On Breastfeeding

As most that know me are aware, I’m a staunch advocate of breastfeeding. What many many not know is that I don’t particularly enjoy breastfeeding. Now, before you say what a contradiction that is, allow me to explain.

I realize that there are many women who truly enjoy breastfeeding. I wish I were one of them. Admittedly, it is much less enjoyable with my youngest right now, so please understand that this experience may be coloring my views just a bit. Rationally, I know that my other children were not near as unpleasant nursers, although I still was never one of those who “loved” the experience.

What I do love is the bond that breastfeeding helps to form, the various health benefits to the baby/child from breastfeeding, the ease of “use” – for lack of a better word – and the lack of expense. Plus, according to Dr. James J. McKenna‘s Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame, breastfeeding makes co-sleeping safe(r). Co-sleeping also means that everyone gets more sleep. Yay! In case you’re wondering, you get more sleep when you breastfeed because you don’t have to get up and make a bottle, instead you simply roll over and offer a boob. So easy! LOL. I should also add here that there is nothing quite as sweet or satisfying as your baby gazing into your eyes as he/she breastfeeds.

Due to all of these benefits and perks, I breastfeed my children, all to varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, I was not near as knowledgeable about nursing or pumping with my first three children. Luckily with my youngest two, Calvin and Henry, I had a great midwife who is also a Lactation Consultant who was able to assist me as I needed. To be 100% honest, had I not been able to consult her, I’m pretty sure I would have thrown in the towel with Calvin as our start was very rough. I would dread nursing; I actually cried from the pain each and every time until the consultation. The difference was almost magical!

Thanks to her, both Henry and Calvin were 100% breastfed until they started table food although, even then, they continued nursing.

Calvin has, for whatever reason, exhibited a great bit more neediness than did any of his siblings. Likewise, his exuberance for nursing is above and beyond any of his siblings.

It has been suggested – kindly, of course – by others who know of my frustration that I just wean him. I have certainly given it thought however, for whatever reason, that seems to be the one thing he needs the most that I’m able to give him and I hate the idea of taking that away from him. For reasons that only he knows, he needs this and I feel that I would be insanely cruel for taking it away from him.

In the meantime, I take solace in the knowledge that he won’t still be nursing when he starts school. I find great relief in the fact that, when some of us got a horrible strain of strep throat and were so very sick, he didn’t. And, I take comfort in the fact that, whatever his reasons, I’m able to meet his needs in a way that I could not if I forced him to wean. So, in the meantime, we wait.

 

Surprises after delivery

After reading After-birth: 10 surprises from those first days after delivery by Meredith Bland who, by the way, is quite witty. I thought about it for a bit and decided I had to comment somewhere. She’s so right in that there are so many of the things that happen afterward that they don’t tell you about before.

Now, here’s the thing, I’ve experienced all the varieties of birth that, to my knowledge a woman can possibly experience. Cesarean, medicated VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), natural hospital VBAC, water HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean), and HBAC.

I’d like to think that my experience is not to be discounted in the grand scheme of things.

Cesareans suck. At least, mine did. It also didn’t help that I wound up catching something nasty in the hospital – to be expected as, after all, hospitals are full of nasty germs and sickness – that took my voice away and made me miserable. Because that’s exactly how you want to feel when they’ve just handed you a baby to care for. In fact, the lovely OB chastised me the next day for not being up and moving. All I wanted to do was tell him to go to hell. But I couldn’t. I had no voice, remember?

I will tell you, however, you do not want to gaze upon your stitches those first several days. They’re not pretty.

Also, that tummy of yours? The one the baby just came out of? Yeah, you do not want to see it right away, either. They forget to tell you that it doesn’t just magically go away. No. You’re now the proud owner of a saggy, baggy belly. Nursing helps it lessen faster, I promise!

The super-augmented hospital VBAC wound up being awful in a multitude of ways. What many medical professionals don’t seem to understand is that a healthy baby is not the be all and end all of things. A healthy mama is incredibly important as well because, let’s face it, we’re the ones performing the majority of care for that healthy baby. Especially if we’re breastfeeding. If we’ve not healthy – physically and mentally – we’re not going to be doing a bang-up job of bonding with or caring for that healthy baby. But we may be doing a great job of having all sorts of negative thoughts or tons and tons of therapy bills and antipsychotics. Capiche?

After my (natural) VBACs, I was up moving around pretty quickly. As in, right after. Really. I’ve never felt so energized in my life.

Bleeding? Oh, yes, there will be blood. I didn’t really notice much difference in the amount between any of my cesarean or hospital births, but I did notice much less blood (lochia) after my home births. And, as the author pointed out, it is a very disconcerting feeling when something slides out of your vagina. *shudder*

Which brings me to pads. Yes, you can grab as many of those sexy mesh panties you can get your hands on before leaving the hospital. Heck, you’re paying for them all anyway, so grab what you can.

My CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) also gave me a bit of an education on things. Two words: Adult diapers. No kidding. They’re a fantastic thing to behold for a postpartum woman. I know, you probably don’t believe me, and I admit that I was very skeptical at first, but I found out quickly just how effective they are.

The “uterine massage” is truly a thing of the devil. And it seems to get worse the more children you have. Bonus, I know! And, remember that feeling of something sliding out of your vagina? Two-fer!! For bonus points, do you know what else helps your uterus contract? Yep, breastfeeding your baby.

As far as breastfeeding goes, I lucked out with my oldest. At least in the beginning. Things were going great. Until I started a full time job. And had not a clue about pumping. And had little success. It wasn’t long before I found myself staring at different types of formula.

With my second, I wound up on the NuvaRing which dried up my supply. Not all women have this result, I guess I was just lucky.

With my third, I had all of the issues with the crazy doctor and the hospital that resulted in my milk drying up.

With my fourth, I was fortunate enough to have a CNM who is also an LC (Lactation Consultant). She was able to diagnose an issue (oversupply) that I didn’t even know I had. Had I not had her, I’m convinced I would have had a similar result as the others. I breastfed him for almost a year and a half.

With my fifth, I had the same midwife as my fourth and she was able to “fix” a bad latch. When I say bad latch, I mean bad. No exaggeration here, I was so close to calling it quits because it hurt so bad, and I was bleeding to boot. Every time I would feed him, I would curl up in a ball and cry. She made a trip out to see us just a few days after he was born – rather than having me come in to see her – and solved the problem nearly immediately. She also gave me some awesome things to wear on my nipples to help them heal quickly. We hit the year mark earlier this month and we’re still going strong.

Lesson learned here? It’s a very good idea to consult with an LC – and not a hospital LC, either as, I’m sorry to say, my experience with them was severely lacking – if you have any concerns. Or maybe even just to have them take a quick peek and see if everything looks good. If you cannot afford one, see if you can find a nursing support group that’s led by an LC. Obviously this would need to be an in-person group but you probably already sensed that’s where I was going. 😉

The author also hit the nail on the head regarding pooping afterward. At least after a cesarean or medicalized birth. There was no issue after any of my natural births. Although, after the first two, I thought sure there would be. I was nearly petrified with fear, only to realize that, hey, there was nothing to fear at all.

Yes, I’m partial to my natural births – especially the two at home. They were the only ones that I had some semblance of control, competency, and empowerment with/from. After all, if I can give birth, I can do anything! Well, maybe not, but it sure feels that way for awhile.

I must reiterate here. It’s far easier to care for your healthy baby when you yourself are mentally sound. A traumatic, unnecessarily-controlled birth does not do that. In essence, it robs people. It robs the baby of a healthy mother as well as the opportunity to bond more readily to her. It robs the mother of the opportunity to bond readily with the baby. It robs the father because he is left feeling uncertain of what she has gone through and what he “should” be feeling – he’s torn, and that should not be. If there are siblings, those siblings get robbed too, and might be more likely to have animosity toward their new baby.

With all that being said, yes, there are some super crazy things going on after a baby is born. Here’s hoping you didn’t find out the hard way.

Breastfeeding as a turn-off

I’m sure many of you have read, or at least heard about, the NY Times editorial “Breastfeeding and Sex: Is Latching On a Turn-Off?” by James Braly. In the piece Mr. Braly regales us with how disgusted he is by the fact that his wife is still breastfeeding their five year old son. And he explains it so in such eloquent terms:

By the time they strolled back to me and my already-nursed toddler son on the picnic blanket, I had lost my appetite — and not just for the smoked salmon.

and 

… I was dry-heaving — and bile is not an aphrodisiac.

 Yeah, he’s a real charmer, that one.

Mr. Braly also likens extended breast-feeding to helicopter parenting, thereby justifying himself by pointing us to an article that suggests helicopter mothers “drive” their partners to cheat.

My personal favorite is the following line:

I know, most women think their breasts are theirs….

Because, yanno, apparently, they are not. Apparently they belong to the “man” in the relationship, rather to the woman, of whose body they rest.

Admittedly, I could not  continue to breastfeed a child to the age of five or beyond. That’s just me though. I know a lot of women do it and I’m not judging them. And, truly, if you have such an issue with your partner nursing a child for an extended period of time, mayhaps the responsibility lies on you to say something to her – in a gentle, respectful way – about your issues, rather than laying it all out via a newspaper editorial.

Although, speaking as a woman, I honestly think that if Mr. Braly found a better attitude toward his wife and her breasts, he might find himself getting lucky with her a lot more often.