Thursday, October 27, 2011


Andrew, only 8 hours old.
One of the things that I wanted to do the most, but also feared the most was nursing my baby. I wasn't quaking with fear over the thought of labour when I was pregnant, I was fretting about whether or not I would be able to produce, or if it would hurt, or if I would have to supplement, etc. One of the best things I did was to take a labour and delivery class through Fraser Health that prepared me for the delivery, and the first couple of months after, and we spent more than one class talking about breast feeding. As a result, I felt pretty prepared when it came time to nurse Andrew. Or so I thought.

It was drilled into my head over and over again that as long as the baby is latched properly (and they show what it should look like) that nursing shouldn't hurt. What they didn't say was that there would be some discomfort associated with the first week or so, and that lanolin cream is your best friend. They talked about what not to do, but they didn't talk about actually taking care of your breasts when you're nursing, and that was the most confusing part of the whole thing for me.

In case you didn't know, the best thing you can do when you're starting off nursing is to take a couple of drops of breast milk, apply it to the nipples, and let it dry. But no one told me how to politely explain this to my constant stream of visitors, coming and going to see the baby. It's one thing to whip your breasts out in front of your spouse or mother, feed the baby, and then wait for the milk to dry before covering yourself up, but try your father in law, or great uncle, and you'll see what I mean.

Another thing was nursing pads. As an Eco-conscious person, I initially tried washable cotton nursing pads, but the problem was, I was a leaker. Only an hour or so, and that baby was soaked, and I would have to replace it. It's not very eco-friendly to have to wash those suckers several times a day, and then dry them in the dryer, so my only other option was disposable ones. Besides the fact that they whicked the moisture away and therefore prevented mastitis, they were conveniently thinner, and hard to detect under my shirts. So, being the Eco-conscious person that I am, I looked for disposable ones that weren't individually wrapped, which is only one brand by the way, Johnson and Johnson's. Now, let me start off by saying that I'm not usually a brand basher, but these things were terrible. If they got any moisture on them whatsoever, they stuck to my nipples, even if I had applied some lanolin cream to them. They dried the surface so completely that they were painfully chapped, and when I did finally manage to peel them off my breasts, they left fibers behind that I had to peel off individually. Needless to say, I didn't buy them again.

Andrew didn't have any latching issues or anything like that, and I was lucky in that my supply came in fast and rich, and Andrew grew quickly on breast milk. That is, until he decided to start being difficult. At about 4.5 months, Andrew suddenly lost interest in feeding from me. We would go 3 or 4 days with him barely eating, popping on and off the breast, totally distracted, and he would be hungry, but he just wouldn't focus long enough to eat anything worthwhile. Then, there would be a day of desperate feedings, every ½ hour or so, until he brought back in a considerable supply. If I was lucky, there would be one blissful day of great feeding after that, until it was back to square one. He was getting frustrated, and so was I. I thought long and hard about what I should do... supplement with a bottle of formula? No, he wouldn't take a bottle any more. Deny him feedings for awhile, so when he ate he'd be really hungry? That only served to piss us both off even more. Switch him completely to formula? It seemed like the only solution.

By 6.5 months, breast feeding was a joke. He was still on a round-a-bout feeding schedule, barely sustaining himself and keeping my supply going, and he would no longer nurse when we were anywhere but someone's house in a relatively distraction-free area, and there was no chance of nursing if his feet could touch the arms of the couch or chair we were in. I had to switch spots depending on what side I was feeding him on, or he wouldn't nurse unless we were laying down. It was getting to the point where he was only nursing because he had to get something in his system, and I was on the verge of tears at nearly every feeding. We were left with no choice. Andrew was weaned off the breast and onto the bottle during one agonizingly emotional day. And it took the help of one very patient friend while Neil and I left the house and saw a movie together.

But it paid off. I suddenly had the freedom that I didn't have when I was nursing. I could leave Andrew with Neil or a babysitter and go run errands, or actually go have some time on my own for a change. Andrew started gaining weight again on the calorie-rich formula, and it meant that people who had wanted the pleasure of bonding with Andrew during a feeding, like his grandparents, suddenly had that freedom. I really beat myself up for awhile after weaning him about not sticking with the breast feeding, I loved the bonding as much as I hated the fighting, and I wanted to give him what was best. But that's just it, for Andrew, breast feeding wasn't what was best anymore. He couldn't move my nipple around to see what he wanted to see, the way he can move the bottle, and he couldn't eat in the car while we were driving, or other inconvenient places. I gave Andrew the best possible start I could, but in the end, bottles were what we needed.

And now comes the next stage of life for Andrew, at just over 11 months old, we are now starting to wean him off the bottle and onto sippy cups. Once he hits 1 year, we will do 1 can of Transition formula, and then it's onto Homo milk for him. It seemed like such an agonizing step at the time, but really, would he learn to take sippy cups so well if he was still breast fed? Perhaps not.

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