My First "B": Breastfeeding
I'll preface by saying that I have three children, all of whom were breastfed exclusively for 6+ months. I'm glad I did it. I think it's a good thing. I'd do it again (...but won't, because that would mean another child - have you met my youngest? She has taught me to recognize my limits: her). There are lots of nice articles about the benefits of breastfeeding. I'm not going to mention those benefits, because you already know all about them. If you didn't learn them in your high school health class, surely you've had the lesson with your OB-GYN, pediatrician, mom's club, or stranger at the park. I totally agree: said benefits make it worth it. But...it seems to me, there's a conspiracy of sorts out there in which no one dares tell you the other side:
- It's not natural. The milk might be, but the experience will not come naturally to you or to your child. It is something awkward and must be learned by mom and baby both. Your child might refuse to open their mouth. Or scream, or sleep - through each attempt. You will find the position awkward at best, at least initially, and your shoulders and neck muscles will throb. It does not begin as the picturesque scene of tranquil ease depicted in parenting magazines.
- It hurts. A lot. Thankfully, it gets a lot better as time goes on, but the first few weeks can be brutal. You might bleed, and then stick to your bra as the blood dries, finally tearing off the scab when you try to feed again. And then there's the uterine cramps. I labored stoically with three kids sans medication, but I cried when nursing.
- It's work. It will make you tired. It will make you thirsty (can't imagine being more parched on the Kalahari).
- If you don't show up for work, there's hell to pay. You might pay off the baby with a bottle, but you will lament the decision for the next 2 hours, unable to raise your arms/ elbows more than an inch, until you come to your senses and relieve the pressure, begging your baby to eat way more than she's actually hungry for, which results in volumnous, projectile spit-up - but you'll feel better, so it's worth it.
- Breast infections. I'd rather have ingrown toenails.
- Milk. Everywhere. In the shower. In your bed. Squirting across the room. Spraying your baby in the face like a sprinkler on steroids. Dripping down your shirt. When you cry, when you laugh, when you sleep, when you...you know. Embarrassing.
This is all sounding very traumatic, and I didn't even go into the emotional/mental stress of constantly thinking you're probably starving your kid. I'm wondering if it was really that bad? Is my representation accurate? Thinking... Kind of. It's like childbirth - it hurts, it's hard, but you get something pretty great out of it in the end, which makes it all worth it, at least it did for me. But, unlike childbirth, for which you prepare for months with classes, books, and showers - the hard part of breastfeeding seems to go undiscussed until after the baby is born and new moms are in tears. Then, all of a sudden, everyone groans and says, "Oh, yea - I remember that!" at which point they wince and cross their arms over their chests. Shouldn't we be clueing each other in?
So what do you think? Were you prepared? Was I the only one with my head in the sand when this information was disseminated? Or is that the responsibility of a sister (curse the fact I only have brothers)? Am I the only one to wince at the memories? Funny, now...almost, but not really. Pondering how to incorporate this wisdom into general knowledge... :)
Stay tuned for my next "B": Bunkbeds (shudder)...