Saturday, February 20, 2010


I simply cannot believe I'm still breastfeeding. That isn't to say that it isn't normal to breastfeed for 6 months. In fact 12 months is the current recommendation, but I never really thought I'd make it this far. I have so many thoughts on the subject that when I decided to write this post, I didn't really know where to start.

Should I talk about how frustrated I am when I think about that stupid breastfeeding class I took while pregnant? Or how about all the lactation consultants I've spoken to or met with? Or maybe I could mention the complete stranger in my post-natal yoga class who offered to breastfeed my child when she saw I was feeding her formula. Or maybe I could talk about the woman who works at Bartells and saw me walking around with Edie in the candy aisle 2 weeks ago and asked me (totally out of the blue) if I was nursing her. Ugh, ugh and UGH.

So let's start with the breastfeeding class, shall we? The one where I paid someone about 80 bucks to essentially tell me how easy and essential breastfeeding is, that all there is to it is a good latch. No mention of the fact that just about every woman I know who breastfed experienced a good deal of pain before things evened out (if they evened out). Or the fact that there are some women who just never really produce enough milk to feed their baby completely. Nor did they discuss clogged ducts, mastitis, cracked and bleeding nipples... It was basically just a Ra Ra Breastfeeding session where they made us take a quiz about the benefits of breastfeeding and watch a video from the 80's where women with mullets breastfed their babies and talked of how wonderful it was. As if discussing the very real possibility of struggles would scare us off from the whole thing rather than just allow us to go into the process with our eyes wide open.

I think it's important for people to know (and by "people" I am apparently referring to my vast reading public of approximately 10 people) that there are variations of success when it comes to breastfeeding. Some people are able to do it with ease, but many others struggle and switch to formula for a variety of good reasons. And as a PS, I'd also like to point out that formula isn't poison. In fact it has raised many a healthy (and smart) individual - ME being just one example!

When Edie was born I assumed things were normal. I breastfed her whenever she seemed hungry and if she slept for more than 3 hours, I woke her to feed her. When on day 3 or so, it didn't seem like my milk had "come in" as they say, I worried. But everyone told me to relax. The class I took said that I was bound to wake up on day 2 or 3 (4 at the latest) engorged with milk and might even need to pump before feeding the baby as a result. This never happened.

On day 4 or 5 Edie didn't have a wet diaper for 6 or 7 hours. This wasn't normal and made me worry that she was probably dehydrated. The pediatrician concurred (based also on her weight drop since being born) and told me to try feeding Edie formula after she breastfed to see if she was still hungry. Well, she chugged that bottle like she'd never been fed before and peed right away. And so began supplementing.

I was put on a strict pumping regimen which involved pumping like 8 times a day in addition to nursing Edie whenever she was hungry, tried using a weird syringe feeding device that required me to have no less than 10 hands to use, took Fenugreek (am STILL taking it) which is an herbal supplement meant to increase supply and I'm sure tried other things that I don't even remember. The whole process was really quite a nightmare and most of the lactation consultants I talked to were much more concerned with me making milk than they were about the toll the whole convoluted process was taking on me.

I remember pumping in the nursery one night and crying - I find the process of pumping so degrading to begin with, but to watch nothing but a teaspoon of milk slowly drop into the pump for the 7th time that day instead of actually spending time with my new baby? It was too much. I produced so little milk those days that it wasn't even worth putting in a bottle, I would just drop it into the nipple of the bottle to feed it to her in the cap. Eventually, I was able to get my supply up enough to provide Edie with about half her diet. And I stopped pumping so regularly after seeing very little results. But still! Still I feel judged and self conscious sometimes when I feed Edie formula. Obviously not by the people who really know me, and this is really all that matters, but the stress put on breastfeeding - particularly in the northwest - is hard to ignore. I feel that a lot of people fail to remember that many people who aren't breastfeeding aren't doing so for a reason. In my small circle of friends alone, 4 of us have the same type of supply issues and/or had to stop because of medications they needed to take.

The thing is, I really gave the whole breastfeeding thing more than a good college try. And in the end, I definitely give myself an A+ for effort, but I think my boobs get more like a C for performance. As I told Jeff once, "I think these boobs were maybe just made more for form than function."

I'm sick of the words lactation, breast milk, boobs, pump, and latch, and if I never hear the word nipple again, I will die a happy woman. All of this is to say that I've decided to start slowly weaning Edie next week. And yes I have mixed feelings on the decision, but most of the negative ones are really more associated with my fear of judgement from others and less about the idea of stopping. Sure I've had a few of those nice moments so many mothers told me about where I could look down at Edie's little head nursing away and feel all Mother Earthish, but those moments were also frequently laced with anxiety about whether she was getting enough to eat, trying to fix a bottle at the same time, or waiting for Edie scream at my boob when the food ran out. Plus, if I'm being totally honest - I miss wearing dresses and regular, cute bras, I'm tired of having to whip my boob out in public places, and I'm really sick of taking 9 Fenugreek pills a day. Edie starts on solid foods next week and the timing seems appropriate. I'm not sure how long this whole weaning process will take, but I'm ready to get started.

1 comment:

Tib said...

Go easy on yourself... I know several women who have had exceptionally painful breastfeeding experiences and or difficulty producing.

HFG was weaned at six months, and she turned out to be a smart, creative, compassionate person. Edie Bee is going to still be amazing, beautiful, and healthy and grow to be tall just like her dad.