Monday, April 6, 2009

Boob Juice

My apologies for the title of this post, but I think "boob juice" is hilarious. Milk is always on my mind. I've been thinking about how awkward and clumsy I was when I was learning how to breastfeed Penny and how seamless and easy it is now. Before I gave birth, I thought breastfeeding would be sunshine and rainbows and butterflies. I thought a chorus of angels would sing the moment I put her to my breast. I had heard horror stories from other women about how painful it was, including gory details about bloody nipples. I thought they were exaggerating. I thought, "That's not going to be me."

Well, it was me. For the first 2 months, I swore under my breath, stomped my feet, and counted to 10 whenever Penny latched on. I had blisters that would come and go, depending on the week.
I remember feeling sheepish about the hooter hider, and dreading the possibility of feeding her in public. But the clouds eventually parted, and the rainbows and butterflies arrived. If anything, she gets so distracted, I'm the one who has to control the environment so she can focus. But it honestly took 4 months for breast feeding to be "enjoyable." Now, Penny takes about 5 minutes to eat and that's it. And it doesn't hurt at all. There is much angelic singing.

I still worry about how much I'm producing (Will I ever NOT worry about how much Penny is getting to eat?), and I loathe pumping at work. Just recently, I exclaimed how happy I will be when I can stop pumping. I actually used the word "can," because I will need to get permission from myself before I can stop. I have set a personal goal of nursing/pumping until Penny is at least a year. This is based on information I have read, mostly from the BOOKS, which say that there are many benefits of breastfeeding through the first year.

I have a love-hate relationship with my pump. It has been with me from the beginning of motherhood, so it seems like an old friend. We go way back, my pump and I. But it is hard for me to a) remember to pump regularly at work, b) to find a comfortable place to pump, depending on where I am in the state on any given day, and c) it takes time. But it is satisfying to come home and put the fruit of my labor in the fridge for Penny to have when she goes to her grandma's.

And then, thanks to the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Sheree had the other day, I read this article from the New York Times. I found it a bit shocking. This piece has already generated 487 comments, and I wish I had the time to read them all. I will probably post a comment too. People are weighing in from all sides. What bugs me is the thought of "banning" something altogether. Judith Warner makes a point to say that hopefully someday soon, pumps will be relics in women's history textbooks.

Penny, using her "meaningless" additional IQ points to master the shape sorter...

I really needed my pump that first month and I'm glad I had it and used it. I have had friends develop cases of mastitis, who needed to nurse and pump constantly in order for it to resolve. This is probably TMI, but my nipples were pretty flat, so pumping helped with that as well. Pumping milk was also a great way for Britt to give Penny bottles in the morning before he went to work.

On the flip side, I supplemented with formula during Penny's first month, and while it's been a great 11 months of breastfeeding (7, if you count the REALLY great months), I am currently out of frozen milk. My supply has diminished considerably, mostly because Penny's demand has decreased now that she enjoys eating so many different solids. So I have made the decision to supplement with formula as needed, until Penny gets the ok to drink regular milk, or soy milk, if she's allergic to dairy. And I'm still pumping, for now.

If anything, the more aggravating issue is the constant mailers and coupons I have been getting from the formula companies since before Penny was born. I felt pressured to use formula before I had even given birth! At least the "pressure" women feel to breastfeed isn't coming from a monolithic company, who charges $15 a can. My pump was pricey, but I have gotten my money's worth and then some.

My point is, there's no black and white. I'm not going to tell other women what to do and I would hope that others wouldn't make them feel guilty for the decisions they have made for their babies and for themselves. It's hard enough to be a parent.


sharnee said...

How funny.. I'm sitting here expressing milk while I read your entry! I too thought it would be easy (not as easy as it seems but boy, I agree 100% that it gets easier). I read that the WHO advises mothers to BF for 2 years but most stop after 6mths... Hmm, not something I have to think about just yet I guess but woah, 2 years! i'll have a read of that article later on... but I guess I've decided (after 3 months of breastfeeding/baby rearing has now made me a professional) that you just have to do what's right for you.

ps: how cute is Penny!!!

Jen said...

I didn't think Warner was actually arguing for banning breast pumps -- I thought it was fairly likely that someone else came up with that headline in order to generate buzz for her column. I also thought she was probably playing devil's advocate to some extent, arguing an extreme position in order to point out that society has gone pretty far the other way. And she had a pretty good point that there is a lot we still don't know about how a mother's mood, stress level, etc. can affect a baby's development.

But I definitely agree with you (as someone who has no stake at all in the argument, except that I'd like to tell my female students they can have babies and still be scientists): it seems like the ideal situation is a variety of options and the freedom for each woman to make her own informed decision.

sheree said...

Just chiming in with a little more support. I am a big fan of the Boob Juice! I pumped for 14 months and breast fed for 20. Oh, and I am a scientist--thanks giant corporate employer for providing a safe, clean, and private place to pump with a built in support network of pumping mothers who had collectively faced down most imaginable pitfalls of feeding issues. And thanks for the mothers who preceded me by only 5 or 10 years to put in place those clean, safe, and private places.

Medela symphony said...

Thank you for the post, it was quite interesting indeed.