Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Life as a Cow - What I Was Never Told About Breastfeeding

{From May 2012}

I am a cow. I can admit it. One of my major purposes in life, during this chapter at least, is to produce milk for someone else and let me tell you, in this business, supply and demand can be tricky.

Amongst my closest family and friends I discuss the ups and downs of nursing long-term (and by long-term, I mean a solid year and then until V is weaned. Though it is a beautiful, wonderful thing, I am not too comfortable - at this point - with extended breastfeeding. But I know I just jinxed it and I'm sure V won't want to wean until she's two so I should stop assuming now...), I make jokes about myself being leaky, being "nothing but a boob," etc. I also stand my ground. I nurse in public, but not because I was gung-ho about it from the get-go but because, even at the age of 9 months, my V flat-out refuses a bottle so my "confidence" began out of necessity.

I breastfed my oldest daughter for only a couple of months, then she was formula fed. I don't regret it per se- she's fine, healthy, extremely smart and developmentally amazing, so I can't complain. I just wish sometimes I had that same experience with her that I've had exclusively nursing V. Looking back, I was unprepared and didn't know how to balance breastfeeding and going back to work. Luckily, this baby-go-round, I was able to stay home so that certainly helped my goal of breastfeeding longer. Of course, we all  hear "breast is best" and you don't have to do a lot of looking on the internet to get the lengthy list of why breast milk is better (in most cases) than formula and any other factual information you may want to find. What's not so easy to find is the nitty gritty, down and dirty, total LIEFSTYLE that exclusive breastfeeding is.

Everyone always told me "breastfeeding is a huge commitment." I knew it was going to be a major part of who I was while I had an infant and I knew I would still have to watch what I eat just like being pregnant and I even knew that sometimes, breastfed babies eat more often than formula fed babies. I thought I knew all these things at least...

While I was pregnant with V, I proclaimed that I wanted to breastfeed longer than I did with Alexis, but in a sense, I feel like it was a sort-of "empty goal," as even though I thought I knew better tactics and had slightly better support than I had while nursing Alexis, I still did not fully understand what it meant to exclusively breastfeed. I think my situation is slightly different than most. I know a lot of moms that make the commitment and do so well with it, nurse their babies the full 12 months (or longer) and successfully pump as well. They can leave the house, go to work, go on date nights and leave baby with Grandma with a couple of bottles then fall right back into their nursing routine when they return without blinking an eye. I am envious of that sometimes. My baby, will, not, take, a bottle. We've tried several bottles, times of day, hunger levels, people giving the bottle, me being there, me being gone...nothing works. Just the mere sight of a bottle and she screams. If my husband and I want to have a "date," I nurse her at my mother's house then hit the ground running. We have 2-3 hours maximum before we have to return so I can nurse her again, and I can forget having more than one drink at dinner, also. Though it sounds as if I'm complaining about this, I've come to realize this is what my baby needs, this is what she prefers and this is a chapter in my child-rearing life, so I've come to completely accept it and though times I crave a break, I wouldn't trade the closeness and bonding time with her for a million dollars.

So I've accepted that she needs nursed, only nursed, and nursed a lot. Because she refuses a bottle, that means that unless we want to stay in the house all day, she must be nursed while we are out. That is something else I was unprepared for. I knew that breastfeeding wasn't for everyone but I did not realize the huge flack that breastfeeding moms get from those who are uncomfortable with it. To them I say, get over it, but I realize I must (frustratingly) maintain respect for their discomfort :/ so...I always wear a nursing cover (they think it's out of courtesy for them, but really, I'm just modest).

Nowadays, I feed her any and everywhere with my head held high. I've figured out how to nurse using a baby holster as I like to call it, a front carrier, completely hands-free by dropping her down to boob-level and throwing a cover over us while I walk around, grocery shop, or do anything I need to. Though I think I should be able to be "loud and proud" about it, I get boobs are also sexual items and sadly, much of this society cannot see past this and are "offended" or put-off by my nursing in public. Whatever. I cover myself, it's no one's business what is happening under my cover just as it's no one's business what is happening under my shirt, in my pants, or anywhere else I chose to keep covered. Just the other day we were furniture shopping and I was nursing like this, with V in a baby holster and cover on top and a lady came by and inquired about the baby and asked "Why are you covering that baby up?" I smiled and said "Well...because I'm feeding her :)" I've found most people don't even realize that I'm feeding her when I am but those who do either tell me "goob job" or blush and walk the other way. My husband and my mom support me all the way. They encourage me not to worry about anyone else and that I need to feed my baby and I can feed her any where and every where with the law on my side - dammit!

One of my biggest opponents of nursing in public though, is my brother. Yes, my very own brother. Luckily for him, we don't live too close to each other so he's not subject to it daily, but when we are together and out at a restaurant, for example, he's noticeably uncomfortable and very obviously averts his eyes and squirms in his seat, I know, hoping that no one around us is noticing and linking him with such an appauling act! Whatever to him too. Because he's my brother, I think it's funny and tell him to get over it though it's not always a laughing matter. Yes, I'm about to call my brother out on this one...any one, feel free to leave comments for him here too ;)  The last time we were all together and out eating dinner, I began to nurse V and like always, he was acting uncomfortable and this time, shaking his head. Being as outspoken as I am me, I questioned him about what his "problem" was. We light-heartedly argued back and forth about whether I should be nursing her in public until he said "There's a bathroom over there. You can sit in a stall and..." WAIT A MINUTE BRO! I said yelled "Do you want to eat your dinner sitting on a toilet!?!?" At that point, we were shushed and the conversation went elsewhere because I was about to get all types of ugly on him. I may have been liable to flash a boob at that point just to prove a point. Who knows. This type of conflict from my own family was something I never anticipated when I began this breastfeeding journey. {Update: I now live down the street from my brother. Yet again, lucky for him, Vivian has since weened}

I've learned to nurse in public, I've learned to be confident in it, I've learned to be discreet. What I have also learned is that as discreet as I am, the baby does not always chose to be so surreptitious about her hunger needs. So here we are, sitting in church (yes, I nurse her there, too. God gave me these bad boys for this exact purpose, to feed my baby), and I ever-so quietly put the cover over my head, slipped V under and she peacefully began to eat while the pastor preached and every one sat silently and listened. Then...the silence must have been getting to her because SLURP SLURP SLURP!! SMACK! SLURP SLURP SLURP! Suddenly, the lady who thought last week I was just rocking my baby to sleep realized that I was indeed, breastfeeding her. Just as I proclaim my right to nurse in public, V decided to proclaim (loudly) her right to eat in public as well. This, as well as the times the V is done eating, has not fallen asleep and is instead ready to play so she lunges up, throwing the cover back with her arm, freeing herself - and my boob - for all the world to see were not things I anticipated when I first braved breastfeeding in public.

I am a cow and I'm proud. A confident mama cow, nonetheless. I live my life right now wearing not-so-sexy nursing bras. On our anniversary dinner, we arrived at the restaurant and as we sat down I realized my clasp on my bra was still unhooked so I was pretty much hangin' free, if you know what I mean. I've woken up to wet t-shirts and wet sheets from over-abundance of milk in the middle of the night. We've even been through ups and downs with our pediatrician (a story for another day) because she was not so pro-breastfeeding and ultimately we switched doctors. Some nights, V still wants to nurse in the middle of the night so I've unintentionally become a co-sleeping mama as well. When she gets upset, she won't take a pacifier so likewise, I'm the only boob one who can calm her down. Some days, I sit and think "I can't believe she's nine months and we're still going strong," (not that I have much of a choice, Viva-la-bottle-resistance!) because even though I said I wanted to breastfeed a whole year, it is such a huge commitment I wasn't sure I'd make it. At times, it's extremely time-consuming and tiring, but is the most rewarding, confidence-boosting accomplishment to be your baby's sole source of nourishment and life. The extra snuggles and bonding time is even more gratifying, and the rewards far, far outweigh the downsides. So like I said, I wouldn't change it for a million dollars.


Emily

*This post was originally posted on another blog  I kept for personal writing. I've decided to merge the two, but comments and G+s would not transfer :(

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