Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Breastfeeding Wasn't Painful

Over and over again when I was reading about breastfeeding when I was pregnant, one message was repeated: it shouldn't hurt. If you have sore nipples, you're doing something wrong.

So when breastfeeding didn't hurt, I figured all was well. Baby seemed as happy as any newborn could be expected to be. DH once worried aloud, ironically about half an hour before my mature milk came in and I started leaking all over the place, that she wasn't eating enough. I confidently said she's fine.

I'm still not sure about that now, in retrospect.

The next day, at four days old, we had to take her in to see our pediatrician, because the hospital ped had been worried about her potential exposure to GBS during labour. He wouldn't release her from the hospital unless I promised to bring her to see our ped when she was four days old. Her birth weight was 9 lb 4 oz and at four days, she'd dropped to 7 lb 13 oz.

As Whozat sagely points out, having IV fluids during labour can artificially inflate your baby's birth weight. So I'm not sure if Em really wasn't eating enough and I should be glad that we had to see the doctor so early, or...

If she was fine, just lost a bit more quickly that extra fluid weight, and the subsequent cascade of pumping and feeding her other ways might have caused her to forget how to latch on properly and exacerbate her posterior tongue tie. I'll probably never know.

We fed Em with a bottle, with a spoon, with a cup, with a tube beside our gloved finger. I feed her with a tube beside my nipple, with a tube under the nipple shield. For seven weeks, we kept this up and I kept thinking maybe we were making progress. But feeding her in ways involving my breasts was so cumbersome and time consuming that I was about ready to give up and just pump full time, when we finally went to an ENT and got her tongue tie clipped.

Then, for a couple of days, as she learned to latch onto my breast as a seven week old, I had sore nipples for a few days. Stinging, ouch, this is what they're talking about, dreading nursing a little bit. And then it got better. And now I worry that she'll be one of these babies who wean really early.

Note: Not until months after my baby was born did Annie at PhD in Parenting publish this great post on pain in breastfeeding. Go read it! In case you don't have time, the short story is that some discomfort is normal.

Another note: I was in some pain during the first few days of pumping because I had a really crappy, cheap breast pump. Chapped, cracked, milk blisters, the works. As soon as I rented a good hospital grade pump, all was well.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

On The Sexualization of Breasts

Have you read any anthropological work looking at cultures where long term breastfeeding is more common than it is in North America and whether people there who are sexually attracted to women are any less obsessed with breasts as a sexual organ?

I have a hunch.

I suspect that where long term breastfeeding is more or less the norm, breasts are more like elbows or noses - generally unremarkable body parts, ones with a very important function for mothers who are able to breastfeed, but just body parts.

I think what tipped me off to this was the ever provocative Wonderkarin who awhile back tweeted a question, something to the effect of do your partners suck on your breasts during sexual play? It hadn't occurred to me that this might not be normal, but trust me, after using my breasts to feed my baby, I've definitely felt squeamish about them still being sexual. Wonderkarin lives in Sweden where long term breastfeeding rates are much higher than in North America.

So, anyone have any data on breast obsession versus long term breastfeeding rates, or am I on my own here? Maybe this is the real reason I did an undergrad degree in Sociology: to get me started on this. Because I have so much time on my hands!

Please tell me this work has already been done?

Some Partially Formed Thoughts On the Word Breast

This is not a manifesto. This is the post I've been chewing on and talking about for awhile. I think what it comes down to is discomfort with the word breast.

Breast. Breasts. I have a couple and they work well.

I used to think of them as sexual and to the disappointment of someone to whom I'm married, I don't really feel that way any more. They're just bits of me I use to feed the baby. Maybe someday they'll be sexy in my mind again.

And all milk is breastmilk. Just some come from human breasts and some come from other animals' breasts. Human milk is best for human babies. I think that's all given.

I want to say that we need to stop calling it breastmilk and breastfeeding, because that helps to linguistically maintain the sense that feeding our babies naturally is unnatural, and that it needs qualification; that we need to distinguish it from bottle and/or formula feeding. However, with corporate advertising normalizing bottle feeding of babies, if we lactivists just start talking about feeding our babies, we might disappear linguistically.

So what to do?

I propose we continue what we are already doing: campaigning for supporting parents through all feeding decisions like Best For Babes, help to educate the public on the reasons why breastfeeding is a Good Thing (as so many are working to do, see La Leche League, Kelly Mom, so many awesome bloggers), but also:

We need to destigmatize the word BREAST. Desexualize them and the word, normalize natural feeding along with bottle and / or formula feeding. Make breasts obviously dual purposed - sure they can be sexy, but for a special period of a mother's life, they are baby food making equipment.

Still chewing this one over. Your thoughts on where to go from here very welcome.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So You're Off to the Hospital?

Packing, especially packing light, is not my strong point. I often get over-excited, forget important stuff and pack completely absurd things. I lived up to this norm when, in the middle of the night, I had to re-pack my go bag.

As faithful readers of the blog may recall, after I'd been in what we decided to call labour, but really wasn't, for about 24 hours, we got booted from the birth center and told to go have the baby in the hospital.

We were in no rush to transfer so we went home and napped for a few hours first. Or at least my husband did. I think I lay down for awhile.

And then I took some phone calls. And then I started repacking, as my go bag had been packed for a happy birth experience at the birth center, and a quick trip home afterwards. Suddenly a whole different set of rules would apply: I'd be stuck there much longer afterwards, I'd not be allowed to eat, etc.

So, from my go bag, I removed:
  • food that couldn't be eaten sneakily (glad I kept nuts and granola bars - the hospital rations were not enough to labour or start lactating on)
  • iPod and speakers (figuring I'd not be allowed to use them)
  • diapers (the birth center said to bring them, but I knew the hospital would be provide them)
I added in:
  • our last will and testament, our medical power of attorney and our medical insurance cards
  • my laptop (birth center has no wifi but I guessed correctly that the hospital would)
  • underwear and nursing bras
  • chargers for various devices (camera, mobile phones, laptop)
I was really glad I had:
  • chargers! The hospital kept the baby, and thus me, for 48 hours after birth, and I had a lot of calls to make.
  • laptop. The hospital had free wifi and for the few hours I wasn't sleeping and the baby was, I was glad to have some distraction from the sterility of the place and my anxiety about what to do with this gorgeous little creature.
I'm still not sure what I was thinking when I included:
  • underwear and bras. The hospital provided disposable underwear because, like a normal woman who's just given birth, I was bleeding a bit more than normal monthlies. And a bra? As if I'm going to put on a bra when I was in so uncomfortable that I was afraid to pass gas because I was worried my bits would fall out.
  • last will and testament. If I didn't survive whatever medical intervention they were going to inflict on me, I'm sure my affairs could wait until my husband located the document in the apartment.
Finally, I wish I'd had more snack food. The food served by the hospital unfortunately really lived up to the stereotype of hospital food, plus was exceedingly modest in quantity. I know I was looking forward to losing some pregnancy weight, but I wasn't ready to start just yet!

I'm glad to report that on a recent trip with the baby to see her great-grandmother, I packed much more appropriately. I wore all clothes at least once and the only thing I felt I should have brought more of was trousers for the baby. I don't think anyone else noticed she only had two pair for four days.

Got any packing wisdom to share? Birth or baby pick up hospital packing stories on tap?