Of Babies and Breasts
What a better way to get inspired than joining a wonderfully queer blog carnival. This post is part of the Love Makes a Family Blog Carnival. The theme for this week is secrets.
When Baby A was born, I was determined to breastfeed her. My primary driver wasn’t because of the benefits of breastfeeding for her or for the bonding aspects. It wasn’t even really because it would make it easier to go out and about and leave the house without having to lug bottles in the diaper bag. If asked, I may have told you that these were the reasons that breastfeeding mattered to me.
I am nothing if not practical and this practicality makes me a cheapskate. Although I’ve never (until now) stated it publicly, one of my primary motivators to breastfeed is that I’m cheap. I couldn’t fathom forking out $100-$200 a month to feed a baby. That’s the same amount we spend to feed one adult in my household for the same period of time. There were a lot better places to direct this money in our household budget given that we were going to be a one income family for a year. And, we didn’t really have that extra money in our budget. It was breastfeeding or bust in my mind.
After a good pregnancy and incredible home birth, Baby A came into the world and found my breasts. She crawled up and latched and easily nursed within her first hour. She didn’t do it right away, however, because there was some delay in our skin-to-skin contact.
Sometimes I wonder if our early breastfeeding difficultly was because I was wearing a shirt when she was born. After getting out of the birthing tub for a cervical check, the feeling of water dripping off of me was too intense and I had been shaking incessantly throughout my entire labour, so I pulled a t-shirt over my head to offer myself warm comfort and to soak up the irritating water droplets that fell from my hair onto my shoulders. The baby was born so fast that it wasn’t until sometime later that my midwife asked me if I wanted to feed her. I had totally forgot that the only piece of clothing I had on was a grey t-shirt creating a barrier between the baby and myself.
Things were rocky at first. Maybe the karma bestowed by wearing the t-shirt or the universe needed to through me a curve ball since everything else baby-related had run rather smoothly. The first two and a half weeks of our breastfeeding relationship were marked by mastitis, antibiotics, reduced supply, bottle formula feeding, hand expressing and pumping, a posterior tongue tie diagnosis, lactation consultants, nipple shields, and finally transitioning back to the breast.
Baby A quickly came to hate the breast. She would arch and scream every time I brought her close to me. My daughter is stubborn and impatient. She would latch for a second and when she wasn’t immediately rewarded with milk, she’d pop off and scream. This prevented any further attempts to latch at a given session. I couldn’t perfect my hold and she couldn’t work on her latch. I tried not to take it personally, but it was really hard to have this child who came from you, detest the nourishment you so desperately wanted to provide.
We’re a foodie family and not liking my food is very much a grave insult. While mentally conjuring spreadsheets tallying the spiraling cost of formula should we have to feed her from a can until she weaned was causing me to internally hyperventilate and panic, once I smelled formula in all of its processed glory, my inner foodie found another reason to drive forward with my breastfeeding mission.
But even more than that, I’m a stubborn person and I was determined to master the breastfeeding skill. Once it didn’t work, I had to make it work. I like a challenge and I don’t like to lose. The gentle suggestions to explore other feeding alternatives, namely formula, only made me more determined. I also knew, instinctively, that breastfeeding was possible and I just had to put energy into working on this new skill and trust that it would all work out.
I created relaxing atmospheres rich with music and lavender essential oils for Baby A and I. We’d glide in the glider; we’d cuddle up with pillows to prop us in our bed. We cocooned and swooned while everyone tiptoed around worried that I’d crack under the stress of the situation and turn into a postpartum blubbering mess. I was calm. I learned about patience. I asked for help. I persevered and Baby A and I somehow made it work. It was hard, but not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
This investment of myself in the process of breastfeeding transformed my relationship with my baby. It was no longer about saving money. We threw more money at resolving our issues and sustaining breastfeeding than we would have likely spent on formula for her entire infancy. Pumps are expensive! It wasn’t about being a baby foodie, nor was it about mastering the skill.
I love to feed my baby, to stroke her head, to watch her chubby little fingers wrap around mine. I love to pull her close and snuggle her around my torso. In the moment of feeding I can calm my mind and be present. It’s the only time I feel I can put my life on hold and focus solely on this little human being.
Breastfeeding is the one thing that Baby A and I, the only thing, that will ever be uniquely ours. For 39 weeks I fed her through my umbilical cord, and for as long as she needs, I will feed her with my breasts.