my friends were more about breastfeeding than Charlie's to start :) We're making progress in a world that makes it easy to give up for the wrong reasons.

Now I'm sure you're saying "Is there a wrong reason to give up breastfeeding? If I don't want to do it, I don't want to do it, and it's my choice." I will probably lose a few readers by saying that there are many wrong reasons to give it up, but I will also say that I'm entirely unsurprised that people do because of them:

  • If it hurts, people say to quit and save our bodies and our sanity
  • If we're tired, people say to quit and let Dad get up to feed the baby every once in a while (even though Dad probably works outside the home full time to make it possible for Mom to raise and just be with their child)
  • If our bodies revolt and fail to produce, we're encouraged to give it up rather than exhaust every possible option to keep going
  • If people look down on us for breastfeeding, we give it up to save social face
  • If people get after us for feeding our children in public, we become hermits and feel ashamed

Do you see where I'm going with this? I have true sorrow in my heart because breastfeeding isn't as much a priority for other mamas; the benefits are undeniable and diverse, and yet some moms throw away the chance to do this for their babies because they're unsupported, unencouraged, uneducated, and completely undone by the vast walls that are set up around breastfeeding to begin with.  And other moms are emotionally compromised, struggling, sad and lost in a country that has yet to accept that breast is best, and choose to stop because of the barrage of unsupportive remarks, looks and (usually wrong) information presented to them.

That all said, I'm getting up and I'm going to snuggle in for some bonding time with Lydia. Breakfast for the both of us calls. This is a subject I'll revisit from time to time as I try to figure out to to make breastfeeding more accessible and just plain better for mamas out there.  Love to all.


  1. Hi Katie! I think the blog is great, and I did really like this particular post. You really have a great point and, as I've always said, I am here for if you need support with breast feeding, etc. As a mom who did if for 1 year for each of my girls, I feel like it was the BEST choice I could have made. I never even considered giving it up. And believe me, it was difficult at times. The nurses were really pushy with us, and because Autumn wouldn't latch on right away, they convinced me that a nipple shield would do the trick. It did, but then we struggled to wean her off of that, so she could just take the breast, without the extra hardware. I fought with her for over an hour one day, trying to get her to latch on without it. Stella latched on beautifully at the hospital and then completely gave up. I was mortified and had to pump while someone else fed my baby. I finally called in a lactation specialist and we got the kinks worked out. I am so happy that you have chosen to do this for Lydia. I can't emphasize enough the difference this choice has made for my family. My children are rarely ever sick (knock on wood). We never had a run in with RSV, even though it was running a muck when Autumn was a baby. Anyway, I guess the point of my little mini rant is that you are right, I think, in stating that there is a wrong reason to give up breast feeding. You named a few off, but for me, I think it all boils down to selfishness and personal comfort. I'm sure I'll be crucified for that statement, but I think it's true. Again, great blog! Love ya :)

  2. Beautiful blog and great writing style, Katie! I love this post about breastfeeding. It is NOT easy, but it's the best gift you can give Lydia, yourself and your family on every level--physical, psychological and spiritual. Savor every moment--I know you do. I'll look forward to stopping by again. Hugs...