I was out running with some friends yesterday and breastfeeding came up. It’s a topic I love to talk about, I think because I received so much helpful advice from others. And honestly, because it’s just kind of fascinating to me that I can feed my baby.
My friend is pregnant with her first baby and due in September. She is taking her labor and delivery classes now, and then a breastfeeding class. I think that is such a good idea. I went on bedrest, and then delivered my son, before I could take the breastfeeding class. Thankfully, I have a huge group of women to rely on who knew a lot about it, a sister who nursed her two boys, and a very, very supportive husband. We also had labor and delivery nurses who supported it, and a pediatrician who got it. And lactation consultants who returned calls after hours, on Saturdays and gave good advice.
All of that matters. Because when it comes to breastfeeding, I feel like it really does take a village. There are so many days when I thought (think), my god, I am just DONE with this. And then I would make it just one more day. One more session with the breast pump. One more middle of the night nursing.
And then I could keep going. Through finger-feeding a son who couldn’t latch for a few weeks. Through four bouts of mastitis. Through round-the-clock pumping for a few days with a daughter struggling to latch on, and too snoozy to stay on. Through a neonatalogist who didn’t support breastfeeding and tried to dissuade us — but we fought him, and it was worth it. Through going back to work. Through resuming a pretty rigorous running schedule and trying to figure out how to time feedings and pumping and long runs and races — and making it work.
I nursed Jack just past his first birthday, and Genevieve is 7.5 months now, and we are still going strong. Erica, who was out running with us, is still nursing her 18-month-old daughter, and I know she nursed her older daughter past her first birthday.
I’m not some golden god when it comes to breastfeeding, and I’m far from hippy-dippy. I had two inductions, in a hospital, supplemented with NeoCate for Genevieve the first 24 hours to help her regulate her body temperature. I sent both babies to the nursery at the hospital, and just had them bring them to me to nurse. And I skipped one feeding with Genevieve at the hospital, since my milk was in, I was experienced at this and please, I know this is the last night of sleep I will get for a while. I don’t baby-wear, co-sleep or cloth-diaper. I have a glass of wine and a cup of coffee most days. (That’s how you bookend your day with two kids, I’ve found.) I just got lucky with a great milk supply, and lots and lots of really good advice.
So when Brenda was looking for people to talk to, she found us. We spent 6 solid miles talking her poor ear off about the ups and downs of breastfeeding. Erica is so sweet, and gets all teary talking about the bonding experience and health benefits. I just kept saying, “And it’s FREE!”
We laughed and tried to encourage her without scaring her away (“Oh my god, I want to throw the breastpump off a cliff when I’m done!” or “My boobs now look like deflated pastry bags.”). (I chose not to share things like, “Wait until they bite you!” or “Thanks for the bloody nipples, baby.”) And we tried to share the bonuses — you lose weight and have big boobs! The porn star body you always wanted!
We told her that she can take the baby to a lactation consultant, who will weigh the baby before and after a feeding, so she can see how much the baby is getting. That’s good to shut up the people who whine, “But how do you know the baby is getting enough?” I mean, it’s true, at first you really do wish your boobs had some kind of gauge to make sure. My sister just repeated to me, “Does he (Jack) seem satisfied? Is he falling asleep?” And of course she was right. He was fine. I quickly learned that the pacifier won’t work if the baby is hungry.
Mostly, I think we both just wanted to let her know she can do it, and we support her (and support her if she chooses not to). And let her know she can call with issues. I’m no expert, obviously. But I’m happy to talk about it. And sometimes you just need someone who totally supports it, to help you keep going. At 3 a.m.
When we were done, I got ready for the day and went to work. And as I sat there, I thought, man, she’s going to freak out after that conversation. We tried to drill it into her that you have to keep your supply up, so if you want to have your husband give the baby a bottle, go ahead, but you need to pump, too. I think that is something that was hard to grasp at first, when establishing supply. It’s so easy to think, my god, I just want to sleep through this feeding. But I wonder if it would be like running — you sleep through one morning run, it gets easier to skip the next one. And before you know it, you’re out of shape — and out of milk.
And who wants that? But both Erica and I tried to stress, just get through the first few weeks. Then it really does get easier. You go from the constant newborn mewling hunger and lengthy nursing sessions to the squirming, honeybadger nursing I have right now with Viv, to the two-minute comfort nurse of a toddler that Erica is dealing with.
But we also just tried to share with her why we both chose to breastfeed, and why we have stuck with it. From the sweet — is there anything better than when they slip that naked baby against your bare chest to nurse at first? Anything? I want to cry just thinking about it. To the practical — it’s free!
I know she will be a wonderful mom. And I already can’t wait to hold that baby.
Here are a few sites I’ve bookmarked lately that are helpful.
And here is a photo my friend Laurie took of me nursing Jack.
And here is one I took of me nursing Viv, because she is such a nut. You can’t tell from here, but she likes to nurse basically laying on her stomach. Nut. Look how sweet she is, though.