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Breastfeeding is consuming. You don't read that a lot of places. The books all talk about how “beautiful” and “natural” it is, like they're describing a noun rather than a verb, some creek in the mountains. They don't tell you how sometimes that creek drowns someone or overruns its bank and every-so-often puts the “natural” in “natural disaster.”
Our first few days of breastfeeding were OK, and then it was hell for three weeks, and then I did a few shots of fenugreek, and then it was better, and then we got thrush, and it wasn't good for another three weeks, and then Monstro, baby, and I got sick (in that order. Still wonder why I haven't blogged for weeks?).
Anyway, the nursing continues to be rocky. Alexander turned 12 weeks yesterday, and he fed off me once. One time in 16 hours. And I started again with the freak-out that my milk's going to run dry, because I've never successfully pumped, ensuring the instant fulfillment of supply and demand.
“Momma would make a substandard dairy cow,” I told him when NIcki and Emily babysat. Nicki, who despite working for Mass Wildlife believed that the average horse weighed “around two, two hundred fifty pounds,” laughed.
Regardless of my own experience, or perhaps because of it, never have I been part of an endeavor where so many unbidden people are so eager to help me succeed. Even before I gave birth, the pastor's wife gave me La Leche League (R) International's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. The hospital with the anesthesiaologist of ill repute (at least from me) holds a thrice-weekly drop-in Breastfeeding Clinic, of which I have written in the past. I had to give birth and start nursing to meet an Asian from Palo Alto here. I think it was worth it.
And, having left the hospital the day after Alexander's birth, I had home visits from a visiting nurse and a doula.
The visiting nurse was quite professional, giving me the impression that the time Mom and Monstro spent clearing the coffee table in the living room was not spent in an unfortunate manner. She provided me with a baby-health booklet that ended with a Daily Breastfeeding Log that Tanya, my Palo Altan lactation consultant, eyed hungrily.
“Where did you get that?” she asked. “I've never seen that.”
“Talk to the visiting nurses,” I said.
The log listed every hour of the day, with fill-in-the-blanks for daily number of wet diapers and stools. I diligently circled the hours in which we breastfed, which offered an unexpected sense of accomplishment at the end of the week.
Alexander would screamg from hunger, though, so we started supplementing with soy-based infant formula.
“Why are you doing that?” my midwife asked.
(Others have asked this question, but they usually follow it with “Don't you know that if you want to boost your production, you have to nurse more often?” But my midwife had seen me after 25 hours of labor and frankly, I think she's scared of me a little bit.)
“Because I just can't feed him every time.” I looked her in the eye as I said it.
She started to grouse at me, but then changed her mind and went on with the exam.
Soy formula or no soy formula, my baby is the opposite of wasting away. He weighed 15 pounds on his 10-week birthday. His thigh is bigger around than my forearm. Well, OK: my pre-pregnancy forearm.
Tender infant bonding or no, there are two reasons I stuck with the breastfeeding: it's the best thing for Alexander, and it's great for post-partum weight loss. These days of sick babies and 24-degree temperatures, breastfeeding has become my primary mode of exercise. How many calories am I burning by being consumed? Health professionals say 500. I think it's more.