Breastfeeding Flaws, Failures, & Finding A Way
A few short hours after giving birth to my daughter, a nurse came to my room to check on us.
"Have you fed her yet?" she asked. I shook my head no. "Alright - let's see how it goes!" She sat across from my bed, smiled, and waited for me to begin.
The choice to breastfeed was a natural one for me, and in my mind, it was just the thing I was going to do. Sitting up in my hospital bed, I opened my robe and held Little Magician to my chest. She latched on and started sucking away - and I thought, "Well, damn! That was easy!" I would quickly come to learn that breastfeeding definitely was not - and still is not - as easy as I imagined it would be.
Bee, The (Faulty) Walking Milk Jug
Though babies typically lose weight in the days after birth, they usually rebound to their birth weight and beyond within a few weeks. Despite my round-the-clock feeding sessions, my daughter was losing weight on a weekly basis, and it didn't make sense. When she seemed hungry, I fed her until she seemed full. My boobs felt (and looked) huge and heavy. I thought I was doing everything right, so I couldn't understand why she would be losing gram after precious gram at each doctor's appointment.
My doctor scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant, and I felt a mixture of relief and shame. Relief because I was looking forward to tapping into a priceless resource and getting help for myself and my baby. Shame because I felt like an utter failure to be struggling with something as important as feeding her. My logical brain told me to remove emotion and cut out the embarrassment I felt in the clinic waiting room, but I couldn't help it. I just hoped I would feel better leaving than I did going in - and I did.
The appointment with the lactation consultant was awesome. She practiced from a very holistic place and treated me as a whole person, not just a pair of breasts. After a few assessments, she offered me some great tips to help with my slow milk production and baby's weight gain - and most importantly, genuinely reminded me that I was doing a good job.
The Sweetest Taboo
Breastfeeding in public for the first time was a complete shitshow. Holding a wriggling baby while trying to free a milk source while attempting to cover up with a blanket...it was a mess. It felt like it took forever to get her latched on, and it felt like everyone was staring. I swear I could see thought bubbles above the heads of passers-by in the mall, from both people who seemed to approve of and be disgusted by my breastfeeding. The anxiety of trying to feed Little Magician (which already had its issues) was exacerbated by attempts to cater to the sensibilities of people around me, and it honestly got to be too much. I keep modesty in mind, but while feeding, I only serve one person - and you, sir/ma'am who look appalled when you see little feet kicking from beneath a cover across my chest, are NOT that person.
Speaking of chests, I'm determined to pin a "Most Improved" medal on the one belonging to Little Magician's daddy. Since my pregnancy we've discussed all things breastfeeding, including some of his concerns around privacy and me doing it in public. Through conversations with him about the functionality vs. sexualization of breasts, modesty, comfort, accessibility of suitable public breastfeeding spaces, and the stress of worrying about others when I really DGAF, he's started to understand my perspective. Reminding him that people have seen more of my breasts during Caribana than when I'm breastfeeding really helped to make the picture clearer for him.
- It would be really cool if your breasts had the ability to become translucent with measurement marks on them so you'd have an idea how much milk your baby is drinking.
- I didn't realize the importance of wearing the right tops when breastfeeding. Nothing like being caught out there with a hungry baby, trying to manoeuvre your way out of a tight-ass shirt to feed your child.
- Eating for two doesn't stop once baby is out of the womb - breastfeeding takes a LOT out of you. My nails turned to thin sheets of paper with protein depletion, and I started getting crazy toothaches due to loss of calcium. A good diet is so crucial.
- I still feel like a failure at times. When the Little One is going through a growth spurt and my milk serves as more of a snack than a meal, I still get upset. Stress doesn't help milk production, so I try to keep myself cool and calm - but I'll own up to being very sensitive around providing for her.
- Breastfeeding has taught me a lot about assumptions (you generally won't know how it'll go until you try), determination (continuing to breastfeed when others told me I should throw in the towel), and staying in the moment (LM has MUCH better feeds and I feel more connected to her when I'm not multitasking at the same time). I'm not sure how long we'll have on this journey together, but I'm going to do my best to make the most out of every minute.