Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It Gets Easier

In my goofy prenatal class, when we got to the breastfeeding section of the class, a chart was passed around. It looked something like the chart above.

The vertical axis is effort level and the horizontal axis is time. Blue for formula, red for breast. The idea is that formula is always the same level of effort with sterilizing, mixing, carrying junk around. It doesn't vary.

Breastfeeding often starts off bloody tricky, but over time it gets easier. I am here to tell you, this is true. Surely, an oversimplification, but true. (Note: I haven't actually formula fed a baby, but I've read up on it a bit, like the things you need to do to keep everything clean, and the gear you've got to carry around.. it sounds like a lot of work. Though I'm sure you get used to it too.)

With the baby almost five months old now, I feel like we're really getting the hang of it. She's turning into a little person more and more every day. She's easy for me to feed. She's easy for the DH to feed when I'm at work. She sometimes eats so much that she spits up a bit. That never used to happen, so I feel a bit more confident that she's eating plenty. Well, that plus her weight being in the 95th percentile!

Apparently I'm even discrete about nursing in public, which is not entirely intentional.

We're going to keep it up until she's done. I expect it to not always be as easy and sweet as it is right now, but I know it will always be rewarding and good for her.

How has feeding been challenging for you? Did it get easier?

Want to Breastfeed? Don't have Formula in the Home!

As my many posts which include the label breastfeeding attest, I've found breastfeeding to be important, interesting and challenging. I pause from my work three times a day to pump. I wear funny clothes to make breastfeeding and pumping easier. And I think in the end, one thing has been critical to our success:

Not allowing a single packet of formula in our apartment.

There were many dark nights - and days for that matter - when I was so frustrated with trying to pump and feed the baby at the same time, I would have taken any opportunity, any escape, to feed her without all the complication.

I remember she'd wake me, crying in hunger. I'd be so tired from not sleeping enough and the stress of adjusting to having a new baby, I'd feel compelled to try to maximize the accomplishments of my awake time. So in this sleepy haze, over and over again, I made her wait, crying, while I strapped on the pump, before I'd start feeding her. Sometimes I'd feed her a bit before starting to organize the pump stuff, but even then, she'd not be sated and would always be crying again before I finished getting the pump organized.

I was not at my decision making best. For some reason, I often wouldn't even accept the offers of help from DH.

Because I didn't have any viable alternative, we made it work. I pumped, we fed her, we cried. Repeat as needed. Had there been formula in the house, she would have been fed it. I imagine how it would sit in the kitchen, calling to my addled brain, like crack to an addict, offering to solve my problems.

If I had had formula in my house, I would have fed it to my baby, potentially starting a downward spiral of supply problems. I was offered it as I was leaving the hospital. I said no. I'm so glad I did. I'm glad formula exists for those who choose to or must use it. But I'm glad it's not here too.

How did you or do you plan to feed your baby? Got any just in case packets of formula around if you're breastfeeding?

(PS: of course, I don't think formula is like crack. They're both just something that's potentially tempting, one to a stressed out mama, another to an addict.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Did you bring any food for the baby?

DH, the BP and I went for dim sum a few weeks ago, with a really great coworker, his spouse and a friend of theirs. Much oogling of the cuteness of the BP was done and then the feasting commenced.

After some time and playing with chopsticks, the BP started making her fussy, let's have a snack sounds. I turned her from facing outward to facing inward, dropped the strap on the nursing tank top (which is pretty much all I wear these days) and she latched on.

I guess I said something like "ooh you're hungry!" as she was getting settled, as the coworker asked me if I'd brought any food for her. As his spouse started to giggle, I just looked down at the BP, and grinned and said "yep, two containers!" He didn't quite get it, until looking back as his laughing spouse and back at me... Then I had to start laughing too. We had a nice giggle over that one. He knew I was pumping at work and he said something referencing that he's thought maybe I was pumping all the time.

I guess I'm more discreet than I realized... or even intended! Discretion in nursing isn't really my goal. I try to balance the BP's need for food with the DH's extreme discomfort with me doing any nursing in public (NIP) at all.

What's your funniest NIP story?

What I Hate About Pumping

People keep saying pumping is hard work. I've heard some women decide to wean, partly or completely, their babies from breastfeeding when they go back to work, because they don't know they could pump, or because their bodies don't respond to a pump with a let down / milk ejection, or because their workplace isn't, for any number of reasons, a conducive environment for pumping.

I definitely acknowledge I am coming to this from a place of privilege. Other than my usual white, North American, educated, able bodied, heterosexual, cisgendered, anglo privilege, I should also acknowledge that:
  1. I had loads of support in getting started breastfeeding. Sometimes maybe even a touch of peer pressure, but I could have resisted had I needed to, I think.
  2. I have an awesome job with a great employer and the most understanding supervisor you could ask for.
  3. I have an office with a door. I had to cover over a little clerestory window for privacy (irony of this you'll see later).
  4. I live in Washington DC where, if I didn't have my own office, my employer would need to provide me a clean private space in which to pump.
There are probably a half dozen other privileges I forgot about, but that's a good start.

So, as I think I've already covered, getting started breastfeeding was a bit bumpy. I had to pump from day four because the Baby Piranha had a tongue tie, which wasn't correctly identified as the cause of her latch problem until she was seven weeks old, despite several visits to an (expensive) IBCLC.

That, Dear Reader, was seven weeks of almost full time pumping. Almost no nursing in public for me, other than some comfort nursing, which was pretty much non-nutritive.

Then, in the same week, I went back to work and got BP's tongue clipped. And started just pumping while at work.

Up until then, I was using a fancy hospital grade pump which was almost silent and very effective. I hated pumping because I had to do it. I wanted to be breastfeeding without all this plastic in the way. While pumping at home, I pretty much always did the deed on the sofa in our apartment. Usually only the DH and BP were around, other than visiting grandpas. Of course I managed to figure the not latching was my fault, and when we got past that, I was delighted.

For work, I got myself a middle of the road good pump. It talks. It's hilarious. And it speaks both English and Spanish. That is, it makes sounds that almost sound like words. Quite often it sounds like it's saying por ahi, which more or less means over here.

I also bought a little electric single pump, the cheapest, and loudest of the lot. In breastpump noise, you get less if you pay more, it appears. I bought it for home use after returning the really nice hospital grade one. As the BP and I get the supply and demand in better sync, I'm using it less and less.

So three times a day, five-ish days a week, I close my door to my office, pull my gear out of the little fridge I bought to store my stuff in, and strap on the gear, and pump. I can't talk on the phone because it's such a chatty pump. I've read some pumping mamas will stick the noisy end of the pump in a drawer to muffle the noise and talk on the phone while pumping. Unfortunately my office furniture arrangement doesn't allow for that. While pumping, I'm entirely available by instant message, which my coworkers and I use heavily anyway.

A couple of times, people have knocked on the door. I feel like saying "unless the building's burning down, please go away!" but what I've said is "please come back later!"

So, aside from the whole I have to pump because I can't be with my baby full time like I'd like to be, I hate pumping because... I have to close the door to do it! It's such a weird feeling. The only time I ever close my door with my inside my office is to pump, feed the baby if she's visiting, or change my clothes. Oh, of course, also for private meetings that I don't want overheard. But that's pretty infrequent, to be honest.

When I'm closing the door, I feel like I'm doing something naughty or shameful. I wish I didn't feel that way. I'm not sure I want to be pumping in public - it's a visually weird thing and guaranteed to make folks uncomfortable (especially since breastfeeding itself seems to make people so uncomfortable). But it'd be nice if I could maybe get over the naughty feeling myself. I think part of my mind is wondering what my coworkers are thinking about all this closing of my door (we tend to be a very open door office... people keep saying they thought I wasn't in the office when I had my door closed).

I have a cutesy doorknob sign that says something like "Do Not Disturb, Mom Working" and a cartoon picture of a pumping mama talking on the phone. Maybe I should start using it to lighten the goofy feeling I have about it?

I really don't hate pumping. I'm glad I can do it. I'm lucky I can do it. How about you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Love About Pumping

So I've been chewing on a post for far too long (and yes, it is far too long - not as long as the birth story, but long...) about what I hate about pumping. And then it occurred to me that I don't want to come across as complaining about pumping or breastfeeding, because I'm delighted I can do it and that we overcame our hurdles to breastfeed. So, first, what I love about pumping.
  1. First and most importantly to me, I'm able to give the Baby Piranha the best food for her, even when I can't be with her, or when she's strapped into a car seat and I can't easily get nipple to mouth. This is such a great privilege of having the money and time and privacy to pump so that I didn't have to wean her from breastmilk when I went back to work after my paid leave from work ended.
  2. Because I've been pumping for awhile, a common side effect is that I have a bit of an oversupply. With that oversupply, I'm going to be donating some of my frozen milk to a friend who is trying to keep their multiple set of babies around the same age in milk. That is awesome.
  3. I love my cute PumpEase pumping support! I won mine in a contest on The Feminist Breeder's blog when I was pregnant. I had no idea at the time I'd need to be pumping as early as I was (four days post partum!), so had planned to buy mine after the baby was born. I'm so glad I got it early as it's critical to be hands free while pumping, as far as I'm concerned, to make it a little bit less tedious and more productive. *
Some folks I follow on Twitter say things about pumping being hard work, and I'm lucky in that it hasn't been hard for me. My MER just goes hey, pump, baby, whatever, here's some milk. It's not something enjoyable or particularly fun, but I believe it's important for the baby's health, and I'm mostly glad to do it.

What do you love or hate about pumping? Any surprises?

Come back next time when I talk about why I hate pumping!

Oh, and let's not count how many times I used the word awesome in this post. I know, too many. I will find a thesaurus, promise.

* Right so I got the PumpEase pumping supports for free in a contest. There were no strings attached to my winning the contest, I'm just saying they're awesome all on my own. Oh and they're made in Canada which makes them extra awesome as far as I'm concerned.