Positive Breastfeeding Experiences

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Okay, Lil G is almost 9 weeks old, and I’ve got to say, I’ve been eating my words. While I don’t LOVE breastfeeding, I am growing, again, to appreciate the little noises he makes as he suckles happily. The way his little arm flails around as he tries desperately to get as much milk as he can as quickly as he can. And the little sleepy smile he gives when he is finally satisfied.

I’ve got to say that I’ve never had any particularly negative public breastfeeding experiences, but on Monday I had a sweetly positive one while quietly drinking coffee at a French bakery near Potamus’ daycare. There were these two older couples there, the first old man was cooing over Lil G, and I could tell it was genuine in his affection. Lil G was hungry, so I began feeding him under my nursing cover (something I do sometimes, but not all the time), when the second man came up with their order of pastries. We were all chatting and then he asked, “are you breastfeeding?” “Yes,” I said, smiling, and he gave me a big thumbs up as he bit into his croissant.

It was one of those happy little moments of acknowledgment that makes me happy in a world full of negative breastfeeding stories.

I Hate Breastfeeding: 2nd Baby Confession

12496528_10100828356823473_3734553706941214189_oWhen Potamus was born, I struggled for the first 7 weeks to get breastfeeding down. I had overactive letdown, oversupply, and there’s a picture that will never make it to the internet where my areola was bigger than his face. It was a struggle, including one 8 hour sleeping stint leaving him too weak to nurse, even with the nipple shield, where I was sobbing and spoon feeding milk into his mouth while Boof was on the phone with La Leche league. Rough.

And then, when I went back to work, he reverse cycled. And until he self-weaned the night before he turned two, I nursed him all.night.long. It was rough. But I enjoyed it, for the most part. It was what made me a MOM, and I fully recognize that all of my obsession with bonding and attachment were due to my own adoption trauma and while I sometimes resented that I was the only one who could feed him, I was also glad that I was the only one who could feed him. I was mom. Nobody else could take that role.

Now, with Lil G, I’m struggling. It feels very reminiscent of the pregnancy, where, with Potamus it was all glowy and mama goddess, and then with #2 I hated it. Having had mastitis, which left me feeling like shit and ramped up my anxiety to almost agoraphobic levels, paired with nipple trauma, a clipped tongue and lip tie, disorganized suck, on top of parenting a 4 year old who is struggling with the loss of his Universe/Mama to the demands of his new brother, I am thisclose to throwing in the towel on breastfeeding. I had already resigned myself to weaning or partially weaning around 6 months when I go back to work, because I loathe pumping, but part of me feels like the women who allow themselves the option of pain meds during labor and then request them 5 minutes in.

Because, you see, breastfeeding the first go round was for me. I was recently talking to my sister-in-law, who’s exclusively pumping for my niece after a rough start breastfeeding, about how I think that is the hardest route to go. And that if I had to pump I would just use formula, because for me breastfeeding was about the ease and the bonding, not about the nutrition. I nursed for me, not for my baby. Maybe that’s selfish to admit, but it’s true. I needed to feel the bond. I needed to be needed in that way. I needed to nurse to make me a mother the first go round.

But now I am a mother. Now, when Lil Go was born, and I stared into his sweet face, I felt the deep love that I knew nothing could replace. I AM his mom. Nothing will make me anything less than his mom. Nothing will take away my deep love for him. And so I stare at the two free cans of formula on the top of my fridge and think…what if…what if?

It’s only been 4.5 weeks with this little guy, and a struggle, so I don’t want to make a decision out of difficulty. I know I will give it more time, but I also want to enjoy my baby, enjoy time with Potamus, and not dread every feeding. I don’t want to plug my ears when he starts his 5th fussing of the night, pretending for just 5 more minutes that he doesn’t need my barely healing nipples. And the thought of someone else in the future being able to feed him, while I’m a bridesmaid in a wedding, or out at a yoga class, feels so refreshing that I want to skip around in the sunshine. Does that make me a terrible person?

Perhaps in 5 months, when I’m truly weaning (currently my goal is to give formula at daycare, and nurse on off hours), I’ll feel nostalgic and sad that I didn’t extend breastfeeding like with Potamus. Or maybe I’ll feel relief. Can I do something completely different with Baby #2 and still be a rockin’ awesome mom? I think so. I love all the moments with this baby…except when he’s attached to my boob…

The Dead Cat in the Freezer

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It’s during the deep freeze of winter, and your favorite cat dies. They lived a good long life, and it came to an end, peacefully, naturally, and you want to honor their life. But the ground is frozen solid. And so, with a pioneer wagon train spirit, you bundle the sweetly sleeping-looking kitty, and bundle it up in a bag and stick it in the freezer. In the spring, when the ground thaws, you’ll have a proper burial. There’ll be a shoebox and a eulogy, and a bouquet of catnip on the mound of fresh dirt in the backyard. Maybe some rocks or a stick lashed cross will adorn the little grave. But it’s winter now, and so you wait.

But the space in the freezer fills up. Groceries from Costco are bought, things re-arranged, and time gets away from you. Spring comes, and passes, and suddenly it’s Fall and you remember the cat-in-the-back of the freezer and think ‘well now’s not a good time, it’s almost winter. plus I’d have to take everything out to get to him,” and then the pain is fresh and real again and you think next spring. That’ll be the date for sure. And maybe it will. Or maybe five years will pass. I don’t know.

And I haven’t actually had a cat since college, and he ended up living with a friend’s aunt, and I doubt is in their freezer, but when the New Year rolled around, and we were officially weaned for two weeks, and I thought back to the two times our freezer has thawed since Potamus was born I really thought to myself:

“It’s time to get rid of those bags of milk. They aren’t good anymore. They haven’t been good for awhile now.”

He only ever took a few bottles. And we mixed some in with yogurt around 9 mos of age, but he was exclusively breastfeed…and not always by choice. He refused the bottle. Screamed his ever loving head off any time anybody got close to him with it. He knew what he wanted, and mama’s milk straight from the tap was it. Stubborn as a mule that one!

But I kept pumping. Long past the point where he would ever switch to taking a bottle. I did it out of an animalistic need to provide and seeing the ounces fill the bags that he wouldn’t use was somehow satisfying. I tried to donate some to a friend but my freezer thawed and most of it spoiled and then it re-froze and has been sitting there, labelled with love, for now two years.

It’s time to bury the cat.

How Child Led Weaning Worked for Us

This summer I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, and the act of nursing was contributing to my overwhelm. I had no idea how hard the weaning process would be, and wrote about it over on Offbeat Families in an article entitled “I knew breastfeeding might be hard, but had no idea weaning was impossible.”  I knew, then, that my goal for Potamus was to be done at 2 years, but I tempered that desire with my deep philosophical heart belief that it wasn’t set in stone, because there are two people in this nursing relationship. And so I powered through some rough toddler months and then we found our groove again.

Ultimately I kept thinking about our weekend away, in December, as my end-goal. Boof and I had never been away overnight, and I figured that the slowing down of the nursing relationship might end in a gradual *poof* it’s gone and then we would come back and suddenly ‘mama snacks’ wouldn’t be available. We left on Friday the 13th, my 31st birthday, and I remember thinking ‘this is me giving me the gift of my body back. I’m not going to nurse him anymore.” And I was sad, and nostalgic.

And it didn’t happen.

When we returned from our ‘trip,’ of course he was clingy excited to see us, and desperately needed some comfort for bedtime routine. And so, banishing the voice in my  head to ‘stick to your guns! don’t let him win!,’ I “gave in,” and nursed him. And it was sweet. And tender. And everything he needed.

Four days later, on the eve of his 2nd birthday, when changing him into his jim-jams, Boof asked, “you want some mama-snacks buddy?” (our cue for nursing), and Potamus shook his head  no. He grabbed his water bottled, snuggle down with me, and sipped himself to sleep holding my hand. Just like that, he weaned himself. And the next night, when he made his sign for mama snacks, and I said, “just cuddles buddy,” he hunkered down without a peep and promptly fell asleep. There was no wailing and gnashing of teeth, just peaceful sleeping next to his mama.

A few nights have gone by, now, and he hasn’t asked for mama snacks again. He sometimes reaches down my shirt to feel meh boobies, but mostly it’s hand holding and water-sippin’ for this little man. The transition even managed to carry over to a new place, since we spent two nights on the other side of the state and he had to get used to sleeping in a new bed with me. I couldn’t be more pleased. It was hard to make it work to fit both of us, but I am so happy that he’s happy and that giving up nursing wasn’t a traumatic event for either of us. I hope that in the future, if I ever have another child. I follow my instincts again…

Weaning Funnies

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For the most part, my in-laws are on-board with this whole breastfeeding until whenever idea, but sometimes even their comfort zone is stretched. Like last night, when we were out to dinner at the fancy Columbia Tower Club (read, tallest building in Seattle). All of us were fancified in our finest Christmas garb, and dinner started out past Potamus’ early bedtime. He was holding up like  champ, mugging for photos and throwing Chex all over the fine carpetting, when he started to get a little cranky. Boof had been feeding him some asparagus, but he looked tired and maybe like he wanted a nursing snack, so I threw my hooter-hider on and hoisted him into my lap (after quickly shovelling the bison steak and mashed potatoes into my mouth, YUM!). After going through the routine of unhooking the nursing bra and whipping it out, while struggling to hold his wiggly 1 year old legs, I looked down to see his smiling face happily munching on asparagus and totally ignoring my exposed breast. With a laugh I squeeled, “ahaha, he’s eating asparagus under there!” The whole table giggled, too, and then they said “well, I guess it’s about time to wean, eh?” To which, I agreed.

But later, it got  me thinking, about how the general public views weaning. Because, truthfully the weaning process was begun a few months ago. At this point he’s down to a few times at night and maybe, maybe once during the day, if I am home, and we’re going down for a nap. But weaning is a relationship, ESPECIALLY since young Potamus doesn’t take liquid in any other form, that I’m not about to cut cold turkey. And Boof is even protective of my time with Potamus, acknowledging that it is the quickest, most effective, way of calming a fussy tired cranky needy sad little growing baby. The incident was funny, even downright hilarious, and there is truth to the whole weaning comment, but I wish that overall people saw weaning as a process and not a light switch to be turned off when one leaves the room.

Any funny weaning stories that you might have? Share here!

Lactation Consultant….Formula Consultant?

Potamus has had formula 1 time, in the pediatrician’s office when he was less than 2 weeks old. The doctor was concerned that he wasn’t quite up to birth weight yet and was showing us how to do a supplemental feeding tube system just in case we needed it. He proceeded to feed my child formula in about 12.5 seconds without even asking our permission. I was more in shock than anything in the moment, and it all happened so quickly I couldn’t even find words to say, ‘um, please don’t do that.” He’s a father of 4 and all of them were breastfed, and as he was giving my baby formula he stated, “formula can be really helpful, it’s not poison like so many think.”

I don’t think formula is poison. But, I would like to choose whether I give my baby formula. When I was struggling early on, and seeing a lactation consultant, I contemplated just making the switch for both physical and emotional reasons. But I persevered and 9 months later we’re still exclusively breastfeeding. Though that might change in 1 week when I am away from him for 10 hours a day for 4 days a week… we will see. I’m not morally opposed to the whole idea, but if I DO use formula, I would like to be as informed as possible.

So I was intrigued when I came across this article on Huffington Post about the idea of Formula Consultants. While in many ways I agree that hospitals shouldn’t peddle formula, the idea of a consultant, like a nutritionist, that could explain what all the different types of formula are, would be SO HELPFUL! I know that I got aproximately 765 samples of formula before Potamus was born. When I was thinking about switching, I initially grabbed the orange can of Similac because it stated it was for sensitive tummies. I was HORRIFIED when I saw that the FIRST ingredient was CORN SYRUP. Jesus Christ, was the formula actually “better” for baby’s tummies, or was it that the sugar simply numbed the pain much like sugar water did for Potamus’s circumcision? I couldn’t believe it. While I knew that sugar was in formula, it being the first ingredient was horrifying, shocking, revolting.

But how many exhausted mamas grab something labeled sensitive thinking that it is the best choice for them, without knowing all the facts? Sure you can call up Gerber or Similac and get info on formula, but it’s not unbiased…so maybe the idea of a formula consultant is a good one…for those who can’t breastfeed or for those who choose to.

What do you think?

Road Trip: 3 adults, 2 babies, 1 dog

This weekend Boof and I realized that in NO way are we ready for another infant. We had a family reunion across the mountains in Eastern Washington and because my brother’s almost-ex-wife is not letting him drive her around (can’t wait for the custody to be figured out soon), so we packed her up in our car, along with Potamus, crazy Scrummy the dog (sporting his new “autism” wrap to help him stay calm) and headed out over the mountains with bro following on his banged up crotch rocket.

The trip went smoothly there, stopping once in Cle Elum to refuel the adults and the babies (and a pee break for Scrummy). The day was spent catching up with my grandma, playing Catch Phrase (a game I am wicked awesome at) and sneaking away for a coffee break with my good friend. The BEST part was introducing Potamus to The Columbia River. He wasn’t nearly as impressed as me, but did warm up to it after awhile, even dipping his toes in the water on his own and reaching down to touch the waves.

On the way home, however, I decided that despite my 6’1 frame, I am really an Olympic gymnast. It was getting late (for babies, which means it was aproximately 6:20pm) and my niece started whining…which set Potamus off whining…which ended up in this big circle of whining (I joined in), that wasn’t alleviated by my holding a bottle or pacifier into the back seat for Niece and trying to hold one of Potamus’s toys out for him to play. It wasn’t working. Because we were still on Blewett pass, with very little area to stop and refuel the babes, I slid into the backseat….in between the two car-seats. Yeah, brings back memories of “double-buckling” when we were kids. To sooth Potamus, I leaned as far forward as I could and flopped my enormous boob into his mouth. Yay, I got to celebrate World Breastfeeding week in an unsually contorted position! Meanwhile, my other hand was trying to hold the bottle of pumped milk out for Niece to drink from.

She might be the slowest eater ever.

Potamus might be growing through a needy/whiny/nurse-to-sleep-and-keep-nursing-for-20-minutes phase.

(needless to say, I got a massage this week to deal with the new kinks I discovered).

So there I am, boob in the mouth of one babe, arm stretched for bottle in the mouth of the other, and I realize that Scrummy is eating a poopy diaper in the front seat.

Awesome.

I said, “wow, we need a picture of this!”

In Boof’s unruffled way he replied, “I’m sorry, I’m not in a position to be taking a picture at this moment.”

So we survived our day trip, but I’m thinking I’m going to be less-inclined to get knocked up before Potamus is in…oh…say college. One crying baby in diapers is enough!