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Oh boobs, I remember your hard work fondly

September 10, 2012

There has been a deluge of cool, funny, right up my alley parenting articles on the interwebs lately and I have enjoyed them a lot. I was looking at Huffington Post this morning and read an interesting article. The title is “What I finally realized about  breastfeeding”  and it is very misleading. While I enjoyed reading this mother’s perspective and found many things I could relate to I don’t think that what she was doing was “breastfeeding”. This mother tirelessly, through terrific sacrifice and determination pumped breast milk for her very preemie baby for the hospital stay and at home for a long time. She reports to have hated it most of the time and I can relate because I think pumping sucked-ass. I hated it. It seemed completely defeating and cold and clinical and not what I imagined “breastfeeding” to be.

Holding our son in my arms, all 2lbs 14 oz of him and having him at my breast wasn’t solely about food. He needed to be close to me, skin to skin, get whatever milk he could to grow and be relaxed and calm as he wasn’t quite cooked and this world outside my stomach is loud, cold and smells weird.

Breastfeeding isn’t just about food whether you want to admit it or not. The food part is the practical side. There are other aspects that are simultaneously beneficial to mother and baby and frustratingly hard to them both as well. The mother-baby dyad is a tight circle of need/food/warmth/security/sleep/need/food/warmth/security and so on. You make food in your boob ( I know it seemed weird but less weird than I made a penis inside my stomach) and that is the food specifically designed for your baby to eat.

There are lots of ways to get a baby breast milk and varying degrees of breastfeeding and all of them are fine if you think they are fine because you are the mother and that is your baby and you totally know what is best for them. I certainly don’t and am not telling you are wrong for not breastfeeding. I am not , so put your hackles down. You do what you want, what makes you and your baby happy, what works for your family and everyone is happy. Seriously.

What I am talking about is that the mentality of breastfeeding. What concerns me about this article is the emphasis on weight gain, counting ounces of milk the baby drinks and the assumption that there was not enough milk. The frustration of the assistance from the “hippie” lactation consultant the mother in his article feels is weird to me. The focus on the lack of hand sanitizer is, um, I guess understandable but couldn’t she have washed her hands with soap and water which are exactly equal and both methods depend on the user doing it right. Chill the fuck out. We aren’t even all that much people and we are all mostly bacteria.

Having a baby means you give up a certain amount of control because baby’s just fuck all your shit up. Totally. Even if they are on time, a perfect nurser and sleep like a dream (like our daughter). I was still sleepless, cranky, fat, had little personal space, felt overwhelmed and worried about her all the time. The thing I didn’t worry about with both of our kids was how much they were gaining. I couldnt’ really do anything about how much weight they gained even though I tried with our first preemie son (who is now 11). He was less than 3 lbs at birth and weighed only 17.5lbs at a year. Our doc said he was small and still had to “catch up”. Our daughter was 6lbs 12oz at birth and weighed 18lbs at a year even though she gained 3 pounds the first month. They were both exclusively breastfed. Go figure, I think that is just how my kids grow-under cooked or well done.

I knew they were getting enough because they slept, their skin and color looked good and what went in came out-as in I had lots of pee diapers and poop. Thats really the only way to tell. Babies who breastfeed regulate their own intake and increase your milk supply but breastfeeding more often. Self regulation is just the way it works.

Sadly there are plenty of times when no matter how much nursing, how you shun the artificial nipple, how much your pump and how late you start first foods your boobs just may not cooperate. That is a frustrating and sad time for any mom and I am in complete sympathy. I thought I was there myself with our first kid.

But it’s not just about food, weight gain and milk production.

None of those things define your success as a parent-breastfeeding or not. Its how it makes you feel and how your baby is doing. Period.

There is no medical reason to measure how much milk your baby is drinking. If they are peeing, pooping and sleeping well, are hydrated (when /if they cry they have tears and their eyes and mouth are moist), have good skin turgor and are advancing on their milestones appropriately for their age (adjusted for those preemies!) then they are getting enough milk. Dr. Jack Newman has an excellent site and credentials if you need some medical advice on breastfeeding and what is appropriate.

The more you use bottles early on-sometimes no matter how much you pump. the more suckie/passie/plug use you employ and the less you listen to your baby for cues on hunger than what some book or some loud mouth at your mothers group says-the less milk you would make.

But again, it’s not just about food. If you are only food then you may as well be a refrigerator or grocery store. I am not just food, breastfeeding is not solely nourishment and breastfeeding is not the be-all-end-all the only way to bond with your baby.

Breastfeeding is a great start to all of that. Breastfeeding is a bridge between this vile cantankerous demanding complex adorable sweet smelling creature you have procured out of thin air. Breastfeeding is a moment to sit still, stare at your baby, snuggle, hold them close, not do anything else that is a chore or for anyone else. Sometimes it’s not all bedtime stories, roses and Mr. Rogers-sometimes its all business and sometimes its annoying and sometimes-yes sometimes you feel so frustrated you just want to chuck them out the window.

That is just parenting.

I believe that when people say breastfeeding just wasn’t for them or they tried it and it just didn’t work out I think they mean it was too overwhelming to be the sole person to feed the baby. Is that because everyone is still expecting you (including you?) to do everything else because you have the vagina? I think people say it’s not for them because it can be overwhelming to have someone-even your kiddo you would kill small puppies to save-touch you ALL THE FUCKING TIME.

So, it’s not breastfeeding, its all the other stuff you put into that basket that means breastfeeding to you.

I suggest to make it more simple. It’s just food in your boob, a way to lay around and cuddle with your baby and as long as it pees and poops-you are doing a great fantastic job of it. There is not much in life that has that low of a threshold for success. I mean, I shit and pissed plenty today but no one got all excited about it.

And also, this is just my opinion. Just like the saying goes-they are just like assholes, everybody has one.

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