Nov 15, 2009

The La Leche League can kiss my...ummm...nipple.

Like all new mothers, I want to do what is best for my baby. We listen to classical music together (while I whisper sweet nothings into his ear about maybe someday playing the cello). We dance together and he falls asleep in my arms. We "kangaroo cuddle", I sing to him, I read to him...recite with him with educational toys.

He is thriving. It is beautiful to find a roll of chub that wasn't there before. I kiss his knee-rolls and his frog belly...nuzzle his chubby cheeks and nibble his toes. He can already self-soothe, lift his head for fairly long periods of time. Sometimes he stares at me from across the room, and then grins at me when he sees me coming. He sleeps 5 or 6 hour stretches a night and wakes up perfectly happy...wearing a diaper that would even frighten a dung beetle. His hand to eye coordination is already ridiculous.

I know nothing of newborn narcolepsy. My kid was born 3 months old, and aside from the fact that he occasionally cries inconsolably as though it is the end of the world, this motherhood gig has been the easiest and most instinctive thing I have ever done.

Except for one thing. And, at this one thing, we are both utter failures.



When he was born, they asked me if I wanted them to put him on my chest. I, of course, wanted nothing more. 9 months is a long time to wait to meet the greatest love of your life, and the moment had finally arrived. There he was...all covered in goop. So perfect, so beautiful, so...hungry. They asked me if I wanted to nurse him a bit, so I first put him to my breast when he was mere moments old. He wasn't a natural, and it took a bit of work that evening to get him to understand that my breast was a food source...the BEST possible food source. But, he eventually latched (a perfect latch, I might add), and all was well...for a few hours.

He soon discovered that I did not yet have any milk.

See...nature plays a few cruel jokes on mothers. Early breastfeeding is the cruelest of all. Crueler even than the fact that a baby's head is very rarely birthable without tearing, even though women have been birthing babies since there have been women. Crueler than the fact that after you have been torn to shreds and can barely walk, your baby needs you. Badly. More than he ever will in the future. Those first few days are prime bonding time, and when you cannot even get out of bed, well...*flips Mother nature the bird*

But the worst is having a ravenous baby and having only a few beads of colostrum to feed him. You feel like a failure. Your baby is STARVING...for the love of GOD you can think of nothing but feeding your baby. The hungrier he gets, the more he cries. Then he becomes furious. You keep offering the breast, because what else can you do? He sucks until his cheeks cave in and gets only a couple of drops, while the formula fed baby in the next room sleeps contentedly.

Then, if you are really unlucky, your baby will develop jaundice. You are told that your baby needs liquid to flush the jaundice out, but are encouraged to continue breast(starving).
Now, I am well aware of the fact that breast milk is the very best thing your baby could possibly eat, but when your baby's eyes turn yellow, the last thing you want to do is watch them go more and more yellow as you fight through nursing...errr...starving a very ticked off baby.

I gave my baby a bottle because his agonized crying made me cry. He gulped that bottle down in less than a minute and I felt relief for the first time in days. I had done my job. My baby was fed and happy.


Breastfeeding started to wane. He was more and more frustrated by the breast and its slow delivery. I had taught him instant gratification and he didn't want to go back to struggling for every stinkin' drop.

We lasted until the evening we got home from the hospital, and then there was a frantic formula run. I told myself that he would only eat formula until my milk came in fully. I figured that since my boy wanted instant gratification, I would pump...increase my milk supply until it flowed fast enough for his liking. I was told this was an impossible dream...that he would be on the bottle forever and ever AMEN...but I kept pumping. Eventually, I was pumping enough milk to feed him bottled breast milk all day long. No more formula, no more guilt.

The boob? It seemed to go the way of the Tasman booby. He would not take it, no way, no how. This went on until his one week birthday. We were visited by a public health nurse who told me to try again.

I scoffed, chuckled, rolled my eyes. I told her there was NO WAY. My son? He hates boob. Loathes it. And then I pulled out my breast and offered it to my son.

He latched. And ate a full feed.


So we breastfed, and it was wonderful. My baby was eating the way nature intended. Not only was he getting the most perfect nourishment possible, we were skin to skin...bonding in ways that are impossible otherwise. He began grasping my finger as he fed...grabbing handfuls of my hair...gazing lovingly into my eyes...

And then I began to make too much milk.

You would think that is a good thing, but it is actually worlds of badness.

My darling, sweet child...turned into the devil. He screamed through feedings, sounded like a drowning piglet while he ate, and the spit-up...OH MY GAWD the spit-up. It was unreal. He developed infant reflux and started to become colicky. He needed nose drops because he kept on vomiting through his nose and the dried vomit was clogging his sinuses and affecting his breathing. In order to sleep, he needed to be on a 30 degree incline so he would not overflow...

So, I have admitted defeat for now. He is officially a bottle-fed baby. Breast milk at night, and formula during the day until I can get my milk supply back up and it can be all breast milk, all the time. (It had gotten to the point where he and I were both crying during feedings, and my milk was drying up due to stress).

This decision comes with a lot of guilt, though.

In the hospital, there were posters all over my room about breastfeeding. The nurses barely talked of anything else. "How is he doing with breastfeeding??" they would ask, even though they should have been asking themselves if he was maybe just a little bit TOO yellow. I was made to feel awful for even considering giving my son formula while in the hospital and the public health nurse gave me stink eye when I told her about our initial foray into bottle-feeding and urged me to try again.

I feel like I must justify myself when even the formula container says:

(Don't even get me started on how ticked off the discovery of the little ditty above caused me to be. Why the guilt? WE KNOW!!!!)

Thankfully, motherhood is entirely instinctive. And, as instinctive as it is to put your baby to the breast, it is also instinctive to stop putting your baby to the breast if it is causing harm.

I will keep telling myself that while I enjoy my happy, healthy, vomit-free baby.

(A couple of links for anyone who wants to read some of the propaganda... ;)

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