Thursday, April 26, 2012

On Breastfeeding

Three days after Clare was born, we decided to take her to Romano’s, the Italian restaurant in Evansville. Ben’s parents were in town to meet their first grandchild, and I wanted to get out of the house. I was sure it would be no problem – she’d just sit in her car seat. We got to the restaurant and put in our order. Then, the crying began. I took Clare out to the car and sat with her in the backseat. I tried to nurse her. It didn’t work.  She stared up at me, crying in what – frustration, hunger, anger, tiredness? I had no idea, but pretty soon I was sobbing too. There we were, in the backseat of the car staring at each other, both crying our eyes out.  I felt so overwhelmed – trying to nurse and deal with my raging hormones.  I couldn’t believe how strongly I loved this crying little stranger in my lap, who I couldn’t seem to please.

That night, Clare hardly slept. We thought maybe it was gas. Ben held her on her stomach. On her side. On her back. Nothing helped. The next day, my in-laws were back at my house. I spent most of the day hiding in our bedroom, trying to feed Clare, who was still antsy, upset, tired. Finally, I called the hospital and talked to a nurse. Try taking a hot shower, she said. It will help letdown your milk. This was her only advice. A few hours later, we realized Clare hadn’t peed in 24 hours. We called the pediatrician on call, who instructed us to bring Clare back to the hospital.

They weighed her when we got there – she was down to 7 pounds, 12 ounces. (She had been nearly 9 pounds when we left the hospital.) They asked me to try nursing her, so they could see what was happening. Clare was not latching on properly – she can’t tell your nipple is in her mouth, they said. They gave me a latch assist, showed me the football hold, and put Clare in my lap. The girl practically dive-bombed me when she smelled/saw that milk. I can still picture her eyes going wide, lunging for me. (“Mama’s got the good stuff,” said the nurse.) After that, she slept peacefully. We went to Target for more latch-assists, even though the nurse promised we wouldn’t need them after a day or two. She was right.

I was so relieved. It took 24 hours, but we figured out the problem and the solution. I was also annoyed, because I tried so hard to prepare for nursing AND the nurse at the hospital told me I was doing it correctly before we left. Obviously, I wasn’t.

Before Clare was born, I read everything I could on breastfeeding. I was told it wasn’t as intuitive as you might think – which turned out to be oh so true. That first weekend was proof of that. You can read all you want, but you won’t really get it until you do it. 

The whole topic nursing vs. formula is so fraught with judgment.  Some of the books I read basically said you should be put in jail if you don’t breastfeed (La Leche League, I am looking at you.) How ridiculous. Everyone needs to do what is right for them.  I also finally realized it is okay to ignore the books: as long as Clare was growing and alert, it didn’t matter that she only nursed from one breast per feeding, despite what the books say.

For us, despite the rocky start, nursing has worked wonderfully. (Except when Clare first got teeth. The less said about that the better.) It is free, convenient, and comforting for both of us.

Now, though, Clare is almost one – and I am getting ready to wean her. I am back to reading everything I can on the topic, and worrying about the right time to do it. And how to do it. And that she might not ever want to do it. Or that she will give it up too quickly, and won’t want to cuddle with me anymore.  But oh, the luxury of being able to have a glass of wine whenever I want. I am looking forward to that. And to having my body to myself for at least a few months.  Just like with learning how to nurse, I feel overwhelmed. I wish I knew what  I was doing.

Just like with learning how to nurse, though, I will wean her. One way or another. It will all work out.


  1. Oh Em, you're right. It will all work out. I won't give any advice since I weaned Mason at 10 weeks, but I can tell you that I was worried he wouldn't cuddle anymore once we were done with bottles/feedings -- but it's not true! He still lets me rock him for a bit every night. She'll still be cuddly. She'll still always want mama before anyone else. Promise.

  2. I so agree with you!! Everyone is opinionated about breastfeeding - and really, why do we care so much? Shouldn't we just worry about our own little family and stop judging about epidural vs. no epidural, breastfeeding vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. CIO in the crib, and working moms vs. SAH moms? There are pros and cons to everything in life. (Well, almost everything.)
    With Adam I could not WAIT to be done nursing. I weaned him at 7 months & felt like dancing in the streets when I had my body back.
    I nursed Ben until he was one and actually felt kind of sad to be done (although I didn't miss pumping at work!)
    Both times I kind of gradually replaced feedings with other food, and didn't have any issues - but I have heard it's safe to take Benadryl (it will help dry up your milk production).