Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Breast Feeding Part 1 (Hopefully)

The hardest thing that was the easiest to quit. Hanging in there for the sake of it... My take on breast feeding 3 months in:

The Decision
First it starts with a choice: to breast feed or to bottle feed. For me it was an easy. As a pharmacist and semi-hippie, breast feeding was the smart and obvious way to go. So it was settled. The next question is: how long? I started with my mom, who told me she breast fed us until we could look at her with a mischievous, 'put your boob in my mouth' smirk (at about 3 or 4 months). I laughed, unsure and I still don't know what she meant. Perhaps I haven't seen that look yet and I will soon know this perceived creepiness. The various pediatrician groups recommended breast feeding for one year. Whoa, that just seemed way too long. So I set some guidelines for myself. My goal: to breast feed for 6 months, and to do so exclusively for the first 3 months. Easier said than done.
Starting Out
No one told me the difficulties of breast feeding! It is amazingly difficult. A c-section was my first set back, and I have the memory of a temp nursery staffer plopping the baby on my lap *ouch* not realizing I'd had a c-section and me just crying and crying in pain attempting to get my crying baby to latch on (dammit!). I was delirious with frustration and pain. My nipples were raw and exhaustion had the best of me. Just quit, I thought, Its so easy to just give up, save yourself now! But no, I was determined. I stuck out those first 2 weeks of hell. Yes, breast feeding was hell for me.
Then things either got easier or I got used to the difficulty. The nipple destruction subsided (I seriously thought at one point that my nipples had been permanently chewed off) and 4 hours of sleep was plenty of rest. Then it was time to go back to work...
Pump Pump Pump
I was back at work full time 7 weeks after the baby was born, and at first I was a pumping champion. Every 3 hours I was pumping away, creating delicious feedings for my little man. But then a funny thing happened. I got busy. At work. Go figure. Pumping became more and more of an inconvenience, and I was getting to the point were I couldn't keep up with his demand. It happened during a particularly stressful time at work. There was the Women's Expo, my 2 hour presentation to a women's group that I hadn't prepared for, and a full work week that we happened to be short staffed. I was pulling my hair out. I had a mini panic attack at work. I was NOT O.K. It wasn't until later, when I prepared baby E's first bottle of formula (in tears mind you), that I realized the real source of my stresses. I was giving him formula prior to the completion of my 3 month exculsive breast feeding plan! As he happily devoured the formula, all of my tension melted away. It was ok, he was fine. One bottle of formula didn't hurt him or any other baby who had ever recieved formula! He continued to breast feed just fine after that. Whew. What a relief.
Where I Stand
Breast feeding is probably one of the biggest stigmas when it comes to having a baby. If you say you won't, you will likely meet opposition. If you choose to do it, you might not make it. Most days I still think about quitting. So for me, it really is a daily struggle. I hope to make it to 6 months, and at that point I will probably dabble in breast feeding, but I want to get away from pumping all the time. I am still looking forward to it getting easier, and I think the key (after some reflection) is letting go and not putting so much pressure on yourself. Go ahead and give the little one some formula if you need to! Don't stress about it. Here's to me taking a bit of my own advice.