Welcome to the Big Booby War. Breastfeeding from the Trenches: a diary


Your first pregnancy, oh what grand schemes you have, what visions of being the Madonna and child.  You are going to be that super wife and mother.  You will tranquilly nurse your little cherub, lay him in his bassinet and then slip your silk and lace on to become that sexed up vixen of the marital bedroom.  With such a huge bust, why not let your equipment run double duty?

Ha ha, ha, let me just wipe the tears from my eyes before I respond to this one.  Nursing is the most horrific competition in Generation X motherhood.  We sit in Lamaze classes and hear the brainwashed joyfully share the wonders of nursing with us. I seriously question whether these zealots have ever even had sex never mind birthed a baby.   They say that it is so good for our babies, our bodies and our souls and we believe the freaks.  We start to daydream about our bodies doing their natural thing and nurturing our young.  Of course if we are doing it right it won’t be at all uncomfortable. Or so they say.

Let me assure you that what they need to do in those classes for breastfeeding preparation is bring in a pair of vice grips.  Anyone who can wear them attached to their nipples for forty minutes at a clip will probably find nursing to be painless.  For the rest of us, expect extreme discomfort whether you have a little mouth latched on or not.  Nursing hurts for the first several weeks while you feed your greedy little parasite, I mean baby, and it hurts when that same little darling doesn’t latch on and your breasts are overflowing with unconsumed milk.

Of course, the bigger darlings, I mean grown men; want to be latched on whenever the little beastie is away.  After all, his favorite playthings next to his play station controller have doubled in size and will shoot life-giving fluid 15 feet across the room if properly manipulated.  Besides, they all have a deep desire to taste fresh from the tap breast milk.  They pretend initially that it is some strange accident, but in the end, they all seem to go praying to the booby alter hoping to taste what the Prego books call liquid gold.  I firmly believe that all men are secretly jealous of the nursing baby.  My own husband jokingly threatened to flick our son’s ear to get him off the teat or so I thought it was a joke until I laid the lad into his bassinet only to have a panting husband claiming it was his turn.  All right, I’ve discussed the slightly unsavory; let’s move on to the really macabre.  Other women.

So you think the nurses at the hospital pushed nursing as the only possible way to feed your child.  They sold you like a used car salesman push a one owner Volvo.  Those nurses were amateurs.  The real pros are out there and it is your aureoles that will pay.  It’s the other mommies that will be haunting your guilt-ridden nights.  They are the ones that will ask you how nursing is going, and then brag about their joy of nursing around the clock for years on end.  Don’t fall for their crap.  Over 85% of them quit nursing before they even needed to gas up their cars after delivering their baby.  A few make it to the 6 month mark and then the truly committed or committable as I like to think I was, manage to nurse the entire first year.  On this point I will tell you a few things.  I hated nursing but felt that I would be the biggest loser of mothers if I didn’t do it for a whole year.  I had initially planned on trying to make it for 3 months, and even that seemed a stretch once I got home from the hospital with blistered and bleeding nipples.  I wanted to be the best mommy in the whole world but if I wanted to kill myself every time the baby cried for a feeding would I be Mommy of the Year or Mommy Dearest?

My pediatrician guilted me.  He talked grandly about the many benefits of nursing for both the mother and parasite, I mean baby.  How could I quit after that?  After all, it was 10 I.Q. points and a reduction of risk for allergies, illnesses and criminal aspirations for my child.  Who could say no just because of agonizing pain and massive inconvenience?   So, I grabbed a couple of tubes of lanolin for the old spigots and then learned the joy of nursing on codeine.  Oh we all have a few extra prescriptions hanging around the house.  Why not pop a few pills before the feedings?  If something stronger were available I would have popped those down too.  In the end, I complained bitterly but managed to get through the year. I also feel obliged to mention in all journalistic fairness, that this same doctor had a son born two months after my own boy entered our scary world.  I at one point dared to ask how the nursing was going in his house.  He chuckled and said that his wife had given up nursing after the first few weeks because her work schedule made it difficult.  Ha, and all those times he gave me the guilt spiel when I said I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep at night having to do all the breast feeding and then get up at 6 a.m. to go for work the next day.

By the way, screw all of my evil co-workers who managed to make me feel like Bessie the cow for the entire time.

Nursing while working is actually next to impossible unless you are a true zealot.  Almost no workplaces really offer their rank and file employees private places to pump and store milk regardless of the related laws.  I pumped milk for 11 months in an employee bathroom with co-workers often knocking on the door and giving me grief about having to take two ten minute breaks per day to pump milk.  And yes, some of them did think it was really gross that I was storing breast milk in the employee frig right next to their ham sandwiches and yahoo drinks.  The resentment about those nursing breaks was horrific.  It was especially bizarre since so many of staff would take cigarette breaks of the same duration but with more frequency.  For whatever reason, my breaks were met with a certain odd hostility as if I had just been taking breaks to go fiddle myself in the loo for fun.  Maybe these folks just didn’t realize that pumping milk from one’s breast didn’t have the same sort of sexual thrill as having some landscaping stud perform some cheap tit play in the backseat of a pickup truck.  Who knows?

But let’s move on to the real sharks in the water:  Other mommies that you may meet at that innocent sounding Mommy and Me class.  These are the women that will sink you in the breastfeeding pool.  All of the women in my Mommy and Me class were of course claiming to be breastfeeding.  I think you had to in order to register or something.  The bragging about the exclusivity of their nursing was a regular feature of the class.  One’s very womanhood seemed to hang on the amount of spare milk she could pump and store.  You could enthrall the rest of the class for many minutes with tales of your heroism in overcoming the bitter agony of early nursing.  I began to feel like a sicko impostor for the amount of pumping versus feeding on breast that I did.  How dare I succumb to the comfort of a high quality breast pump when my touch-starved infant was available to use my pink parts as pacifiers?  For months I attended this stupid weekly inferiority fest until clear cold logic kicked in.  If all these suburbanite mommy’s were really nursing their little bambinos exclusively, how come none of them ever had to nurse while in class?  I mean, there were many times that I had to whip out my supply of pumped milk for a quickie bribe to the hungry little tyrant I called son.  How come their babies never needed such sustenance?  You know why, because these sickos were lying.  They never made it past their hospital stays exclusively nursing their babies.  They were all just afraid to admit it.  As if not wanting to torture you with nursing was some reason to feel like a bad mother.  Hold out for the really big parenting sins you will undoubtedly make, like when you sneak a few bucks out of their cutesy dinosaur piggy bank to cover the cost of a pizza and a six-pack.  Don’t snicker, if you haven’t done it yet, at some point you will.

Now for the truly depraved commentary:  I have to point out that babies really don’t sleep for longer stretches on formula no matter what the formula companies say.  I know. I was at one point so desperate for sleeps that a claim like that was as seductive as dangling crack in front of an addict.  Push the thought aside because it really doesn’t work and you’re quitting just when things might start to get better.

If you do manage to nurse for any length of time, you will eventually become attached to the larger and more entertaining breasts you have acquired.  If you are as sick as me, you may even continue nursing a bit longer just to hold onto those beauties.  If nothing else, I can promise you that at some point in the months after weaning your little angel you will be sad to find your pair have not only deflated but will no longer shoot milk to the other side of the shower when prompted.  Your spouse may even go through a brief depression as he realizes his favorite squirt guns have finally emptied.  There is an upside.  Think of the fun you can have throwing a charming yet poignant little funeral for all those D cup size bras you won’t be wearing any more.

My husband and I celebrated the end with a whole lot of tequila and a science experiment involving comfort cottons bursting into flames in relation to the proof of the alcohol poured over them followed by a grill lighter chaser.  It was a fun time all around; at least until we discovered that there is no crueler torture than to be hung over with a demanding baby on the loose.  The little darlings just don’t know how to let us foolhardy folk pop a few ibuprofens and hit the sheets again for a few hours.  No, all the little heathens care about is getting their pop tarts and Wiggles DVD’s played on time.  Even the end of an era will kick the unwary in the ass.  It was the end of an era and I enjoyed it enough to nurse my second child for 14 months.

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