Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Hard Habit to Break

While I was pregnant, I thought about trying to breastfeed. In my head it was always "trying" to breastfeed. I had planned to give it a real effort, but would I like it? Would it hurt? Would it feel awkward?

I have been very blessed in that Oliver and I never had a problem with latching, and the sore nipples and small amount of cracking never hurt so bad that I thought "OMG I hate this and I don't want to do it any more!", like I have heard and read about. I feel bad for women who really want to breast feed and have these issues that they have to work through. I am so lucky that it has worked out the way it has and my body has done very well producing enough milk for him. I have to admit that if things had not gone this smoothly for me, I might have given up.

I really had no idea how much I would love it. I don't think I even considered that fact that breastfeeding was something a mother could love. I read about how it's a bonding thing, and that sounded all fine and well, but I truly didn't understand the effect that being able to feed my son from my breast would have on me. It's our time together, this wonderful, beautiful thing that only the two of us share... it's more than a feeling of needing each other, it's a feeling of HAVING each other. We ARE connected.

What really brought these feelings home for me was this episode of The Office. I'm not hugely into the show, but seeing Pam's struggle... against the nurse pushing formula, problems with latch, uncertainty of whether the baby was actually getting anything... I don't know if I could have overcome all of that. I'd like to hope that I would have, but I just can't say for sure. Oh, and the JOY when her baby latched on properly... it brought tears to my eyes.

Thank God for St. John Westshore Hospital. Not only did I get a fabulous water birth, caring, supportive nurses, and food that was actually good... but they also had lactation consultants that made daily rounds. So I got questions out of the way ahead of time about things like:
       1. WTF is a football hold?
       2. Does he have tongue tie?

And most important of all:
       3. Does this look right?

It was SO reassuring to have a professional tell me "that looks good" and "he's going to be a great breastfeeder"!

Also, I know I couldn't have done it without Nick's support. All the simple things he did were invaluable; like bringing me water and handling SO MANY diaper changes, and cleaning the kitchen... so I could just focus on nursing and resting.

So. Obviously I know how lucky I am to have had a relatively easy time of it... but this was also something that stressed me out during my leave. How would he take to a bottle? Since I had to go back to work 7 weeks after he was born, I worried that he was too young to understand switching back and forth, even though "the book" said five weeks should be "enough" time to get breastfeeding "established".

I worried that he wouldn't like the bottle. That he would like the bottle too much and not want to nurse at home, therefore risking my supply. I worried that I wouldn't have enough milk for that first day. I worried about pumping at work... my LORD did I worry. With all the stress, it's a wonder I produced any milk at all.

But, after five weeks of exclusive breastfeeding it was time to start pumping, let him try out the bottle and let Nick have a go at feeding Ollie. That first bottle feed - such a sweet moment between father and son.


Pumping is... foreign.

Breastfeeding very quickly became second nature. Hungry baby? Grab the Boppy, pop him on the boob. Pumping, not so easy. Being hooked up to the thing makes me feel like a dairy cow. I can see the milk coming out! I can see how many ounces there are (which is more of a curse than a blessing). It's unnatural and messy... I have to use rubberbands to rig the thing up so I can at least play solitaire on my cell phone while pumping at work. (More on that weirdness another time.) AND I'm still struggling with how many ounces did he eat today? Am I getting enough for him? Our nighttime routine for prepping for the next day now must include washing the bottles, labeling them for daycare...

It's something I do because I need to. My pump (thanks, Mom!) has become a relied upon tool and essential to feeding our son. My minimum goal for now is six months... that's when he'll start solids. I know I'll get there, but already I'm sort of dreading it.

Even now if I close my eyes and see his profile... which is one of the things I do to trigger "let down" when pumping. But there are things I want to be sure to remember. (I thought about taking pictures, but then thought that might be weird. I dunno, I still might. It would only be weird if I like, showed them to people at work or something. And probably if I posted them here... and I'd think about putting them in his baby book... maybe.)

Anyway, what I see in my head is how he first gets really focused, and then he squints his eyes and sort of rolls them back... like it tastes better than anything, ever.

When we first started laying in bed at night, we could tell that he was done eating when he would come off the nipple to use my boob as a pillow.

He grabs the middle of my bra like he wants to make sure I'm going to stay put... I think it started out accidentally, a comfy, convenient place to rest his hand... but now I'm not so sure, because his little grip has gotten stronger and he holds on at almost every feeding.

The best, though, is the way it feels to snuggle up together after a long day... I can feel his feet wiggling against my thigh, the soft breathing through his nose against my skin... I am forced to just relax and enjoy being with my son.

I get weepy when I think about giving up this part of our lives, knowing that all too soon it will happen, and how it's just one more example of how time really does fly and they really do grow up so fast... but a lot of things make me weepy so that's just par for the course.



Right now though, I'm just going to focus on each day as it comes. And more importantly, I'm going to try my hardest not to fall into the pattern of spending every day thinking "I wish it was the weekend" because even though I DO wish it was the weekend (especially on Wednesdays MYGAHD) I think that wishing away the weekdays does more of a disservice to me. Fun times DO happen during the week! Bathtimes and feedings and playtimes and rocking him to sleep are things that will happen any day of the week and those times are all special and perfect and important and I shouldn't just wish them away. Just because I didn't get to spend the whole day doing them like I would on a Saturday doesn't make them any less precious of a memory. And obviously, I don't want to lose a single one.