(I'm finally working on The Birth Story, Part Two. But first, one last boob-related tantrum.)
My mom was a witness to the Great Nursing Downward Spiral last week. She watched Noah go from eating like a champ on a regular basis to being a fussy, distracted eater who would only nurse for a few minutes before pulling away in either red-faced fury or complete boredom.
So we talked about breastfeeding. A lot.
When my oldest brother was born, in the 60s, no one breastfed. It was barbaric. It was Third World. It Was Not Done. Formula was the Modern Civilized Way and produced Super-Brained Babies of the Future.
So when my mom decided to breastfeed, she had zero support or instruction.
Not surprisingly, it didn't work out. My brother didn't latch correctly and lost weight. My mom was shocked by how much it HURT and developed mastitis. Her pediatrician yelled at her for starving her baby and berated her until she gave up and switched to formula.
She didn't even try to breastfeed her next two babies.
By the time I came along, it was 70s, and the tide had turned. La Leche League was around and breastfeeding was finally coming back in vogue. So she nursed me for five months, which is when I woke up one day and absolutely, steadfastly refused anything but a bottle.
Out of the four of us, I was the baby with the chronic ear infections. I had tubes put in my ears when I was five. I had a frillion food and drug allergies. I was always, always sick.
Was there a connection? Feh. Probably not. I was just a kid who got a lot of ear infections. I was never in daycare and never had a drop of formula until I weaned my damnned self. So...that's that, I suppose.
Since I've been writing about my own Boob Tribulations, I've gotten a lot of emails. Some have been full of the worst kind of assvice ("Don't give up! Formula is SO AWFUL! Stop giving him bottles! You're confusing him with pacifiers! Stop drinking milk/wine/juice/caffeine/meat/bread/calories and it will all get better!), some have been encouraging success stories -- and others are personal accounts about Why I Quit Breastfeeding Because Goddamn, Enough Already.
Those stories? Are so sad, because y'all are trying SO HARD. You're fighting through thrush and mastitis and low supply and bleeding nipples and clogged ducts and pumping and weight loss and milk drying up overnight for no apparent reason.
And when you admit that you quit, the guilt and shame and regret are palpable.
It's funny. Most of us have a support network that my mom's generation could only dream about. We have lactation consultants at our pediatrician's office who give us their home phone numbers and books and pumps and special breastmilk storage containers and detailed instructions for pumping and storing milk tacked up on our fridge. We have Boppies and Soothies and prescription nipple creams.
Yet we're still having a motherfucking hard time.
And while there are hundreds of people who will applaud our decision to breastfeed now, we're all terrified to admit that we want to give up. That it's not working for us. That we aren't one of the women for whom the whole process comes easily and naturally and look! We're already so skilled we can do it out in public without any screaming or multiple failed latches or showing our boob off to the entire food court.
I haven't given up. I'm still trying. I'm still in pain and I'm still a fucking wreck because Noah is not nursing like everybody tells me he should nurse. A few minutes here and there and a tendency to pull away violently, which OW OW OW.
(Oh yes, that whole shebang about breastfeeding only hurting if you're doing something wrong? Or if the baby isn't latched on right? Bullshit. SHUT UP, La Leche League.)
I thought it was my diet affecting the flavor of the milk. Until I pumped, put the same milk he'd just rejected in a stupid bottle and watched him happily slurp an entire four ounces down.
I thought it was reflux. I gave him Mylicon drops and burped the kid so many times per feeding he's probably all twitchy from the back-thumping. Still. Five minutes a boob is the most I can get him to commit to.
I thought it was a flow issue. We bought slower-flow nipples for his bottles to make him work harder, which suceeded in making him hate the bottle, but didn't change his nursing patterns at all.
I've let him sleep through feedings to get really good and hungry. I've woken him up and forced him on the boob while still half-asleep. Same result.
He poops, he pees and he sleeps peacefully for hours at a time. He doesn't have colic and he's outgrowing his 0-3 month clothes already. He holds his head up and is extremely alert and good-natured. He smiled at me yesterday.
All signs point to a baby who is doing Just Fine.
His mama, however, cannot take this kind of stress. First it was the low supply. The pumping and the fenugreek and the supplementing with formula.
Then it was the thrush. (And OH MY GOD, the THRUSH. THAT RASH. THAT HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE RASH THAT NO ONE UNDERSTOOD WAS NOT A NORMAL DIAPER RASH AND COULD NOT BE SOLVED BY CHANGING DIAPER BRANDS OR ANY OVER-THE-COUNTER BUTT PASTE KNOWN TO MAN.)
(What finally worked? The prescription stuff from the doctor, corn starch and a buttload of patience.)
So. We continue to limp along. We see the lactation folks on Thursday for the moment of truth: is Noah losing weight again? Is he miraculously getting enough in these super-short feeds? Should we withhold the bottle or not? Continue pumping to keep up the supply or accept that maybe we'll all be happier if we just switch to formula?
I don't know the answers yet. So really, this rant is probably premature, as I have No Fucking Point Whatsoever.
I am still committed to breastfeeding.
I am also committed to not driving myself crazy. To not letting my baby go hungry to force him to nurse. To not beating myself up over this or to view it as a "failure" if I decide to quit.
I'm committed to Noah, no matter what.
I'm reluctantly keeping comments open on this entry, since I think some readers need a place to vent and share their own frustrations, victories, defeats and experiences. But please -- no judging, no assvice. Any comment that is even remotely assvicey or judgey (whether of me or any of my commenters) will be deleted. If a commenter specifically asks for advice, feel free to offer some. If you have a story to tell, please, tell us. But as of right now, nobody has asked for your opinion, so I respectfully ask that you stick a sock in it.