Saturday, January 18, 2014

the breastfeeding thing

It is one of those things that you truly do not grasp until you get to experience it.  
I am starting to get nostalgic about the whole thing because in a few months I will be weaning Callum.  
I wanted to just write down some of the thoughts I have on breastfeeding.  Someday I will look back on this list when I'm pregnant with a second child.  

My first time nursing Callum was just minutes after he was born.  I had no clue and it looked like he had no clue either.  It didn't matter.  It was perfectly natural and nurturing in every way.  That was the pattern for about the first two days.  It was frequent sessions that only lasted a few minutes.  I could never be sure he got anything.  

The first two weeks of breastfeeding were painful.  I had no idea just how painful and intense it was to nurse a newborn.  I also had no idea that the word engorged was as accurate a describing word for the whole milk coming in thing.  I never had the thought to quit, but I did have to take deep breaths and really concentrate as he latched on.  My right side was particularly sore.  I used lanolin cream but it didn't seem to help.  After whining to my sister she suggested I try lanolin spray.  This was exactly what I needed.  It provided the relief that the cream could not.  I was so tender that putting the cream on was painful in and of itself.  

Within the second week Callum was born I had to go to some work trainings.  This was my first experience with pumping.  I never realized how crucial it was until I decided to skip coming home to nurse him during the mid morning break.  By the time I got to lunch I was beyond full, leaking, and in pain.  You begin to understand the concept of supply and demand at this point.  

By the third week the pain eased up, and I could tolerate the latching on process.  My milk flow and supply got figured out and engorgement was not an issue.  Because I was on maternity leave, I could just nurse him whenever.  I tried to pump here and there to start building a supply.  However, it wasn't a priority.  Looking back, I wish I would have pumped much more in the beginning.  I would have had a much bigger supply to provide a hungry 3 month old with the milk he desperately needed.  When I read this in the future, I better take heed to pumping more before returning to work!

Without a doubt my most favorite thing about nursing has been the nighttime wake up calls to eat.  I know there were many times that I nursed him in the night and basically slept through the whole thing.  That is how easy it was!  Other times I looked forward to having a moment to cuddle my baby and watch a show.  During those nighttime sessions I watched all the seasons of Desperate Housewives, Breaking Bad, and started watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  I'm not generally a tv person but this was a chance for me to indulge during my obligation to feed Motorcycle.  I loved how Callum would immediately fall asleep after eating.  I can count on one hand how many times I had to walk to halls to bounce him to sleep.  

A close second for my favorite thing about nursing is also the added benefit of weight loss.  I had heard that it helped you lose the pregnancy pounds.  Little did I know that it was a real thing.  Of course I returned to running as soon as I could, but other than that I didn't do anything crazy to lose weight.  I don't exercise to lose weight.  I was confident I would return to my normal self by continuing my normal exercise routine.  However, I truly feel that the process was expedited because of breastfeeding.  Here I am 9 months later and I am smaller than I was before getting pregnant.  Explain that one. 

I also have to mention how much I love the bonding time.  I am a cuddler.  I love love love to bundle up in a blanket and nurse Callum.  I rub his little head and talk to him.  He in turn will touch my face.   That is a special thing that only Callum and I share.

Pumping is another big aspect of my experience.  Working moms can be nursing moms.  Because I was committed to breastfeeding Callum, I accepted the challenges and trials of pumping at work, freezing bottles, and being dilligent about pumping at the same time daily.  Yes, it is awkward to do it at work.  I would close the door of my office and turn up Pandora very loud.  That was my attempt to cover up my pump noise so that the PE teachers and office next door would not hear what was going on.  I am sure they figured out, but I just kept the details to myself.  There was nothing easy about pumping.  However, I know I did the thing that was best for Callum.  It makes the decision easy.  

Now that Callum knows what is going on I notice that he will throw his head back and pull at my shirt.  He also gets distracted by noises around him.  Sometimes I have to prompt him every minute or so to latch back on to eat.  

Nursing in public has been fine.  The first time I ever did it was in a mother's lounge in a Macy's.  I was so nervous to do it in public because I wasn't quick enough to whip it out and get him on without seeing what I was doing.  I tried to balance the udder cover, a small newborn, and getting him latched but I was nervous because I was in public.  It obviously all worked out.  As he screamed in frustration from me taking too long, I had 2 ladies approach me and tell me good job on choosing to breastfeed.  That was encouraging.  I was still figuring it out and to have that boost enforced that it was worth it.  

I can't tell you how many times I have come home to nurse Callum after a run.  It pretty much works like this.  I walk in immediately from a run and go straight to feeding Callum.  There is no cooldown or stretching.  He needs to eat and that is the priority.  Because of this, Callum has had his fair share of sweaty nursing sessions.  Poor guy.  It isn't worth it to take a shower and make him wait.  I plop down on the couch, get him fed, and then worry about myself. I have done the pump before a race thing too.    I should have pumped when I ran the half marathon in June.  I was still new to nursing at that time, and I was nervous that I wouldn't figure it out...I waited and suffered the consequences of not getting rid of the milk.  ouch. 

I'm not sure how the weaning process will work when he reaches 12 months.  I secretly dread it.  If I am weaning him that means he is growing up.  Not cool. 

I am mostly writing this for myself.  However, if you stumble upon this post because you are wondering how it can possibly work to breastfeed, work, run, and have a life than I would assure you that you can.  I feel sorry for formula people.  How horrible it must be to prepare 47 bottles a day AND NIGHT.  I lay on the couch and give my kid the best nourishment possible.  No effort whatsoever.  

Cheers to nursing mothers! 

1 comment:

Bryn said...

This is a sweet story and I'm so glad nursing worked out for you so well, especially when balancing so much. But I just have to tell you - don't "feel sorry" for formula people. I have listened to too many women tell me heart rending stories of trying so hard to nurse when it just doesn't work.

Some women just can't develop an adequate supply. Some women find they are much happier, their children much healthier, and their emotional health where it needs to be when they turn to formula. For some poeople a hybrid approach works better. When exclusive nursers start using words like "easy" and "best" or "better" it discounts those alternative experiences and can make women with alternate experiences feel like failures.

There is no blueprint to feeding a child. There is no one right way. What is always right is sensitivity. If your kid is alive, you're doing it right end of story.

I know you didn't mean that last paragraph that way, but I'm also not sure you're aware of how hard it can be to see and hear those comments - when nursing didn't work out the way a mom planned. It's always an emotional subject so a little solidarity, sister, please.