Hmmm, this entry might need some kind of disclaimer as well. Don’t read further if you are not comfortable with discussions of breastfeeding.
We are exclusively breastfeeding Grace. I think we kind of had to, or else Rob would lose his pediatrician street cred. And even if we weren’t the kind of people who try to do what the AAP tells us to, there sure is an overwhelming amount of evidence that it is good for babies. One does tend to hear the mantra “breast is best” in general life, but it is pretty amazing when you look a little deeper into it that this choice can reduce the risk for everything from SIDS to diabetes to allergies to ear infections. Being able to have something as necessary as feeding also become an opportunity for such intense bonding and comfort and all is also a lovely idea. Both my sister and I were exclusively breastfed (in fact, my hard-core mother didn’t ever give us a bottle, EVER) so I was comfortable with the idea and don’t view it as weird or abnormal. Robert and I were very committed to breastfeeding before Grace arrived. In our childbirth class, the instructor asked who was planning on giving breastfeeding a try and pretty much everyone raised their hands. She then asked who was going to breastfeed come hell or high water, and although the number of raised hands greatly diminished, Rob’s and mine were still there.
Our experience with breastfeeding has made me so glad that we took classes, read books, and decided we were committed to this ahead of time because it turns out that it is hard! These first weeks have been pretty challenging in the breastfeeding department. As we approach the one-month mark of Grace’s life, I am finally starting to feel like we know what we’re doing and it isn’t so difficult.
Grace nursed just minutes after being born; it was amazing to see her quiet and alert and ready to start her life like that. After that initial feeding, however, we got off to a bit of a slow start. Grace was very sleepy in the hospital and did not really get the hang of breastfeeding in our couple of days there. She dropped from 7 lbs even at birth to 6 lbs 9 oz when we left two days later, which is a little bit high for the post-birth weight loss. By the time we got home, I was feeling slightly panicky and desperate for her to start eating. She did, of course, as my milk increased in volume and changed to transitional milk and she started to be more awake. Those were such a challenging couple of days, though, as she learned how to latch on and actually eat. She would get so frustrated by her intense desire to gain sustenance from a certain part of my anatomy usually modestly ensconced in clothing, and her inability to gain said sustenance. There was much screaming and angry-baby face and whatnot. It really felt pretty awful at the time; emotionally, it felt like Grace was profoundly hungry and I did not have what she needed, that I could not meet her needs. And what arrived in the mail that day? A “welcome kit” or some such thing from Enfamil or Similac or whoever filled with samples and pictures of fat smiling babies. Evil, evil formula companies...
Those first days home from the hospital did pass, though, and Grace and I learned a lot of what we needed. However, I had gotten into the habit of tolerating uncomfortable latches when I was in the stage of being desperate for her to have any success at all, and I started to have a lot of pain around Day 4 or 5. I tried to correct the latch myself and spent a lot of time perusing the books I have and the materials from our class, but it didn’t seem to be getting better. On Day 7, I was in tears in the shower from the pain; afterwards, I marched in to where Rob was holding Grace and said that I needed help. A few days later we found ourselves at the office of the local lactation consultant. Ironically, I was actually starting to feel better by the time we saw the lactation consultant (the therapeutic power of making an appointment with a healthcare provider) but the appointment was still so helpful. I highly recommend getting help if you are having trouble with breastfeeding; having someone help me in person was so much better than trying to do it on my own with books.
My little bit of breastfeeding drama does make me realize that I am a 21st-century, upper-middle-class crybaby. I mean, human babies have been fed this way for millennia without a shelf full of books or people with IBCLC after their names. I am so glad that we have worked through our issues, though. This week I am practically pain-free, as my latch issues have been dealt with and I’ve had time to heal. I had one of my first beautiful breastfeeding moments last week. On the first day of March, we had a significant snowfall and I sat nursing this quiet, happy, stunningly beautiful baby (who amazingly enough is mine), watching big fluffy flakes fall outside our windows. I felt so calm and happy and so profoundly grateful to be one-half of such a unique and amazing relationship. Hooray for boobs!