On breastfeeding…

Three weeks – that was my goal.

I work in health care, and you can’t fart around a hospital when you’re pregnant without someone gushing over the benefits of breastfeeding. To get more information, I took a breastfeeding class. After releasing the rainbows and butterflies, the instructor (who was very helpful) told us the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding. In addition to better immunity for your baby, losing pregnancy pounds faster, and solving world peace, breastfeeding was a bonding experience for you and your newborn.

I’m realistic and pragmatic. While the instructor assured me that breastfeeding would reduce the impacts of climate change, my female friends had different experiences. One friend had a surplus of milk, and built a stockpile in her freezer. However, another had to pump for an hour to squeeze out a few mere ounces. Some women I knew LOVED breastfeeding, and successfully fed their child for over a year! Others, flat out hated it. Sore nipples, biting, latch issues, clogged ducts, mastitis, no support at work, the time commitment, and mastitis.

I told myself I would try breastfeeding for three weeks. I would give it my all, and if I hated it we’d switch to formula (thank God for formula!). When Carly did not latch the first five days, I almost quit. My life was: try to latch for an hour, then manually express for thirty minutes, then formula, and then repeat. Day four I had a mental breakdown and was googling “Am I insane?” Thankfully on day six, my milk came in, and Carly decided to latch. Then, I spent the next eight weeks teaching her how to eat. Wake up, hit the boob, eat a little – repeat. Wake up, hit the boob, eat a bit more – repeat. Breastfeeding became my full time job, and mostly, I loved it.

There were not butterflies or rainbows, but the pride I felt at feeding our daughter from my body was like nothing else. When Del went back to work after week two I sent him pictures of Carly eating. My child latched to my body was beautiful. My body kept, and has been keeping, her alive.

Then, I went back to work. I am grateful for the time I had at home, but I have always known I was going to be a working mother. My work days have been without a break and without end. Get to work, pump and email, work, pump, work, email, pump. I hook up, eat lunch, and check emails. I bought a $70 pump/laptop bag to haul all of my stuff around. My entire work calendar is blocked off for pumping time, and my team knows when I need to take thirty minutes to pump.

Breastfeeding takes a village. For me to have the time to feed Carly, Del took over most of the housework for a few weeks. And after giving birth my back went out, so my mom stayed for five weeks to hand me Carly between feedings. Without Del or my mom, I would have failed. At work, my co-workers are incredibly supportive. They move meetings around my schedule, and help me find a space to pump if I need it.

With a lot of support, I’ve made it nine months. Nine wonderful, glorious, difficult, beautiful, exhausting, thrilling, calorie burning, I eat so much food, and drink so much water, months. Breastfeeding and pumping is not as hard as people said it would be – it’s harder. The sacrifice of time, energy, and your body is exhausting. Yet, I made it this far off of…. I don’t even know how. I think I am just too tired to think of something else.

When I think of how long I did it, it’s one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud. I did it! I feel like I deserve a little party or something. I kept Carly alive off breast milk for nine months. Although she has had a cold since August (daycare – le sigh) she is healthy and chunky. Although I have days where I want to just quit and throw my pump – I don’t (yet).

This morning Carly and I had our little time together. I hold her close to my body, she latches on, and we sit there in beautiful peace. I feel her snugly body, and the Oxytocin rushes from head to toe. I look down at her, and she looks up at me. Sometimes she giggles, sometimes she bites, but mostly – she just eats.

We did it, Carly, Del, the village, and I. Nine whole months. We did it.

The 5 best things I bought for pumping…

When I was pregnant, I wrote a post about the five best things I bought for my pregnancy. Time has moved along, and I’ve gone from the pregnancy stage to breastfeeding and pumping. Breastfeeding, for me, has been incredibly rewarding. It has definitely had it’s downs (baby Carly didn’t latch for the first week) and it’s ups (baby Carly is now in the 90th percentile for everything). Along the way I’ve made a few purchases to make pumping easier. If you’re in that same life stage, here are some things that have helped me.

  1. A Spectra S1 pump

If you are a woman that likes to do things and not hold two bottles to your boobies – this is the pump for you. It has a battery! So you do not have to be chained to an outlet to pump. I can pump at night while cleaning the kitchen and making iced coffee for tomorrow. It is also a closed system, which means you do not have to wash the tubes out. And if you learn anything about pumping it is that there is a ton of washing. Also, it has a “massage” function. It doesn’t actually feel like a massage, but when you’re having milk sucked out it’s nice to have options. Insurance fully covered my pump, so I got the one that had a few extra parts and pieces.

2. A feeding/pumping bra that isn’t super gross

Why Victoria Secret is not all over this is beyond me. When you look at pumping bras online, they’re disgusting. Imagine a gigantic rubber band you strap on. Just because I’m a mom does not I have lost my sexuality and want to wear gross underwear. This bra is pretty dang good (I haven’t found the perfect one yet). It is kind of bulky and more on the pricey side, but it looks beautiful and holds bottles super well. Plus, you can wear it to breastfeed AND to pump. Overall, it’s a win.

bra

3. An all-in-one back pack

My third week back at work I almost threw out my back hauling my laptop, lunch bag, bottles, and pump from meeting-to-meeting. I was tired of my shoulders and back hurting from lugging around so much stuff. Enter in: this backpack. It holds everything! There’s a space for my laptop, a space for the pump, and a little cooler section for bottles. Plus, there’s enough extra space for my lunch bag. Now, when I need to go to meetings I just throw it all in one backpack and go!

backpack.PNG

4. One of these ice packs

I walked into my six month check up, and there were packs of formula, a baby toy, and this ice pack. I grabbed the formula for a few families I know, took the baby toy for Carly, and then snagged three of these ice packs. I like them because they wrap around the bottles to keep them cool when I’m travelling around. Plus, they also work to keep cans cold.

ice pack

5. Extra parts

One of my current fears is running out of flanges, bottles, or extra parts. I do not want to be at work and feel like my boobs are going to burst. So ease my worry, I bought one extra set of everything. Although Amazon has a lot of stuff, I’ve found great prices on lactationconnection.com. When Amazon has not had the parts I wanted, Lactation Connection has items in stock.

Happy Pumping Y’all!

Chuck it in the F#$% It Bucket…

If “winning” at motherhood is getting approval from a majority – the attempt to win would be futile.

I was a few weeks pregnant when I was told breastfeeding was stupid and breasts were “for my husband.” I was 34 weeks pregnant when I was told that if I did not breastfeed my baby would be unhealthy. When I mentioned I might use formula one person gave me an audible gasp. You know what is best? A fed baby. However you feed your baby – I support you!

One person told me epidurals were for the weak. Another told me if I got an epidural I would hate it. And two other women told me an epidural helped them go through labor successfully. You know what is best? A mother and baby alive and healthy. Natural, epidurals, water – I support your choice.

One nurse said that childbirth should be all natural and that she’d prefer no one gets a c-section. Yet, I think of my mother and my mother-in-law – who both had c-sections. Without that medical intervention who knows what might have become of Del, our mothers, or myself? Thank God for c-sections, because they save lives!

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child, but the majority of the time I did not ask nor seek the opinion of everyone in the village. I’m 39 weeks pregnant, and no choice I could possibly make is good enough for any group of people. If I google it, I’m wrong. If I ask advice, there are 10 different opinions. It’s a losing battle in a war that can never be won.

Against all of these odds I’m taking the best advice I have ever heard a co-worker doll out: “Chuck it in the fuck it bucket.”

I have a doctor and a husband and a brain. I’m going to do me – and you just do you. Every person is different, every pregnancy is different, and every family has different needs. Let’s all agree to let each other be adults and trust that we are making the best choices we can with the information we have. I know I’m making good choices, and I’m sure that you are too.

And if you don’t like what I’m doing – well – quite frankly my dear…. I don’t give a damn. I just took your advice/opinion/thought and chucked it in my fuck it bucket. Support in an era of tough decisions is the thing for which we should all strive. Motherhood is hard enough, so let’s not make it any harder on each other.

Let’s talk about my breasts…

I’ve written about many different topics on my blog before. Being pregnant has brought up a topic I never thought I’d discuss: my breasts.

Breasts. Fat with glands topped off with nipples. On a biological level, one of the things that separate us from reptiles is mammary glands, which give us the ability to produce milk to feed our young. Yet, we live in a society, which has a culture. Like every culture, we give many meanings to different things. Breasts, in our culture often take on a sexual connotation. Women’s breasts have been objectified and treated as play things for other people for centuries (see: nearly any magazine, newspaper, TV show or movie).

I give this long introduction in order to say: do you even realize how much you’re talking about my breasts? Whether they’re sex objects or used for milk, someone is bringing up my breasts – and I’m not really a fan. I’ve also found that if someone is bringing up my breasts, they usually have an opinion they’re dying to share with me. I can’t think of a single time where I’ve gotten to ask a man what he is doing with his penis. “Sir, I see you have seven children. Will you be getting that vasectomy we all think you need?”

Since everyone seems to want to know what I’m doing with my breasts, I figured I might as well blog about it.

Decades ago, in a very different time, we pushed formula. In the last few decades, we as a society have come to value breastfeeding. I’m not here to tell any woman how she should choose to feed her child. I would, however, like to point out that I think it’s likely that the increased discourse on breastfeeding has led to an increase in people asking strangers the question, “So, you’re breastfeeding, right?”

I do research for a living. I’ve read A TON on the subject. I’ve come to the conclusion that people will read about what to do – and then agree with whatever conclusion they started with. Thus, I’m not about to regurgitate my own conclusions.

In the last several months, I’ve gotten asked by every type of person whether I would be breast feeding. I’ve had at least six people assume I’m breastfeeding when they’ve said, “Now when you breast feed…”

I was 7 weeks pregnant and getting my blood drawn. The lab tech, who I had never met, asked me, “So, are you breastfeeding?” It’s a simple enough question, and I’m an open person. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder whether I would be judged based upon how I answered.

I’ve thought about whether I would breastfeed, but there is another layer to the subject I’ve never heard discussed. What do we expect of breastfeeding for women that have survived assault? I’ve lived through sexual assault. As a result of that I have a strong dislike for anyone staring at or touching my breasts. Yeah – awesome side effect, right? I’ve spent years trying to overcome this shame and trauma associated with assault. Now, years later every other day someone wants to ask me about my breasts. So, I did what every logical millennial does when faced with a problem, and googled solutions.

“Sexual assault and breastfeeding”

“Breastfeeding and rape”

I did not know what I was going to get. I was hoping I would get someone who said, “Hey girl, you’ve been through enough. Screw those jerks who want to tell you what to do with your body and you do you!” Instead, the majority of websites I encountered were best summarized as, “Learn to value breastfeeding, because it’s the best!”

I felt like my experience and after effects was totally ignored. I’ve spent years trying to get over it. I know that a baby simply being born changes your life, but I highly doubt a birth helps you overcome trauma in a manner of seconds.

In the throes of feeling discouraged, I thought a long time about what is right for me and my baby. Breastfeeding sounds cool, but I also hate the idea of my boobs being attached to a baby 24/7 for six to twelve months. I want to bond, but I also want sleep and my husband’s help with feeding. So, as of today, my plan is to try good ol’ breastfeeding. If I hate it, I’ll try to pump and feed. I’ve spent way too long time feeling guilty about my breasts, so if I: hate breastfeeding, think pumping is the worst, need sleep, want more help form my spouse…. I’m grateful that formula is a wonderful option. I hear Aldi formula is affordable and well-liked.

Fed is best. Not being continually traumatized is best. That’s good enough for me – and my baby. So, can we stop talking about my breasts now?