thefourthvine: A picture of my kid pointing.  (Earthling points)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2011-07-17 08:26 pm

[Earthling] Breastfeeding at Three Years. No, Really.

(Now unlocked!)

  • You have to breastfeed.
  • You have to breastfeed until the baby is six months.
  • You have to breastfeed until he's seven months.
  • You have to breastfeed until he's one.
  • You have to breastfeed until he's two.
  • You should breastfeed until he's four.
  • You should wean at nine months.
  • You should wean at one year.
  • You have to wean by eighteen months.
  • Every baby should be weaned by two.
  • The baby will wean himself when he's ready.
  • Extended breastfeeding leads to secure attachment.
  • Extended breastfeeding leads to over-attachment.
  • Extended breastfeeding leads to improved behavior.
  • Extended breastfeeding causes behavior problems.
  • Extended breastfeeding makes your baby smarter.
  • Extended breastfeeding causes developmental delay.
  • You shouldn't breastfeed a baby with feeding problems, even if he can.
  • You're causing feeding problems by breastfeeding.
  • A baby with feeding problems needs to be breastfed more than the average baby.
All of these things were said to me at some point in the last four years by at least one healthcare professional. (I'm not even including all the crap I've heard from people who don't have relevant degrees, mostly because it would fill a book. Although I tell you what: it would be a funny book.) I've learned to largely ignore healthcare professionals when it comes to breastfeeding, yes, for obvious reasons, but also because of the one thing I've learned from being a mother and from talking to other parents, which is:

You have to feed the baby you have.

That is the only real rule about feeding that I know. You have to feed your baby. Not the fantasy baby you had in your head before yours was born. Not an ideal baby. Not the one the books talk about. Not your best friend's baby. Your personal, actual baby. Some women want to breastfeed and can't. Some women could, but their babies have no interest in it. Some babies are too sick to breastfeed. Some babies (mine included!) won't take a bottle under any circumstances. Some babies can't tolerate any formula you can afford. Some babies are absolutely done with breastfeeding at eight months, or at a year, and some are still very into it long after they are toddlers. Some babies self-wean. Some babies have to be pried off the boob. There is no hard and fast feeding rule. The only thing that is true for all babies is that they all have to be fed.

And no matter how you feed your baby, you will hear a lot of stupid crap about child-rearing and baby feeding from people who should know better. (If you find a way to circumvent that one - earplugs? duct tape? mayhem? - let me know, please.)

That said, here are a few things I've learned during my three years of breastfeeding that I didn't know going in.

Pumping Sucks

Recently, I went to a new eye doctor. He asked me how long it had been since my last eye exam, and I backdated via earthling: "Before I got pregnant, so, um, about four years?"

This led to - well, to a gentle reminder that it is really really important for someone with my family history of bizarre eye maladies to get an eye exam regularly, but also to a discussion of his six-month-old daughter. He showed me a picture, talked about her, and talked about his wife. It didn't take long before we worked around to a question that is on a lot of parents' minds when their kids are that age, although it's unusual for a father to ask it. "Did you breastfeed?" he asked, dropping his voice slightly like he was asking about something very personal, instead of something much of southern California has seen me do by this time.

"I'm still breastfeeding," I said, with the little laugh that became obligatory as the earthling closed in on three.

His reaction was not exactly the typical one. His jaw dropped, and he said, tripping over his words in his haste and shock, "Still? But - it's so hard. I can't imagine - how, how do you do it? My wife, it's so hard for her. She gets up at five to pump, and then she feeds the baby, and then she goes to work, and she's a teacher so she can only pump at lunch, and that's her lunch, and then after work she pumps and grades and feeds and pumps and she goes to bed so, so late. I get the baby at night because she's so tired she can't get up. And she cries a lot. She's so tired. It's so hard. How do you do it? What does your wife do that makes you able to do this?" He clearly thought we had a magic secret that I could share. (And, yes, he said wife. This is, I guess, what it means to own a small business - you listen very carefully to the nouns and pronouns your clients use, and reflect them back exactly as offered.)

I tell you what, I was sick with sympathy for his poor wife. And I did have a magic secret, but I knew it wouldn't help either one of them. "I don't work," I said. "I don't pump. It will get easier when your daughter is mostly eating solids, but - the real thing is, I didn't have to work, and so I didn't have to pump, and after a while I didn't anymore. Pumping is hard. Pumping is really, really hard."

And it is. I know this from when I had to do it after almost every feeding, when the earthling was very small and needed extra breastmilk that he didn't have to work for. I mean, it seems like it should be easy. You just plug your boobs into the pump, do your email or read a book or whatever for twenty minutes, and voila! Milk, and you can be apart from your baby and still be sure she's getting fed. All the ads make it clear that the pump is freedom.

It turns out, though, that actually the pump is a pain in the ass. (And in the boob, sometimes.) I mean, it never was freeing for me, because my kid wouldn't take a bottle. But even for people whose babies do deign to consume milk not directly from the boob, pumping is grueling. It's weep-inducing. Most of the women I know who do it, or did it, hated it. If you're pumping at home, it's time you aren't with your baby. If you're pumping at work, I'm guessing it's just a painful reminder that your baby isn't with you. And this particular type of freedom means having to remember an extra bag (a large extra bag) and all the little parts and then find a place to store your milk and carry it all home and wash it all. Oh, and you have to find time to pump, and a place to pump. And you have to do again and again and again. On a schedule. (You can also forget about having free hands to read or use the computer if you have large breasts. I tried every single method known to womankind to get my hands free while pumping. No dice.) This is not freedom as I define it. It is actually much more freeing to just take the baby with you wherever you go. (And as one who did exactly that for two years: that is not actually freeing.)

Pumping is also unrewarding. The more you pump, the less you get (unless you are also feeding the baby), because pumps just aren't as good as babies at getting the milk out. And with all the effort you put into pumping, wasting milk is excruciating. And there are other delightful wrinkles, too. (It can take forever for your milk to let down while you're pumping. Some people don't get milk when they pump. And you're never more aware of how much a baby eats when every single ounce has to be laboriously removed from your body.)

I mean, yes, I know women who preferred to pump. (Two of them. Both had chronic biters.) I know many women who were and are grateful to the pump. (I am one of them. It let me give the earthling what he needed.) I know women who needed their pumps. (Every mother who has ever had a baby in the NICU, for starters.) But the thing is - breastfeeding starts out hard, but it gets a lot easier as time goes on. Pumping starts out easy, or at least easier than breastfeeding, and gets harder and harder, emotionally speaking, as time goes on. (And it makes breastfeeding harder and less rewarding a lot of the time, too.) By a year, most of the mothers I know were counting down the minutes until they could stop pumping. If they'd even made it that far; lots of them gave up a lot earlier. And I did not blame them.

Because pumping sucks.

Most Mothers Have Some Feeding Guilt

As the still-breastfeeding mother of a three-year-old, I have somehow become, totally against my will, the repository of all breastfeeding confessions. I try to avoid mentioning that I'm still breastfeeding when I'm chatting with other mothers, because they make two assumptions:
  1. I am mommier than they are, because, hey, still breastfeeding.
  2. I am judging them for their feeding choices.
Neither one is remotely true. Breastfeeding is easier than not breastfeeding for me right now, so I do it. It is not a sacrifice. It does not put me way up on the pedestal of Perfect Mothers (I, uh, really do not belong there), nor does it garner me thousands of extra points good for one get-out-of-public-tantrum-free card. This is just what I do. Most people do something else. But I am who I am, and the earthling is who he is, so this is what is working for us. When it stops working for one of us, we'll do something else.

And so of course I am not judging those other mothers. I know they were and are doing what is right for their families. I mean, yes, I am sure there are mothers who don't want to feed their kids well - in fact, I know there are, and it makes me so, so sad - but I mostly don't seem to be meeting them. The mothers I talk to try to do what's right for their families.

But they all feel guilty. A tiny sample of the many things I've heard about feeding:

"I wanted to breastfeed so much, and I tried so hard, but she just wouldn't latch, and after seven months, I couldn't pump anymore."

"He was in the NICU for two weeks, and he just never entirely got the hang of it, so we tried, but - you know, it didn't work. I cried a lot."

"I had to go back on my meds. I didn't want to, that wasn't the plan, but after three months I couldn't get out of bed, and I just had to do something."

"I wanted to go to a year, but at nine months he was biting me all the time and kicking me and he didn't want to and after a while I just didn't want to force it anymore. I guess I should have tried harder, huh?"

Every single one of those things was said to me in quiet, telling-a-secret tones, accompanied by a pained expression of guilt and repentance intended to communicate, I guess, "Forgive me, Patron Saint of Breastfeeding, for I have sinned."

Dear lady telling me this: you haven't Done Wrong in the feeding department. I can always tell, because while we're having these talks, your healthy toddler is running around, trying to eat sand or climb on something high and unstable. You got that kid to this point. You win! If you wanted to breastfeed and it didn't work out, I'm sad for you, but in the end, the important thing is that you remember your baby's first year with as much joy and as little guilt as possible. This means letting the feeding thing go.

(And, hey, if you're curious, I too had my hideous bout of feeding guilt. When the earthling was five months old, a gastroenterologist told me that if only I had never breastfed, we would be able to do more to treat the earthling's reflux. It was awful. I was hurting my baby, and I couldn't even do anything to fix it, because by then he was president of the bottle-haters society. I cried and cried. And then I remembered that this was his choice, too - even in the hospital, he wouldn't take an artificial nipple for love or money - and that doctors are supposed to treat the patients they have, not the patients they wish they had. We got a new pediatric gastroenterologist, and eventually I stopped feeling guilty about feeding.)

Medical Professionals Really, Really, Really Hate Breastfeeding

I mean, I knew this. I did. But at least in the first year they kind of understood, in a hypothetical way, why I was doing it, even if they desperately wanted me to stop. Now, our conversations go like this:

Medical Professional: And I'm going to prescribe [medicine not suitable for breastfeeding women, and, yes, I do have to know this, because doctors don't].
Me: Um, I'm still breastfeeding, so I can't take that one.
MP, looking shocked: How old is that baby now?
Me: [Some number greater than 12] months.
MP, in tones of horror and wonder: And you're still breastfeeding?
Me: Yup.
MP (out loud): You know, the baby doesn't need the milk after a year. It's not really doing anything for him. [Female medical professionals will sometimes add that it's also a real pain to breastfeed and they could not WAIT to wean their own kids.]
MP (not out loud, but obvious all the same): Why? Why are you doing this to me? Is it personal? Are you doing this JUST TO MAKE ME CRAZY?

No, medical professionals! If I wanted to make your lives difficult, I could manage it without milk of any kind. I would just wait until you were almost out the door and then say, "Oh, wait, I had one other question -." If I did that two or three times in a row for a visit or two, you'd long to go back to the days when I just flagrantly and wrong-headedly breastfed.

These reactions are all deeply ironic, of course, because lactation professionals (although not my lactation consultant, who is notable in that she has never once suggested that she should have any input on anyone else's feeding choices; if you want to breastfeed, she'll make it happen, and if you don't or you're done trying, that's fine and she will not judge) are simultaneously saying that there is no reason at all not to breastfeed forever. I think these people need to start having meetings or maybe some therapy or something, because, wow, they are just not at all on the same page. It's like the Cold War, except the iron curtain is a nursing bra. (For those of us with large breasts, the similarities have already been noted.)

It's Okay to Need Help

What I thought it took to make a breastfed baby while I was pregnant:
  • A baby
  • Breasts
What it actually took to get us breastfeeding:
  • Two lactation consultants (in the hospital)
  • One lactation consultant (out of the hospital)
  • Six visits to the lactation clinic
  • Weekly (at least) weighing visits
  • Weekly (at least) check-ins with the lactation consultant
  • Dozens of SNS feeders
  • One hospital-grade breast pump (rented)
  • One extremely expensive near-hospital-grade breast pump (owned)
  • A nipple dome
  • Tons of hot packs and cold packs
  • Even more unguents of various kinds
Oh, and a baby. And breasts.

It was grueling. I did it, because I really wanted to breastfeed, but those first two months were hard. My lactation consultant said, after breastfeeding was properly established, "Maybe one percent of mothers could or would have done what you did." I was lucky that I had a partner at home and an otherwise easy baby, because if I hadn't, I don't know if I could have done it.

Somewhere in those first bleary first few months, I went to see my doctor for a reason unrelated to boobs, and I mentioned lactation consultants. My doctor laughed and rolled her eyes. "Lactation consultants," she said. "It's just breastfeeding!"

I felt like shit. It was, after all, just breastfeeding. I was clearly a terrible failure of a mother and a person for needing all that help. I judged myself very harshly.

Three years later, I've forgiven myself. Now, I judge the doctor harshly. (For that. She's actually a good doctor.) Sometimes people need help to do things. That doesn't mean they shouldn't do those things; it means they should get the help they need.

Because, seriously, if you think you need to be perfect at everything right out of the gate, parenthood is not for you. Once you have a kid, you will never be perfect again. Child-rearing is all about doing it a little better tomorrow. So, hey, if you need help with breastfeeding, consider it great practice for the rest of your life.

Everyone Lies (About Breastfeeding)

In our birth preparation class, we heard a lot about breastfeeding. And since we also attended the introduction to breastfeeding class, let's just say the last trimester of my pregnancy was extremely full of breastfeeding indoctrination. And it all sounded very much the same:

Breastfeeding is easy! Breastfeeding is cheap! Breastfeeding doesn't hurt unless you're doing something wrong! All babies can breastfeed!

Every single one of those things is bullshit, for the record.

Breastfeeding is easy. It totally is. When the baby is six months old. When you really need it to be easy - when you are exhausted and experiencing the biggest hormonal crash of your life and trying to learn how to be a parent and trying to recalibrate your family - it is very often not easy. About half the mothers I know who tried to breastfeed struggled in some way in the first weeks. Most of them didn't struggle as much as I did, but something went wrong.

Breastfeeding is cheap. Unless you need help. Or special equipment. All that shit costs money. They tell you in class that formula for a year costs two thousand dollars. They don't mention that once you add up the breast pump, the milk bags, the nursing bras, the nursing pajamas, the My Breast Friend, the glider, the lactation consultant, the lactation aids, and the books, breastfeeding can also cost about that much. And, sure, it doesn't have to. Sure, you can do it on the cheap. But some of that stuff you probably will need, and whatever you need you'll mostly be paying for in the first months, all together. And if you really need it, you can get government help to pay for formula. (Probably. In some locations.) Try getting the government to buy you a breast pump.

Breastfeeding doesn't hurt unless you're doing it wrong. Or, you know, unless you're unlucky. It's useful to hear that if it hurts you should call a lactation consultant. You absolutely should. Probably she can help. But sometimes she can't, or she can't right away. Breastfeeding does sometimes hurt. There you go. It's just the truth. (It's also, for the record, true that it does get better.)

All babies can breastfeed. Except for the ones who can't. I do think that most babies can, if you work at it, but even then, with some babies - or with some boobs - the amount of effort you will need to put in may prevent you from doing anything else at all with the baby.

Now, please note - I am in no way against breastfeeding. I put in a ton of effort to breastfeed. And I am very glad I did. I think it did make me closer to the earthling. I think it did, in the long run, make raising him much, much easier. I think it kept me saner and happier for the first year of his life, and him calmer and more cheerful. It was entirely worth it.

I just wish people didn't lie so much about breastfeeding. Women aren't stupid just because they're pregnant; they're capable of making good choices even if you give them all the relevant information. And, actually, all this lying, all this careful whitewashing - it probably leads a lot of women to give up. If it's so easy, you think as you stare at your wailing baby on your first night home from the hospital, in pain and so tired and so, so scared because she just won't latch and you can't remember what you're supposed to do, then why isn't it working? And since no one has told you that it isn't necessarily easy to start with, it makes a lot of sense to assume that something is seriously broken and give up right then.

And, also, if I had not been programmed to believe all that crap, maybe I would have listened a little more to other mothers right from the start. In our birth preparation class, there was a teenage girl whose birth partner was her mother. That mother was the only woman in the class besides the teacher who had actually had a baby, so one night the teacher asked her if she had anything to share, anything she wished she'd known.

"When I had my son two years ago," she said, "I wish I had started him on the bottle earlier. By the time I tried, he wouldn't take one. I had to go back to work when he was six weeks, and he had to go to daycare, and there was no way to feed him there, because he wouldn't ever take a bottle." These days, I am filled with sympathy for that woman. I had a bottle refuser, and it was hard, but at least I didn't have to go to work and think about him hungry, sobbing in daycare for boobs that didn't come.

But back then, all of us stared at her in horror. We had all taken the classes and read the books, and we knew that didn't happen, and we also knew starting the bottle earlier was evil and wrong! She was clearly insane and possibly warped and very likely a secret Nestle board member.

She was none of those things. She was giving us information that she learned the hard way. And there was no reason for all the other sources of information to keep that from us. If I had known that bottle refusal was a real possibility (my informal guess is that this happens with 5% of babies who are exclusively breastfed in the early weeks of life, which is not the same as never), I would still have breastfed. I would still have waited to try the earthling on a bottle. But I wouldn't have been so miserable and frustrated and scared when the earthling didn't take it, wouldn't take it, refused all possible bottles. If I had known, I would have been prepared.

So, yes, everyone lies about breastfeeding. But they shouldn't. It is actually easier and better with complete information. It's time we trusted the people who are raising these children to make the right choices (for them) about feeding.

And that is why I am not a feeding absolutist: I trust other parents. And I know that we can make different decisions and both be right, because we have different kids and different families. And we're different people, all just trying to feed the children we have.
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[personal profile] schemingreader 2011-07-18 04:18 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, we have a lot of overlap in nursing experience, in spite of the fact that my kid did not have feeding issues. I also called a lot of lactation consultants. I also dealt with painful nipples and sometimes clogged ducts. I was lucky not to get any doctors who didn't like breastfeeding, but I did have a midwife who gave me ludicrously stupidly bad breastfeeding advice, but since most of it didn't pass a basic logic test, I just ignored her.

I did work during most of the first year Kid A was alive, and that meant pumping. I learned a lot about pumping at work. It's one of those things I can't believe I did.

We nursed until the kid was three and a half, when he weaned himself. A lot of people told me that I was waiting too long to wean and he would never wean. That was not true. Toddler nursing was cool--he could ask me when he wanted to nurse, in words, and it was like having a secret parenting weapon in my shirt. I don't know why people call it "extended nursing." He's not 47, you know.

I think the shit people give moms for nursing or not nursing is just an intense taste of all the criticism that comes with mothering in general--with mothering, because mothers are women, and blaming mothers for everything is a nice big piece of stinking sexism.

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[personal profile] fanofall 2011-07-18 04:21 am (UTC)(link)
This is AWESOME. It should be required reading for every expectant family.

Also, it makes me feel better, fourteen years later, about my own experiences with my child and breastfeeding.
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[personal profile] st_aurafina 2011-07-18 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
This is an awesome post, and I wish it was something I could share at work because there is so much judging going on all the time about feeding. So much!

I don't have kids, but I see a lot of mothers in the pharmacy. And you can see it - they're working so hard with this new little person, while everyone judges their choices, while they're second-guessing themselves too, and ugh. I try to just have all the tools they'll need to keep their baby eating - formula, breast-feeding equipment, pumps. Unguents. I want to be part of the the support team.

The things I've heard people say! Doctors and nurses and, you know, random people in the street, because in this little town, if you choose not to breastfeed, or if you're still breastfeeding past some arbitrary age, EVERYONE knows about it. That's front page news. Everyone has a right to comment on that. (Also why you're not pregnant, or pregnant again already, or going back to work - bad mother! - or anything that is to do with the way your body functions.)

(And you know, doctors of the world - you can call the pharmacy any time if you're having trouble figuring out options for medication in nursing mothers. That's what we're here for. We have training for that.)

I had one lecturer at college who said "Listen to the mother. The mother knows more about their baby than anyone." Which is, honestly, the best advice I could have been given for infant health care. Because it's true - you know what's best for your baby, whatever your choices are.

(Hit post way before I was ready, so I deleted and reposted!)
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[personal profile] tevere 2011-07-18 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
I just want to thank you for writing these parenting posts (or, more specifically, sharing them with us). I actually have very few friends IRL who've had children, and I don't live in the kind of society where every girl grows up taking care of babies or young siblings. So, you know, when (if) I have my own children, I don't really have any extant friends who can teach me things or share with me their own experiences. But reading your posts (and [personal profile] norah's), at least I have a little of what to expect, and it makes it that tiny bit less terrifying. <3 <3
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[personal profile] juliet 2011-07-18 06:47 am (UTC)(link)
I have a theory that the fact that most women in standard UK culture (and I think standard US as well, and probably a bunch of other Western-type cultures but I wouldn't like to swear blind) simply *don't see* a lot of aspects of labour & newborn childcare before they do it themselves is a big contributing factor to the difficulties around those things. I mean, the vast majority of women won't have seen labour (other than an edited version on TV, and even the reality shows edit it down to 30 min or an hour rather than, um, usually a bit more than that) before they do it themselves, unless they're a midwife or other birth-related medical professional. Nor do the vast majority of women see "life with a newborn" up close and personal, because even if you do visit your friend early on, unless you're very close she's likely to be doing the social thing, not any of the running around frantically bits. And the only breastfeeding that happens in public, by and large, is by women who already have a good handle on what they're doing, because (understandably!) those who are struggling aren't likely to feel comfortable out in public. Plus there's the whole social emphasis on "discretion".

All of which, I think, makes the whole thing much, much harder, because you've got no models in your head to use. I count myself incredibly lucky because I *have* seen at least some of all that stuff up close and personal - I was birth partner for a single mum friend of mine last March, and I stayed for a fortnight afterwards supporting her and the baby, and I have seen a lot of her struggles with breastfeeding, and been to the breastfeeding clinic and seen a lot of *other* women breastfeeding, and & when I'm in that position myself, I have at least some real-life idea of how it's supposed to look, and how much bloody hard work the whole thing is (breastfeeding & newborns & all). Even then, all I've got is one baby's worth of how-it-all-looks. In a society where it was normal to see more of *lots* of newborns and feeding and all that, surely that would make things easier? (Although likely not *easy*, for sure. I do not think that anything about newborns is "easy", really.)

'Breastfeeding is natural'? Sure, but that's not the same as 'instinctive' - it's still a learnt skill, and physical skills are hard to learn from scratch and from pictures and book-descriptions, which is mostly how new mothers seem to be expected to do it.

Um, sorry, yes, pet theory there. Which is partly to say: I too greatly appreciate these posts.

My friend has also struggled a lot with breastfeeding - most notably a tongue tie which still isn't properly fixed, after 3 goes at doing so, also Reynaud's of the nipples, thrush, and blocked ducts a couple of times. She's still going, at 4 months, but it's incredibly hard, and it massively impacts on her ability to do anything else. In her position I think I'd have given up, tbh, and neither of us are sure how much longer she can keep going :/
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[personal profile] foursweatervests 2011-07-18 04:45 am (UTC)(link)
I am probably not going to encounter any sort of situation involving my boobs and feeding someone for quite some time. That said, I am so, so, so glad you wrote this. It makes everything involved in raising a child seem a little more...human than most of the books and literature do. It's certainly easy enough to find bad advice; it's harder to find people who don't judge and are willing to help you find the solution that works for you.

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[personal profile] lilacsigil 2011-07-18 04:46 am (UTC)(link)
doctors are supposed to treat the patients they have, not the patients they wish they had

The day I realised this was one of the most important days of my life. I go to the doctor because I am sick, therefore their job is to deal with my sickness, not lecture me on why it's all my fault and I'm doing it wrong.
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[personal profile] amberfox 2011-07-18 06:00 am (UTC)(link)
My sister is still mad at the doctor who criticized her for coming in and telling him she had bronchitis, because, not being a medical professional, she has no authority to draw that conclusion. As the person who gets bronchitis bad enough to need the Good Drugs at least one to three times a year for the last 25 years, however, she's got a pretty good handle on it. She knows all the symptoms, right down to the funny taste it leaves in her mouth. So her question is, how is it that he can ask her questions about the same things that she uses to know what's wrong, but he's magically better at it?

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[personal profile] stasia 2011-07-18 05:04 am (UTC)(link)
Oh god, breastfeeding. The one thing guaranteed to make every mother completely insane at least once during early childhood.

Merrie ate every single thing put in front of her, my boobs were full, omg so painfully full of milk... but my nipples are inverted so I spent the month before giving birth with little plastic ... things on my boobs, trying to "train" my nipples to stick out. (They still don't, the little twerps!)

Because Merrie had to be in the NICU for her first post-birth week, Kaiser gave me a big, electric pump to bring home. It was great; seriously, it got every last drip of milk out of me. (The fact that it pulled my nipple three inches down the pumping tube, making me afraid my breasts would never be the right shape again is immaterial. They're still boob shaped, thank goodness!)

The thing is, the doctors wouldn't let me feed Merrie for the first fucking three days of her life. It wasn't until I had a (completely pre-planned and scripted) hysterical shrieking overly-public meltdown in the middle of the NICU (I scheduled it for shift-change. I'm not stupid. Just short, and young, and a woman, so, you know, stupid.) that I got any of the help and information I was entitled to. And, of course, they immediately let me feed my own damn child. (Yes, it still makes me angry. Yes, I will have learned from this when I get to be a nurse!)

So, once she came home, I continued pumping and feeding and she was a fast learner. She took bottles, she took boobs, she took ANYTHING one wanted to put in her mouth (she was always a Good Eater.) (Yes, I know this phrase is used in negative ways; I'm being a bit sarcastic, here.)

There's a funny story I like to tell about pumping. I am, um, Very Short (under 5 feet tall. I might have mentioned it before.) Merrie's father is 6'3". He used to drive a 280ZX. The seatbacks in this are very high. I didn't show from the back, when I was in the car. I had, at the time, a manual pump; I used to bring it to work with me.

So, we were driving home from his work one day, I needed to pump. (This "needed to" was more based on the fact that if I didn't empty out my rock-hard breasts, I'd have started crying in pain. Seriously, over-full boobs are NOT fun.) Anyway, I couldn't manage to pump on my own. I needed two hands to hold the pump nozzle against my breast. So, naturally, Jason did the pumping, while I held the pump in place.

Let me make the picture clearer. He's a big dude, driving down the freeway, left hand on the wheel, right hand ... in the passenger seat, rhythmically pumping up and down.

Naturally, a cop pulled up behind us, sat on our tail watching for a second, then he drove around to the driver's side and glared in at us. The horrified expression on his face when he saw, instead of what he expected, me smiling at him over my naked boobs, amuses me to this day.


I ended up not being able to breastfeed Merrie past six months; when I went back to work, my breastmilk stopped. Really, within a week of going back to work, my boobs decided they'd finished their part of the job, thank you very much.

Luckily enough, Merrie was willing to drink from a bottle.

(She also slept through the night at a month and a half, and consistently after that. Yes, in many ways she was a miraculously good child. Her behavior as a teenager is, um, a different story. *sigh*)

Feeding, parenting, loving the child you have is so much the important message, and it's so often not said to parents. It makes me crazy!

peoriapeoriawhereart: line art Ecto-1 (Ecto-1)

[personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart 2011-07-18 05:19 am (UTC)(link)
"So, while mostly what quacks like a duck is a duck or other waterfowl, occasionally there is a lactating woman. Don't mess with her, she's way tougher than you."

I'm sure the rookies quiver at this one.

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perverse_idyll: (people in trees)

[personal profile] perverse_idyll 2011-07-18 05:14 am (UTC)(link)
This is wonderful and fascinating (I'm childless; it's all fascinating to me), not to mention incredibly sensible and generous and good-humored. And it burns me that these attitudes still plague mothers today, because I can remember thirty years ago discussing with my friends the kind of shit they were getting from hospitals, employers, random passers-by, and sometimes their own families (including their mothers). Society's more open about breast-feeding and women's choices than it used to be, but is still incredibly judgmental and full of urban myths about Good Moms.

I have a request, and it may be out of line, so if it's not appropriate please forgive me. My oldest niece just had her first baby two weeks ago, after months of severe pain caused by pelvic separation, following which her doctor for some reason decided to induce slow labor a full week before her due date (which meant four days in hell). They finally had to deliver the baby by C-section. If you have no objection, I'd love to be able to send her a copy of this. If it feels too odd to know your words are being emailed to a stranger, no worries. I suspect she's already getting advice from all directions; I'm just not sure any of it is as useful as I think this would be.

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xenacryst: A grinning fanlet (The fanlet approves!)

[personal profile] xenacryst 2011-07-18 05:15 am (UTC)(link)
This is probably the sanest, truest, and most reasonable thing I have ever read (or heard) about breastfeeding. I'm sitting here reading and nodding and saying, "yes, yes" all along, and I'm not even the one with the breasts. Something like this should be given to every expecting family instead of the stuff we are given about breastfeeding. Here's a lactation consultant, have fun!
jumpuphigh: Thefourthvine's Earthling with text "Two Thumbs Up" (Earthling)

[personal profile] jumpuphigh 2011-07-18 05:19 am (UTC)(link)
Brilliantly written. I hope you do unlock it eventually. I'd like to be able to point people to it.

Thank you
florahart: (Quin curious)

[personal profile] florahart 2011-07-18 05:32 am (UTC)(link)
And everyone judges people who opt against breastfeeding, too. I am in absolute support of parents feeding their babies by whatever approach seems right, but since breastfeeding with my own body squicks the crap out of me AND it was clear to me even if I could stop being revolted I would have to do all this pumping and work and so forth, I just... didn't. That was the right choice for me, because I figured being revolted by and resenting my child was almost certain not to be healthy. But good lord the judgment.

I don't know why we all SUCK at this so much. There are changes in advice all the time, and changes in options, and that's before you get to the variability of babies and mothers and lives. How can it not be obvious to everyone who has ever met any people that there might be more than one (or more than ten) right answers? I get that people believe they're supposed to make sure no one is abusing children or endangering them, but WHY are people so absolute about these kinds of things, but don't report situations where toddlers are being left home alone or whatever? kajfkjlfd social fail.

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cleo: (WtWTA: Max)

[personal profile] cleo 2011-07-18 05:49 am (UTC)(link)
This is an amazing post. Even ten years later, I still feel guilty that I didn't even try to breastfeed my son. I was seventeen, my parents sent me to live with one of my father's sisters, and I was told that because they were keeping the baby and I was going back to school an hour and a half away, there was no point, it would be too hard.

He had reflux and projectile vomiting, so maybe it would have been really hard, but I've still always felt guilty about it. But reading this was very real. I'm not planning on having more children any time soon, but when I do, I think this is something I'll remember. Thank you.
amberfox: picture from the Order of Hermes tradition book for Mage: The Awakening, subgroup House Shaea (Default)

[personal profile] amberfox 2011-07-18 06:23 am (UTC)(link)
On drugs and breastfeeding:

When I had my daughter, 7 years ago, my first psychiatrist was just fine with the idea of breastfeeding. Then I had to change doctors when he left the practice, and the new doctor was horrified. I ended up presenting her with a list of drugs gleaned from my research into breastfeeding-safe medicine and suggesting we start somewhere on there and see what we could do with that. I ended up having to have a list of "absolutely not" drugs as well for issuing vetoes, but we worked something out in the middle. Eventually.
vass: Hothead Paisan says "FEH MUH NIST". (Hothead)

[personal profile] vass 2011-07-18 08:21 am (UTC)(link)
I just made a bet with myself. I said "I bet breast pumps, in Australia, attract a GST." (Medical items are supposed to be exempt from the GST. Medical items are basically defined as anything not principally for women.) Then I googled it. Yes, of course they do.
delurker: (Default)

[personal profile] delurker 2011-07-18 08:46 am (UTC)(link)
Why am I not surprised? (I am still seething that pads and tampons attract GST. But of course they are not a necessary item! I could totally go without using them, provided I don't mind bleeding on everything.)

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delurker: (Default)

[personal profile] delurker 2011-07-18 08:49 am (UTC)(link)
A while back there was a massive breastfeeding vs formula war in the media here, which just strikes me as so unproductive. As a mother, you're screwed either way! Someone is going to hate you! wtf?

But thank-you for posting this. I'm not a mother, or likely to be a mother anytime soon, but I am acutely conscious of how little I know about the subject and how much people don't tell you.
vaznetti: (Default)

[personal profile] vaznetti 2011-07-18 09:10 am (UTC)(link)
This really takes me back. In many ways I think I had an easy breastfeeding experience, but then I remember that I ended up in A&E when my son was 8 weeks old having an abscess drained, and how painful that was, and how scary (not because of the abscess, but because no one would give me any information). And also how guilty I felt when I decided to supplement my own milk with formula.

You should edit that volume! Except that presumably the La Leche people etc. would send an assassin after you.
busaikko: a happy baby in a sling (x baby!)

[personal profile] busaikko 2011-07-18 10:52 am (UTC)(link)
I breastfed both my kids until past age 3, which was possible because Japan generally has 1 year of maternity leave and everyone here is all for breastfeeding (the major department stores, train stations, amusement parks, etc. have baby feeding rooms for nursing, with a formula station and a diaper table). Women get 1 week in hospital for the birth of the first child, and midwives teach about breastfeeding, baby bathing, etc. etc.

My favorite breastfeeding story is a family one told to me by my mother-in-law about an aunt back in the days before all these great social innovations. She was a teacher, and her mother used to bring the baby to the school between classes. The aunt couldn't leave, so she'd go to the fence and feed the baby through the fence until the bell for next class went. @.@ Must have been great when that kid became a teenager: "Don't give me that attitude, young lady, I stuck my boobs through a fence for you!"
melusina: (Mommyness teddy silken_shadows)

[personal profile] melusina 2011-07-18 11:47 am (UTC)(link)
God, all of this is SO true.
the_oscar_cat: (Default)

[personal profile] the_oscar_cat 2011-07-18 11:52 am (UTC)(link)
oh lord.

yes. yes to all of this.

It took 7 weeks to get the!kitten feeding effectively, and only because the breastfeeding clinic at our hospital is run by two godesses of the breastfeeding world. (they coined words we now use and everything! seriously.)

Second time around I was nervous because i'd never established a bfing relationship with a newborn without help, but when it came down to it I was more relaxed, and felt like i knew how things should feel like and just kept trying things until it worked. but then I think (lord - no2 doesn't have an lj name... erm...) kitty (I know - lame!) is a great feeder, and had no underlying feeding problems. phew.

do you know who isn't very helpful? neither my mother (who makes remarks and 'jokes' about bfing after a year (the!kitten is 2 3/4 years old now), despite all the crap she went through bfing my sister in the very early 80's (things like being asked to feed in a cupboard at the health visitor clinic because 'you don't want to make the other mothers uncomfortable.)

my mil thinks that the kids are great but that everything we do is crazy and self absorbed. Like co-sleeping, so that i actually get more sleep. Or saving money. Fun.

(my children have 7 grandparents and not one of them is willing to change a nappy. but that's a whole other thing...)

but then on the other hand i've seen attachment parenting 'authorities' essentially refuse to advise women who want to ween their toddlers because it doesn't work for them anymore. (and if i'm honest, in my first early, rash days of finding attachment parenting, i would have been all 'yeah!' about that, but i bfed through my second pregnancy and beyond, and have had to deal with 'agitation' (LORD NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT THAT!) for a YEAR. and so now i realise that there are two people in this breastfeeding relationship, and I actually get a say.

so we are slowly, and gently weening. and that is the right thing for me and my family, (even if it's not the right thing for anyone else's family.)

wow - that was a bit of an unburdening wasn't it? but really i often feel like a can't talk about this stuff in public, because everyone has a fucking opinion and really, i don't want that opinion.

especially when that opinion has nothing to do with what i want or need. bah.

HOWEVER - i am really glad that i breastfed. for me, it was worth all the heartache of the early weeks. and if/when we have another child i'll breastfeed again. all being well.
delurker: (Default)

[personal profile] delurker 2011-07-19 09:01 am (UTC)(link)
Agitation? I have never heard about this.

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kouredios: Baby finger at camera. (Q)

[personal profile] kouredios 2011-07-18 12:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this. I hope you do write that book one day. Having breastfed two babies with the same boobs, it's amazing how different babies still breastfeed differently.

I also realize, more and more, how lucky the families in my county are that we have a lactation consultant, who works with the hospital (and they work with her!), who is funded enough that her services are free if you've given birth here, and who makes home visits and runs groups where you can visit with other BFing moms, weight your babies, and tell war stories. I've never heard a doctor make some of the statements you list above, and I think it's largely because our LC and her organization has been educating them for almost 20 years now (and she's the kind of LC who totally works with the babies and moms that she has, and not the ones she wishes she had. She's amazing.) I wish everyone had that.
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vaznetti: (Default)

Re: I have never breastfed but I once took a class HEAR MY THOUGHTS

[personal profile] vaznetti 2011-07-18 12:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I do think that the fact that the same people are often trying to make the guidelines for both situations explains a lot of the tone. But in reality, different things are appropriate in different situations, so I think those guidelines have to be taken with a grain of salt.

I have wondered whether this was the case: certainly here (England) one gets a kind of "formula is bad for your baby!" overtone from some of the guidance. Although now I can't think of any examples -- perhaps just a gneral sens that you were putting your infant's health at risk by bottle-feeding or even supplementing. It did seem to me that maybe it was a carry-over from situations where preparing sterile bottles and getting clean water were difficult or even impossible.

sorry, tfv! reposting.

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Re: sorry, tfv! reposting.

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kass: Teyla Emmagen with Torren. (baby)

[personal profile] kass 2011-07-18 12:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh my God. Oh, honey. GOD YES. I wish I had read this post when I had a newborn. I had so much guilt around whether I was doing it right, or doing it enough, or the part where Z never wanted to take a bottle, or the part where I hated pumping and it became so overwhelming, or my anxiety around not having enough milk, or my secret feelings that I was a Bad Mother because my milk supply wasn't always sufficient...

Thank you for this reminder that we need to feed the child we have -- not the fantasy child, not our best friend's child, but this real child right here. The same could be said of all sorts of things (sleep choices, anyone?) -- in the end we have to respond with love and compassion to the kid we've got, and screw the expectations, you know?
kouredios: yellow heart in a striped bowl (Heart)

[personal profile] kouredios 2011-07-18 03:13 pm (UTC)(link)
kateshort: (mother_child)

[personal profile] kateshort 2011-07-18 01:32 pm (UTC)(link)
You are fantastic. But you know that.

I'm a school librarian, which means that I was able to take a little extra time when pumping. We'd check out the kids, and the teacher and my aide wouldn't mind if I left 5-10 mins before the end of the period so I could pump and lunch. I'd nurse Ellie on one side before I left, drive the hour to work, pump both sides, pump at lunch, pump at the end of the day, drive the hour home, pick Ellie up, drive her home, and then nurse her again when we got home. And again before bed.

She started at daycare at 3 months. I didn't pump during the summer, since I kept her home (never again) but started again in August. I pumped until December when she was 14 months old. At that point, she had transitioned to whole milk at daycare, so we just nursed in the morning and before bed. The next August was when I started to go to work and let her sleep in, cutting it down to just bedtime boob.

I was lucky in that I took off 13 weeks. I went to Boob Club every single Monday. [It was officially known as Breastfeeding Education and Sharing Time, but I liked my nickname better.] I was a member of the LiveJournal [community profile] breastfeeding community. Between Boob Club and LJ, I got through some hellacious cracked nipples. If you could make it to six weeks, you were more likely to make it to a longer time nursing your child. As of seven weeks, it'd stopped HURTING, and was just uncomfortable sometimes. Thank God.

We had plenty of time to introduce the bottle. This was another saving grace. I and a friend both finished nursing around 26 months or so. It was great to have the support.

Sorry for the TealDeer. But it's good to have someone who understands, and also to be reminded that not everyone's experiences are the same. Not everyone is lucky enough to arrange time off (paid or unpaid), have support at work, have babe and nipples that are compatible, and all of the other stuff that you talked about.

A final note: this year, breast pumps became eligible for HSA payments. So if you have an HSA, you could use that to buy a pump or to get reimbursed if you bought it this year. Hooray! It's at least something...

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toft: graphic design for the moon europa (Default)

[personal profile] toft 2011-07-18 01:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you so, so much for these posts. I'm storing them all up in my head for the day that I start thinking very seriously in a yes-okay-now kind of way about kids.
thirdbird: (Default)

[personal profile] thirdbird 2011-07-18 01:42 pm (UTC)(link)
So so so true. And, god, pumping does suck, in all senses of the word. (Also, hee! at "mommier than they are.")

My funtimes with breastfeeding and medical professionals took place when my little bottle-refuser was three months old and I had to have gall bladder surgery - all the male doctors I talked to were adamant that I'd have to pump and dump for 48 hours after the procedure and wouldn't be able to take any painkillers but over-the-counter Tylenol. Luckily, a local La Leche League phone consultant and my female anesthesiologist were able to provide me with some actual information that didn't require me to starve the baby OR suffer excruciating pain.

The amount of misinformation and ignorance and judgmental BS surrounding all aspects of breastfeeding really is staggering. Everyone is just frightened of boobs for one reason or another, seems like.

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