Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Okay, Let's Talk About Breastfeeding

Although the vaccination debate tends to be one I hear a lot about as a thirtysomething mother, breastfeeding is not far behind.

Let me begin with a question ... is this a sexual picture?
I'm sure some will be appalled and think, "You put a large part of your boob online voluntarily? Are you crazy?", and that's okay, I guess.

And some will think it is a sexual picture, which is I suppose a different conversation.

As far as I'm concerned, this:
 is exactly the same as this:
Which is pretty much this:
In other words, Gabrielle is being nourished.

What the heck is the big deal?

And it IS a big deal, whether it should be or not.

The problem with breastfeeding, in my humble opinion, is that there are so many facets; it's so multi-sided in terms of what to talk about that it's hard to know where to begin.

I breastfed all three of my children, and it's been a very different experience each time.

With Addie (her real name is Emily ... I suppose we can drop the pseudonym act since we no longer share a last name), I was very much pressured by the nurses and lactation consultants to breastfeed.  I was seventeen years old, so of course I was going to go along with it.  I never really enjoyed it, though, and Emily had formula when I was at work and I would give her formula instead of nursing if we were going somewhere public.  She got her first teeth at four months, and she made me bleed, so I stopped breastfeeding.  Frankly, I was relieved.

With Belle (real name Ariel and a.k.a. Ari), I had a device I hadn't owned when Emily was a baby--namely, a breast pump.  After my maternity leave was up and I went back to work six weeks after Ari was born, I pumped breast milk for her to have at day care.  I started pumping almost immediately, I pumped on the way to work (my breast pump went into the car lighter ... I think a lot of truck drivers were kind of surprised), twice at work, and then on the drive home from work.  I nursed her at night.

I have been home with Gabrielle, due to medical complications arising from her birth, for nearly five months.  It has been an unexpected treat, to be honest, although the financial hardship is getting heavy. That, actually, is one of the reasons I'm still breastfeeding The Gab ... formula is expensive!  But really, I think the bond I have with her through nursing is strong and legitimizes a lot of studies I've read.  I actually spent a few days in the hospital in late April, and I had to pump milk for Gabby while I was there since I only got a chance to nurse her once a day.

Yeah, breastfeeding is hard.

The funny thing is, I'm not one of those hard core breastfeeding fanatics.  I don't brag about having platinum nipples because I nursed until my kid was 5 or whatever.  My attitude with both Ari and Gabby was one of, "Eh, we'll see.  If it works, we'll do it.  If it's more trouble than it's worth, well ... we know a lot of really smart people who were raised on formula."

Breastfeeding happened to work for me all three times.  I'm glad it did.  If it hadn't, I would have used formula and been equally happy.  So that's where I stand on whether or not to breastfeed.

The stigma of public breastfeeding, though ...

Man, I struggle with that one.

I grew up in New Hampshire, and when I went to college for the first time, I had an interesting epiphany.  Every time I walked by a non-Caucasian student, I'd say in my mind, "Oh, look, there's a black kid." This wasn't negative in any way, just observational ... but the very fact that I would notice the color of someone's skin because it was different than mine ... it bothered me.  It bothered me then, and it bothered me now. I like to think I'm more open-minded (and I think I am, that it's not what it sounds like).

That's how it is with women I see breastfeeding.  "Oh, that woman over there is breastfeeding."  And I am always a little bit jealous because breastfeeding in public is so hard for me.

The first problem, of course, is that I am me.  I am absolutely the clumsiest person in the world.  I was nursing Ari at the mall once, and a high school kid came over and pointed out that the blanket had shifted and my other breast, the one Ari wasn't attached to, had come out from under the blanket.  And because it is stressful for me, milk production is not as easy or plentiful, so its stressful on baby.

I have breastfed Gab while having lunch at a restaurant with my sister and in the coatroom at Ari's gymnastics class.  That's it.  I've spent more time anticipating the need and timing our ventures around her feeding schedule (or nursing her in the car, which always makes me feel a little dirty).

Anyway, Gab and I are still plugging away at breastfeeding.  I do pump, though, as well.  She gets formula through her cereal.  It seems to be a win/win situation, at least for today.

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?  Feel free to share your stories in the comments below?  Do you think the stress the medical profession puts on mothers to nurse is worth the stress it causes?  How about the stigma of public breastfeeding?  Are you bothered by mothers breastfeeding in public? Why do you think some people have such a hangup about this? Is there anything I missed here :-)?

Gotta go ... time to nurse my baby <3 p="">