Some Thoughts On Breastfeeding

9 02 2012

Since my story of “How I Thought It Would Be Versus How It Actually Is” would be way too long for a single blog post, I am sprinkling these revelations throughout my posts as they come up.  They probably add up to a book at this point.  And if I gathered together summary of In-My-Imagination parenting and gave it to a group of mothers, they would probably laugh loud enough to drown out the cries of my NEVER GOING TO CRY IT OUT daughter.

Here’s how I imagined the whole breastfeeding thing:

Moments of serenity and peace and intense bonding, with my sweet baby gazing into my eyes with obvious adoration.  Quiet moments of joy and milk in noisy restaurants, where I proudly but subtly nourish my dear daughter.  Moments of rest with my little angel, snatched out of days otherwise frantic with some sort of outwardly productive but truly meaningless tasks (laundry and dishes).  Moments with somewhat defined beginnings and ends.  Moments holding my darling child’s warm, soft body to mine as we both relax and just enjoy being not-quite-separate-people.

Here’s the reality:

Nursing my child began when she was born and hasn’t actually stopped since.  She just kind of comes up for air and a peek around and then goes right back to what she does best.  If it weren’t winter right now, I’d be topless, because what’s the point of covering my boobs for those 5 minutes?

Breastfeeding is at least as relaxing as a wrestling match or a gymnastics meet.  My kid NEVER STOPS MOVING.  As she drinks, she kicks her legs.  She finds the arm of the chair with her feet and then suddenly pushes with her legs with all her might, nearly launching herself off my lap.  Her arms wave and pump.  She holds my nipple tight in her mouth AND SHAKES HER HEAD LIKE A DOG WITH A CHEW TOY.  She wraps her hands around my shirt, she snaps my bra, she gives me titty twisters when I take my eyes off her for a nanosecond.

Did I say wrestling match?  My sweetie has TEETH and (due to my fear of clipping them) nails that are like claws.  So, really, it’s like wrestling with a small tiger.  She bites.  She pinches.  She digs her fingernails into my breast.  She digs them into my nipples.  She digs her nails into my nipple AS SHE IS BITING.

Quiet?  She hums.  She grunts.  She gurgles.  She slurps.  If I have my shirt on, she begins sniffing for the milk.  When we are in public, she shrieks, because she wants everyone to know HEY! MY MOM HAS THE BEST MILK EVER, EVERYONE CHECK IT OUT!  CHECK OUT MY MOM’S BREASTS!  AND NIPPLES!  THEY’RE GREAT!

Speaking of public breastfeeding.  My little girl has this great trick where she latches on just long enough for my milk to let down then releases so milk sprays every where.  Usually she does this accompanied by the aforementioned shrieking.  And as soon as I try to staunch the flow, she re-latches.  And repeats.

As hard as it is to still be waking up every hour or so all night long (because it is hard to be away from her walking pantry for any length of time) (don’t tell her, but this is going to change soon), I have to admit that I love those moments of feeding and cuddling my semiconscious daughter, moments that entirely outdo the love, the peace, the serenity, the warmth I once imagined.

And those other times?  Truthfully?

No question there.  I wouldn’t trade a single one of them for the ones in my imagination.*

(Although we are working on the biting.)

*Also, in my mind I never got mastitis.  Despite its limitations, the imagination can really be a great place sometimes.


We Don’t Cry It Out In This House. Until We Do.

13 01 2012

You see how her eyes are just a little open? She sleeps this way so she can see if I try to sneak away to do something really fun. Like wash her diapers.

Crying it out.  The time-tested method for getting baby to sleep.  On her own.  In a crib.

Let me be upfront here: I never intended to bring Hazel into the “family bed”.  Co-sleeping – having our daughter in our room with us – yes, I am all for that.  But not our bed.  And four months later… our bed is the only place she has spent the night.

It began with a heat wave.  We had her little bed all ready for her when she came home from the hospital, a little nest attached to my side of our own bed.  But it was too hot in our upstairs bedroom, so Jason, Hazel and I ended up downstairs in the guest bed.  She was new and exciting, so she napped in our arms all day and we slept together at night.

After a few weeks, I began thinking I would move her into her crib.  But I was so tired.  And moving her into a crib meant staying awake while I was nursing her, getting us both out of bed, and then being woken up in an hour or two and having to get out of bed again.  Whereas if I just left her in the bed, I wouldn’t have to actually stand up.

Then there was some traveling, and that meant the three of us in bed while we were on the road.

And then…  And then…

Well, she’s four months old now.  And she is thoroughly addicted to sleeping with me.  Actually, she is addicted to sleeping while attached to me.  And that’s a bit of a problem.  Because I can nurse while sort of sleeping, but only sort of sleeping.  And little Miss Hazel likes to nurse, like, every time she is in the not-quite-awake-lightly-sleeping stage.  Which is like, every twenty to sixty minutes.  Unless her reflux is acting up, or she has a cold, or any number of other reasons, in which case she wants to nurse CONSTANTLY.

Basically, I spend twelve to fifteen hours in bed each day but I NEVER REALLY GET TO SLEEP.

At some point each night, I begin to foam at the mouth from exhaustion and the smell of sour milk, and I silently swear that I WILL MAKE A CHANGE.

Here’s the thing: I really, really, really hate the idea of letting our sweet baby “cry it out.”  So I found this great resource, a book called The No-Cry Sleep Solution.  It is a fabulous book with lots of good ideas in it.  Ideas that I tried briefly, with the result of my child screaming.  For an hour.  In the middle of the night.

The middle of the night when I could be, you know, sort of sleeping.  Let me tell you, at 3am, half-sleep seems better than no sleep at all.

I knew I should persist, but things came up: Christmas, a cold, more reflux symptoms, a full moon, whatever.

So here’s the baby, still in our bed, still nursing all night long, and me spending days alternating between grumpiness and weepiness.  And instead of doing all those little things people do while their baby is sleeping (shower, chores, time with spouse), I do them when Hazel wakes because I am with her when she sleeps.  Oh, and time with spouse?  I spend that time yelling at Jason for having the nerve to get some sleep AND some time to himself.  In other words?  It’s not working.

Our pediatrician told us today that we need to let her cry it out.

The mere thought of it makes me want to cry.  Of course, after four months of inadequate sleep, a wood chip can make me feel rather emotional.  But the thought of Hazel, wanting only the comfort of her mother, alone in a crib, screaming for help, and NOBODY HELPING HER?  It makes me sick.  Absolutely ill.

Jason is of the opinion that A) if I ask for help from a professional and choose to ignore it, I am making my own bed (with a baby in it) and need to lie in it; and B) crying it out will not scar the baby.

Sooooooo… After some discussion, we came to the agreement that I will try the No Cry Sleep Solution Method until the end of the month.  If we aren’t making progress, we will Cry It Out for two weeks.  I am still devastated by the thought of letting Hazel cry it out, so Jason has given me this ultimatum: if the no-cry method fails and I refuse to let the baby cry it out and I haven’t come up with another solution, I am by default choosing to let the baby stay in bed with me and I will therefore forfeit my right to bitch about lack of sleep.

And that seems reasonable.  I guess.

I still really, really, really hate the idea of cry-it-out, but now I’m using that as motivation to really stick with the no-cry method for two weeks.

Or I have for the last two and a half hours.  We’ll see what happens at 3am.

***I would love to insert another sweet photo of the sleeping baby here.  But that would mean she would have to sleep, soundly enough to sleep through the click of the camera, and WITHOUT being attached to me.  And if I could manage THAT, well, then this post would not be all about sleep.***

To My Mouse…

2 12 2011

Well, sweetie, we’ve been together for almost three months now.  You amaze me every day.  Yesterday?  You were this little blob in my arms who only looked at my boob and didn’t do much besides eat and poop, often in your sleep, and I thought I loved you as much as I could love another human.  Then you learned to look at my face, and you started to smile, and I realized that I had never known how much love can grow overnight.

Because you are becoming… YOU.

I thought I would miss the time when you were a part of me, those nine months you spent growing inside of me and your first weeks in this world, when you were just… a baby.  My baby, no doubt, and precious and cute, but with so much of who you would become still a total mystery.  You were still made up of hopes and dreams and maybes.

Now, though, you are definitely becoming your own little person, and what can I say except it is so cool.

You are learning new things and new skills and every one of them impresses me. I DON’T CARE IF TRILLIONS OF BABIES HAVE GRABBED TOYS BEFORE, you are MY baby, and I am pretty damn proud when your chubby little fingers catch something and bring it to your mouth.  You might be the first kid to ever hold its head up; probably not, but to me, you are.  At least, the first kid who counts.

What is the most stunning to me is that you’ve begun to babble.

Yes, I just referred to my baby’s nonsense noise-making as stunning.

When you start to talk, I need to drop everything and listen.  I didn’t expect this to be so amazing, and I can’t put into words why it makes my heart nearly explode and my face crack from smiling, but there you have it.  I could listen to you all day long, but when I stop talking to listen, you seem to think you should stop, too.  So I sort of eavesdrop on you.  I started calling you little mouse because you would make little squeaks and eaks, but now you have a whole range of sounds and each one is worth hearing to me.

You are a morning girl.  I love it when you wake up.  We have been struggling so hard to fix your pain and discomfort from the reflux, but when you first greet the morning, it is always with a smile.  Within an hour or so, you get some horrible burps or the hiccups and your smile starts to falter, then you look to me for help, and when I can’t fix it, you begin to cry, and, little mouse, it breaks my heart.  But it doesn’t matter as much to you; the next morning, you are ready for the world with another smile.  You sit in our bed and laugh at my yawns, at Daddy’s snores, at your diaper change, at your feet.  You stare at the windows, at the polka dot sheets, at the ceiling fan.

Our nursing time together has become even more important to me now that you look at my face while you drink.  You still sniff and snuffle any time you are near my chest, and I love that I am providing you with everything you need right now.  I’m looking forward to introducing you to all the tastes and textures of food, but this time when you are just a milk-baby is so short, I am treasuring every moment of it.  I feel so lucky that with all the issues of reflux you still enjoy nursing as much as I do.

This will be our first Christmas together.  I can’t breathe when I think about it, THAT’S how excited I am for holidays with you.  I realize that you won’t be opening your presents this year, and in fact, you have already seen all your presents, since you were with me when I bought them.  But Christmas morning is still something I am looking forward to.  I can’t believe that we didn’t yet know you were a little embryo last Christmas, and this Christmas YOU ARE YOU!

Little Mouse, every day you are a wonder to me.

I’ll Never Grow Up, Not Me

8 06 2010

It was a typical scene: Jason and a few of his friends sat around a table in a dim room; fish tacos, Pabst Blue Ribbons, and a pitcher of margaritas in front them.  Among his friends was Travis, new father.

Karen and I sat a little way apart from Jason and his friends.  Karen was nursing her and Travis’s 3-week-old son, and I was keeping her company.  We were talking quietly, and could hear snippets of the boys’ conversation.

We heard Travis first: “But that all changes when they switch to solid food!”

“He’s talking about baby poop!” I exclaimed.

Karen and I were properly impressed that Travis had Jason and the rest of the group listening to him talk about baby poop.

But a few minutes later, I heard Jason jumping in: “They have these hybrid ones, that the inside you flush and the outside you reuse.”

“Karen,” I hissed.  “He’s talking about g Diapers!”

Jason was chatting about a brand of reusable diapers that somehow I had worked into a conversation some weeks past.  I had no idea Jason was paying attention at all – we’re not even married yet, he really has no motivation to tune into my chatter about diapers.

But… He does look pretty good holding a screaming baby:

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