Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Feeding Chunky Monkey: Let's Talk Nursing

Dear mothers-to-be especially, but everybody else in particular,

I am not a breastfeeding expert.

I have not taken classes.  I am not a member of La Leche League.  I have not read breastfeeding books, or looked up websites or watched videos on YouTube.  I don't have a dozen successfully breastfed and weaned children praising me in the background.

All I have to my name is a nine-week-old baby with more rolls than a Dutch bakery shop!  I want to share my experience with this most marvelous of womanly arts, breastfeeding, because sometimes just hearing an experience from a non-pro perspective is beneficial.

The Mysterious Mrs S shared about her breasfteeding experience in an article called Nighttime Nursing, which I read two weeks before my own little boy was born.  I loved her article and benefited from hearing her experience - so I hope I can do the same for future moms!

As to others - I hope you enjoy hearing about it, as well, and that it inspires you to encourage and support moms feeding their babies.

I know some moms are anti-covering when nursing in public - I'm neutral
on the subject and don't really care either way.  My little man gets pretty excited
about any noise or movement and tries to check it out, so sometimes a cover is just
helpful for speed and efficiency when there are lots of distractions going on!  
Snack time at the garden store ... I've never received "dirty looks" or been told
to leave, and we have nursed in many places.  I am grateful that people are
understanding and helpful in this regard.  A store manager at Panera Bread
even brought us more soup for free one time, because he saw I inhaled mine so quickly!!
Before our little chunky monkey was born, we took a short birth class, taught by the wonderful midwife apprentice that later attended the birth.  We took a private, two-session version because I was already over eight months pregnant and we certainly didn't have time for the full-blown class!  It was great fun (you might say it was a "scream"), and we learned about comfort measures and positions to engage in during labor, things Mr H could do to assist me, what we would need to do to prepare for the home birth (not much - have extra towels on hand and blow up the birthing pool, essentially!).  The apprentice brought a little doll to the second session and showed me some nursing positions and gave a few tips.

That is, I think, the extent of my formal nursing education.

When our wee little man was just minutes old, I held him tightly to my chest as I got up from the living room floor and walked to the bedroom.  I snuggled (nay, I collapsed) on the bed with him and Mr H, and the minutes-old baby nosed around at my breast for a moment but didn't show much interest in eating.  It was probably two hours after birth when we were getting ready to go visit The Seamstress that the midwife helped me position him in my arms while I sat on the couch, and he latched on for his first nursing amidst the gratifying oohs and ahs of appreciation from the midwives.  I'd been watching my mom feed babies for almost my whole life and never once questioned that this was how I would nourish my own children, and it seemed like second nature to hold him in that familiar position and hear him snuffle around.  He didn't eat for long, and he was more eager to sleep than he was to sample the other side.  I was just producing colostrum at this point, of course - the "pre-milk" which is so rich in nutrients and necessary for his starter immune system.  Over the course of that day, he never did eat much but mostly slept, nibbling and then falling back asleep for hours.  The midwife assured me that he was just worn out from the labor and would eat plenty, soon enough.

Boy, was she ever right!

I believe it was only the next day that my milk came in.  The little guy had finished pumping out all the meconium in his system and had some nice, newborn poo that day.  He started up eating, just little bits, but soon more and more frequently.

Not surprisingly, my breasts were somewhat tender and I wasn't too anxious to have him latch on each time.  "I think he's hungry," Mr H would say when the baby started squirming around.  "Are you sure?" I would hesitate.  Maybe he would just fall asleep ... but usually, he wanted to eat!  Once he got going, though, the sensitivity and tingling sensation would fade away.  My body was learning how much he needed to eat and was producing a lot of milk in the beginning, with a let-down reflex like a fire hose that was sometimes so strong he couldn't keep up and would draw back, sputtering, coughing, and usually crying.  I learned to keep a rag or diaper pad handy and to express some of that rushing first flow into the cloth, even though he would sometimes scream hungrily for the moment it took me to do so.  However, doing this helped him to keep from gulping down air, which in turn cut down on the large amounts of puke that he kept flooding our bed with in the beginning.

I hope ya'll know I won't wait long for this-here milk!

My breasts adjusted to nursing within a few weeks - the soreness faded faster than I was expecting, although in the beginning I kept dabbing them with salve, occasionally applying cool ice packs after nursing, and letting them dry in the air as much as possible.  In the bath, I would slap on warm washcloths which felt deliciously soothing and were great just before nursing him.  Milk quantities leveled out in a few weeks, too, so they weren't hard and full all the time - I never experienced a truly hot, painful engorgement during the first weeks, fortunately.

The little man knew his job, too, with that natural instinct that babies are born with.  We just applied patience and confidence.  He was 8 lb 4 ounces at birth, and by six weeks he was fourteen pounds.  I'd say he's a professional eater!

I ate way ... too ... much ...
I can't believe it's not butter!!!! 
My dad called it the Milk Truck when the babies were nursing, growing up ...
This is what I call getting hit by the milk truck!  
Before he was born, I read lots of birth stories and enjoyed reading about the empowerment and strength women felt during birth.  I reveled in that at his birth, too; yet in my memory that was not my most outstanding, shining moment.  Birth alone is not what made me feel like a birth mama, a goddess, a powerful being.

What made me feel powerful and stronger beyond anything else I had done in my life was nursing my child.

Some women feel that surge of strength and glory when they are pushing; some feel it when they see their belly swell with the new life within; some feel it when they see their baby open his or her eyes for the first time.  I felt it when my child came close and nursed. Felt powerful.  Felt unstoppable.

Felt it when I provided the precious nourishment that no other person on this earth could provide so completely as I.

Felt it when I healed my own body, and grew his, by the power of nursing.

Felt it when his legs grew fat and his eyes brighter and ever more alert and mature as he ate, many times throughout the day and night.

Felt it when his little blue eyes gazed up at me trustingly while he drank and drank of the best nectar creation could offer him.  When my milk would soothe his cries and satisfy his hunger when nothing else could.  When he would pull away with a drowsy, milky smile and beam up at me, then latch on and nurse furiously, clutching at my shirt and skin with his tiny fingers in eager haste.

Felt it when I nursed with confidence, trusting that when he turned away to sleep he needed that more than calories, and that when he cried when it seemed I had just fed him, he knew it was time for calories again and I had no reason to stop him.

This was my moment!  Let nothing stand in our way.

Mrs H



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