Thursday, April 18, 2013

breastfeeding on a unicycle...

*Disclaimer: there will be a lot of talking about boobs and breastfeeding in this post. Please continue to Boardwalk and pass "GO" if this post makes you squirm.

I wavered back and forth about writing about this topic. I don't know if you ever noticed but even mentioning breastfeeding can practically elicit a political rally. I've had people as random as cashiers be so brazen as to ask me "you're breastfeeding, right?" 

I know there has been a big wave of pro-breastfeeding education happening over the past few years, and I think that's excellent.  It is a beautiful and amazing gift that God has given women, and I will admit the first time I pumped a bottle of milk I stared at the bottle in wonder at God's design. The fact that milk my body created sustained this teeny little human being was unbelievable. 

You may have even heard it called "natural." When I first brought our little dumpling home from the hospital I would have disagreed with the word natural. I would like to suggest instead, "art form", "science experiment",  or "luck" as words to interject in the beginning stages, instead of "natural". 

I remember wondering aloud if chimpanzees have to teach their baby monkeys how to latch. Can you just see a little baby chimpanzee in the football hold to ensure the entire areola is in the baby chimps mouth? Or a mama hippo un-latching and re-latching a baby hippo to ensure the hippos lips pucker out like a duck and don't pinch like a lizard's jaw clamping down?

 The good news is, most everyone figures it out. Chimps, hippos and baby humans too.  But, if you don't, you're still an excellent mother. 

I can empathize with those women's frustrations who aren't able to breastfeed.  We were about 1.5 weeks in to learning latching and lactation at home when it all suddenly just clicked. Maybe because I finally relaxed. One more week of frustration and pinchy pain and I would have thrown in the towel, too. 

I breastfed almost exclusively for 4.5 month, until I had to go away for work for a week. Lucy was growing like a weed, it was great bonding time, milk was always warmed (in my boobs) and  at the ready,  I loved it. I finally understood why women love breastfeeding. 

And then I returned home from my trip to Vegas for work. And someone had been spoiled on bottle-feeding 24/7. Bottles were quicker. And my milk let down took 2 minutes or so, and by that time, I had to stand on one leg, hop around, jiggle, shhhh and rock to convince our little dumpling to eat. Please, please, for both of our sakes, eat. 

My milk supply dropped because I wasn't able to pump like I should on my trip, and I got a very painful clogged duct when I got home. So, from 4.5 months to 6 months I began taking supplements like Fenugreek and Mother's More Milk Plus to try and ramp up the milk supply. (For the record I did get about 1-2 oz more each pumping session.) But I just couldn't keep up. I continued to nurse Lucy with the rock, jiggle, dance routine (all but riding on a unicycle around her nursery), and would then give her a bottle to drink to fill her belly up the rest of the way. Which is when we both would relax. And I would cry.

Finally, God worked some sense into me, that I was breastfeeding her because it was the best thing for her and myself, and I realized it no longer was (the best thing). She loves bottles. She likes formula. She still loves me in a special way that no one can replace. Why was I fighting it?

So as sad as it is for me to admit, our breastfeeding journey is over. I am in the process of weaning. I've cut out one nursing/pumping session every 3-4 days and use cabbage leaves when engorged. I'm down to one feeding a day. And its sad, and also slightly freeing to not have to put on my circus hat every time she needs to eat. Both me and Lucy are more relaxed. Her belly is full, and she is happy. 

As a mother I have learned that sometimes, we have the best intentions. We want what's best for our child. And sometimes we get real stubborn for 2.5 months when our babies are trying to tell us something. To relax. 

I saw this picture in a book I bought recently that is a lighthearted look at breastfeeding, If these Boobs Could Talk, a little humor to pump up the Breastfeeding mom. And I couldn't agree more...

Life Cycle of Breastfeeding

If you've been fortunate enough to have a beautiful breastfeeding relationship, I am happy for you! If you've been fortunate enough to realize that feeding your baby formula is great, and your relationship with your child is more important than stressing over breastfeeding/pumping, I am happy for you too.

The best advice I could give is that your child is unique. Your child will tell you what is best for them.

Spend your time loving on your child. That's what matters most to them, anyways.