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.

4 thoughts on “Breastfeeding

  1. I love getting these updates from the mothering front. The first nursing woman I ever saw, (besides my mother nursing my little sister, which left no impression because I was only slightly older) was a friend of my parents who let me watch. I was about eight. With me tagging along, she left the crowd of people at dinner and went up to a sunny bedroom, sat in a rocking chair and opened her breast to the baby. The baby suckled. The mother relaxed and smiled. A walk in ye olde park.
    But as I stared, I began to feel the mother was melancholy, maybe even beset by an inexplicable sorrow that I, a child, could never understand. I felt I was an intruder and excused myself and went back downstairs.

  2. Lynn-
    I have no transcendent memories of watching any of my aunts, cousins, or family relations with their myriad of scrawly babies looking off in the distance in some nice sunning room relaxed and smiling. Mostly they said OW! a lot. There was a lot of shifting the baby around trying to get comfortable — which never happened. Eventually they settled into a sort of resigned frozen posture with an expression of “Wow this sucks and I hope it gets the heck over with quickly.” Kind of like when a cat or lover falls asleep on your arm and you decide its too cute to move so you stay frozen in a cramped position until they roll the fuck over and let you escape.
    Sorry I have no positive or enlightening thoughts on the subject. I'm just glad I can find your blog again.

  3. Maybe I misinterpreted her look of secret melancholy, and she was really saying, “Ow, this sucks.” I was only eight.
    I bid you warm cheers.

  4. Sorry for the delayed response. Your blog hadn't been working for me.
    “Momma would make a substandard dairy cow,” I told him
    My grandmother had a story about when she was trying to nurse one of her kids and telling the doctor that she didn't think she was producing enough milk.
    The doctor responded, “Well, Lucille, there are holsteins and there are guernseys. You, my dear, are a guernsey.”

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