Karl- Boobin' it for, oh, probably the 198,567,642,627,356 time
So, normally, talking about boobs (anyone's but especially not your own) and what their real, legitimate, God given function is, is not something that most gals openly do. Society is obsessed with them- but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of what service boobs are supposed to fulfill, it's kind of an "ookey" topic. We know this because countless articles and TV interviews on breastfeeding show that a vast chunk of American society is quite uncomfortable with breastfeeding. It grosses them out- they say it's "creepy" and it's something that should be done in private, for a short amount of time in a baby's life. I suppose with the stigma that surrounds the subject, it is no wonder that most women don't talk about breastfeeding in anyway- the joys of it and the downright misery of it, too. It's no surprise to me, then, that so many new mom's are, in a sense, shell-shocked when they have a baby and they attempt breastfeeding it. It's a monumental, overwhelming, demanding and (at first, for me anyway) very awkward task.
You've never done this before- you've never put a living, breathing and HUNGRY baby to your breast before to feed it. This child's life, his or her whole existence, relies now on your boobs. Just think about that. The first time I did, I had an anxiety attack. You will be keeping your baby alive with your boobs. YOU- only you. You get that? YOU- YOUR BOOBS.... Yeah, I'd say it's pretty friggin' monumental.
This huge task lies ahead of you and you realize, "what the heck- no one told me how to do this," probably not, at least. It's not likely that if they did tell you a little about breastfeeding, that the person was wholly and totally honest with you. So many women don't breastfeed in our society. So many of our moms were told that the bottle was the way to go when we were infants. You know that it's natural and you know that it's the best thing you can do for your baby- so why don't more moms stick with it? Why don't more moms who do stick with it talk about it? You may have your theories to answer those questions, but until you are faced with the situation yourself, you'll never truly know.
The reason why I'm writing this post is because I had a real doozey of a time with breastfeeding when I first had my son. I read the books, I took a class, I saw a lactation consultant. I was well-read on differing opinions of breastfeeding before I had my son. I thought, just before his birth, that it would be an awesome experience- that it'd be totally natural because, heck, it IS natural, right? I never thought it'd be hard, well, in the "Holy crap, I want to give this up" sense. I never thought it'd be draining. I never thought I would (quite honestly) make myself a calendar especially so I could mark the days off that I had breastfed so I had a visual in front of me to see just how much longer I'd have to endure the torture. No, breastfeeding (in the weeks that lead up to the birth of my son) was something I was going to do because, well, that's how you feed your baby- it was natural- it was what was best- I was going to do it.
I'll enumerate later on all the things I WISH I knew before I embarked on my breastfeeding journey, but I'll say now that I did it. I did stick with it- I breastfed Karl for 11 months. I started off with the "let's get to one year" goal in mind because after one year, your child (in most cases) can safely drink cow's milk. The only reason I stopped at 11 months and not at 12 (which irked me for a little while...I was so DARN close to the year!) was because I got pregnant with my 2nd child and breastfeeding was interfering with the baby's ability to properly attach to the lining of my womb- I had to stop to ensure I had a healthy pregnancy (it's for that reason alone that I let go of the guilt for not making it to a full year- though I can proudly say that Karl DID have my milk for the full 12months because I was so obsessed with pumping that I had plenty of milk frozen for him to get by until after his 1st birthday).
I was complaining to my Oma (grandmother) once, when Karl was only weeks old, about how difficult breastfeeding was and she said to me: "Oh quit your whining, Jennifer. It's one short year out of your very long life." And it clicked with me when she said that. It was only one short year. Heck, if she did it 7 times (which she did!!! Holy guacamole, I can't even imagine) then I could surely do it once or twice.... So I did.
Me. I did it. I made it. I stuck with it. Trust me, it was a grueling journey. Trust me, I wanted to quit at times; I yearned to quit at times. I wanted to be freed from the burden of breastfeeding. It doesn't sound nice calling it that- a "burden"- but really and truly it was for me, for a while. I'm so glad, though, so relieved, so proud and so accomplished feeling that I did stick with it, though. In the end, after I was told I had to quit nursing for the health of my pregnancy, I even felt sad I had to stop because I had grown to love it so much. Looking back, there are SO many things I wish someone would have told me about breastfeeding- so many things I want to tell other new moms about breastfeeding. Obviously, my goal here isn't to scare anyone or freak them out, but it's to be honest and give advice that I think every new mom should get before she begins breastfeeding. The guilt of quitting is what kept me from giving up when my son was young, but I know so many women who did stop breastfeeding who felt a crushing guilt for quitting, who could have benefited from the advance notice on what breastfeeding was really going to be about.
(Let me clarify here that I am in no way putting down, looking down on or dismissing formula feeding. I believe with all of my heart, that each mom needs to do what is absolutely best for HER. A happy, or at least relieved, mom makes for a happy family. If breastfeeding really just isn't for you, then do what is and be happy about it. Being a happy mom makes you a better mom- no matter how you're feeding your baby).
Here's some things I would have liked to have known, or I think would be good for new breastfeeding moms to know, about breastfeeding:
- Your nipples are going to get sore, chaffed, chapped, bloodied, crusty, dried up and all around wretched when you first begin to nurse. NIPPLE CREAM should be your booby's best friend for the first few months you nurse. Slather it all around your nipples before and after you nurse your baby. Goop yourself up before you take a shower, too, because the hot water hitting your extremely overworked and overly sensitive nipples does NOT feel good. The nipple cream will prevent that unnecessary shower time agony.
- Yes, you will look like you have porn star boobs when they're all greasy and shiny and swollen, covered in nipple cream. They won't feel like porn star boobs, but they'll look like 'em.
- Nipple cream is lanolin (which, interestingly enough is made by sheep- weird but true). Lanolin is nearly impossible to get out of the tube if it's room temp or cold. Sit with your tube of nipple cream under your butt or in your armpit for about 10 minutes before you nurse so that it's warmed up enough to squeeze out of the tube and actually rub onto them. It's totally safe for your baby, so don't worry about that. Trust me, you'll need the relief it provides!!!!
- When your milk comes in, it will likely spray everywhere. The first time mine came in I was getting ready to take a shower (about 3 days after I had Karl) and I took my bra off and milk shot all over the place. I felt like I had machine gun, Rambo boobs. I didn't know what to do because my son was napping, so my husband helped me hold bottles under my boobs to catch the sprung leaks!
- My last point brings up one I hadn't really thought to write about- you will lose all sense of dignity when it comes to your boobs in front of your spouse. Really, they will spray, squirt, stink and leak and it'll all happen in front of your significant other. If your hubby gets to see you pumping, that takes the sexy out of boobs for the rest of time, really.
- That's another thing. Breastfeeding is not sexy. There's nothing sexy about leaky, lactating boobs. There's a lot that's messy about them, but nothing sexy...
- Size does NOT matter, my friends. I barely filled a cup size A before I got pregnant, and at my most engorged my boobs were a timid "C"cup but they produced milk like I was the last lactating mother on Earth and it was my sole responsibility to feed all the hungry infants on our planet.
- You will leak milk, in your bra, on your sheets, through your pajamas, through your clothes. My boobs were like a leaky faucets for most of the year I breastfed.
- You will stink. There's no pretty way of putting it. For one, you don't get to shower often because you've got a new baby at home, but your leaky nipples will make you smell like old cheese- constantly. At least, you'll feel like you smell like old cheese all the time. You'll also be too tired to really give a crap about the stink, too.
- You will be getting up with your baby, about a billion times a night, to feed him or her. Notice I said "YOU." When you're breastfeeding, daddy can't help with the middle of the night feeding shift. You will likely not get more than a 3 hour stretch of sleep (and that's generous) for at least the first 2 months of the baby's life. Now, your hubby can overtake middle of the night diaper duty, as mine did, which is a huge help, but still, he'll get to shuffle off to bed and snuggle down, while you've got a baby attached to your boob like a leach.
- You'll probably be nursing your baby, at least once, while you're peeing on the toilet. There's just no other way to do it if you've really really gotta go when you're baby's boobin' it.
- You can't just "go places" by yourself anymore. You are your child's source of nutrition. This is the case for at least the first 4 months. Who else is going to feed your baby when it's screaming it's head off for the boob while you're gone? Unless you've pumped a significant amount so that your baby can have a bottle while you're away, and you plan on bringing your pump with you to take the place of your nursing baby while you're out, there's no happy hour with friends, or shoe shopping therapy, or long runs to clear your mind. It'd be kinda strange stopping in the middle of a party, whipping out your breast pump and relieving yourself anyway.
- Your boobs will turn into alien beings that you won't recognize anymore. What I mean is they'll turn into cement bricks in a bra once your baby finally does start giving you some decent stretches of sleep. They will hurt like the dickens, too.
- Your engorged boobs feel a lot like I imagine having testicles attached to your chest would feel like. You get a crippling pain in them if you bump them, smash them or touch them even (when you're super engorged).
- It will feel SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good to let your baby nurse when you're super engorged (I mean when you're in that rock hard, Rambo boob stage). The relief is amazing! Like getting to pee when you've been holding it for hours.
- You will feel weird the first time you breastfeed in public. You will feel weird the 200th time you breastfeed in public. The chance of some stranger seeing your boob just feels weird.
- If you do stay uncomfortable nursing in public, fitting rooms will become your favorite hide outs. They're not ideal, but at least they're private.
- The first couple of times you breastfeed your'e not really going to know what the heck you're doing. It's very cumbersome. You don't know how to "hold the baby" to your boob and your arms will get tired.
- You'll pretty much go an entire year while constantly wearing a bra. My boobs only saw the light of day when I took a shower. "Free ballin'" hurts because your boobs are heavy and tender and you don't really want to leak all over your clothes.
- You will feel like a cow, literally and figuratively
- When your baby gets teeth, he or she WILL bite your nipples, at least once. It will hurt just as bad as you imagine it would.
- For the first couple of weeks it will feel like your child never leaves your boob and that's basically because it doesn't. Karl nursed about 18 times a day in a 24 hour period for the first 6 weeks of his life.
- You will resent your husband at times for not sharing the burden of breastfeeding and his ability to sleep while you "moo" away silently in the middle of the night. You will probably make unnecessarily loud noises in the middle of the night just to wake him up because you're pissed off he's getting to sleep.
- You may have to alter your diet based on your baby's sensitivities. I had to give up dairy for 5 months because the cow's milk protein you eat can be found in your breastmilk and cause your baby to have an allergy to it. Giving up cheese, ice cream, pizza, butter, anything with dairy in it, was really difficult to do!
- You'll wake up, at least once, in the middle of the night, soaked to the bone, from head to toe, in leaked breast milk (this usually happens the first time your baby sleeps through the night, which sucks, because you WON'T sleep through the night, you'll wake up soaking wet and in agonizing, burning pain from your rock hard Rambo boobs).
- It's a HELL of a lot easier to pop out your boob to feed your baby on demand than it is to sterilize bottles!
- Did I mention you'll stink?
- Pumping is the strangest feeling in the world. You'll always be freaked out (or at least at the beginning you will be) that you're not making enough milk- that and then some days you'll be astonished at just how much milk comes out of those suckers (get it!? Okay, bad breastfeeding pun, sorry). There were several mornings when I pumped 14oz of milk out of my teeny-tiny Tatas!
- It will get easier as your baby gets older, but it will be difficult for a while.
I know there's more out there that mom's who've breastfed could add to this list so that new moms get a realistic glimpse at the wonderful world of lactation. If you can think of anything you'd like to add, please include it in the comments. I think it'd be a good thing to get this information out there to mommy's who have never breastfed before.
Breastfeeding IS rewarding... I don't want to make it all sound bad or daunting. You do get special one-on-one time with your baby and you have something that no one else can offer. It's also awesome for settling your screaming baby down, even if they are not screaming because they're hungry. It's cheap! Formula costs a small fortune, while any breastfeeding materials you buy (pump, nursing bras, nursing pads, nipple cream) more than pays for itself over the course of a year if you breastfeed for that long. It's GREAT for your baby's health- which to me, is most important of all. It does feel good, like God's throwing you a bone in the midst of all of your new-mom anxiety, to know that what you're feeding your baby is truly tailor made for him or her and the healthiest thing you can offer. And, if you're like me and never actually filled out a bra before in your entire life, you'll actually have something to stuff inside of those bra cups!!!
In the end, you will miss it. You'll miss the convenience of it, but you'll also miss the special time you shared with your baby. You'll still have special time, just a different kind. No matter how difficult it got for me (and I have not forgotten how difficult it could be), you'll look back on breastfeeding when you're done and you will miss it----maybe not ALL of it, but you will miss some of it.
I know I do...
Until next time, keep those boobies a'lactating and keep in mind that it won't last forever, so make the most of it while you can!