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On the wonders of breastfeeding - Amusement
The easily amused are never bored.
On the wonders of breastfeeding
Funny thing about the internet: reddit is a complete cesspool of humanity, except for when it is an amazing, informative, supportive community.

The parenting community online is really-- sometimes hard to take. There's a lot of judgment and echo chamber and acting like every kid and every family and every situation is the same. Reddit has a few really great subs that are not like that. There is one that literally has the rule 'you don't talk about this sub elsewhere on reddit'.

There's also one for parents of March2015 babies which is just amazing. It's small - about 50 - which means that we have gotten to know each other and each other's kids to some extent, and people have been really supportive when things go wrong, or right, or sideways. One of the babies there had hernia surgery at 3.5 months, and her mom gave me all sorts of information about what her MRI was like that really helped me a lot.

The breastfeeding sub is also ridiculously amazing, and though I think I would have been successful without it, I can't say for sure. It really strikes me how important a supportive, knowledgeable community is to succeeding at breastfeeding. It's one of those things that feels like it ought to be easy and natural. But even for women who have a relatively easy time (I did), there are just THINGS. Things that happen that you don't understand that can be terrifying.

To start with, you can't tell how much your baby is eating. Ever. So if your baby is fussy or only seems comforted by the boob, it's easy to think that the issue is that you just don't make enough milk. If you don't understand how the supply and demand of breastfeeding works, or what clusterfeeding is, it's easy to think there is something wrong with you and you need to supplement or your baby will starve. And that can feel like a very personal, devastating failure.

So two simple things made my first weeks so much easier: 1) I knew that newborns eat constantly and that the way to tell if they are getting enough is by number of wet diapers and weight gain 2) I could go somewhere to have my baby accurately weighed every week, for free.

It's so simple, and yet lot of the bf'ing moms I know are lacking BOTH of those two things.

And there's a lot more. How to avoid thrush and mastitis, what to do with a clogged duct, what happens if you skip a feeding, what happens if you produce too much and your baby chokes on it, what to do if your son suddenly decides to start screaming as if in pain every time you try to feed him...

Those last two are issues I had, and both of them freaked me out on a visceral level. There is nothing quite like trying to feed your son and having him scream like you've poked him with a pin every time, and then having to put him down without a meal. (It lasted 3 days; he's clearly fine. I still don't know why.)

The thing is, most of my mother's generation didn't breastfeed. They used formula. We had an entire generation where we systematically dismantled the support and knowledge system that is women teaching other women how to breastfeed. That support used to be social and familial, and it's largely gone. My mom breastfed for six weeks and two weeks, which is enough to sort of know things, and so little that I passed her months ago.

And now the pendulum is swinging back toward breastmilk, which is amazing for so many reasons (including ones we don't often talk about, like weight loss and post-partum recovery for mom, as well as severely reduced chances of breast and ovarian cancer). Many communities are trying to fix this with programs like the weigh-in I went to, but many aren't. A lot of women do not have access to a lactation consultant or a formal support group.

So enter the internet. Enter /r/breastfeeding and facebook. Enter hundreds of women who read your crazy problem and offer advice and commiseration and support. Enter local, grass-roots groups that meet up at parks just because it's nice to know other faces who are doing this too. Enter state-wide milk exchanges, where women freely offer and receive pumped milk for literally no reason other than that we want to.

I don't think this revival would have been possibly 20 years ago. Maybe not even 10. I don't know that I could have done it 20 years ago. Or that I'd know enough to want to.

I started this whole post because I wanted to share this article about the amazing ways breastmilk works as communication between mom and baby. It's really, intensely wild. I mean. Nate is sick right now, and when he nurses, his saliva tells my body to produce antibodies for him, and my immune system literally helps him get better. Every time he eats.

That is crazy.

And there's more in there too.

Breastfeeding is one of those things I always thought I'd do because it's good for my son and it's free and the more I do it the more I realize it's also easier (no bottles, no clean-up, no warming, no worry about things going bad because it's been out too long! always ready on tap!).

And for the first couple of months that's pretty much what it was.

It's taken me by surprise, though, how attached I've become to it. I know there are all sorts of hormonal reasons moms get attached to breastfeeding (there's a huge oxytocin dump every single time), but it seemed like it took me a long time to really feel the weight of them.

But now. It is one of my favorite times a day. It's a time when you are forced to sit down and stop doing anything but relax. Sometimes it's playing solitaire on my phone. Sometimes it's watching Nate while he watches me. He likes to hold my thumb and move my hand all over while he eats. If he's sleepy, he'll sometimes put my hand over his face and cuddle it close. If he's happy, he'll sometimes grin up at my with crinkly blue eyes. At night we dreamfeed, and he's still asleep, with his lashes long and soft on his cherub-cheeks and his breathing slow. I cannot begin to describe the sweetness with which your heart swells.

And now we're five months, and in four short weeks we'll be starting solid foods, and there is this crazy part of me that is so, so sad. Every inch, every ounce of that kid has come from me. Every single roll and extra chin and bit of chub. I mean think about how wild that is! But here it comes, this part where already you have to start letting go.

And I never wanted to be a clingy mom. But it makes me just a little bit sad, and I kind of get it. It's hard to let go.


5 amusements -- amuse me
alphaflyer From: alphaflyer Date: August 28th, 2015 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I breastfed for 8 months -- 6 full-time, while on maternity leave (with introductions of solids at 4 months), and another 2 with pumping help, after I'd gone back to work. That didn't work so well, so I decided to move on to formula. The first night I gave my kidlet the fake stuff instead of me at night, I cried. She just went for the bottle, utterly unfazed. It took me DAYS to forgive her ... ;-)

But yes, it's a remarkable thing. No need to pack a lunch on a walk, either!
aerrin From: aerrin Date: August 28th, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pumping is BRUTAL. I hate it a lot. I think the need to (and often the lack of support for) pump at work is another reason moms who might prefer to breastfeed end up with other options. My sister in law exclusively pumped for I think a year and I feel like I would have given up waaay before then.

And don't get me wrong, I'm glad those options exist, and I think that things like a well-rested mom and well-funded family are more important than being able to claim ebf for however many months. But at the same time it's frustrating to see women who /want/ to continue not have the resources and support to be able to.
slavetothestage From: slavetothestage Date: August 28th, 2015 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is full of so many things I had no idea about! It makes me want to ask my mom about her breastfeeding experience. (I'm PRETTY sure she breastfed. I mean, I've the occasional picture of it.)
aerrin From: aerrin Date: August 28th, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
You should. It's really wild, the things it does and also how variable the experience is.

The best thing about internet communities is that as you passively watch, you start to gain a fuller picture of all the things that are 'normal' (answer: almost everything), so you feel less panicked when something goes unexpectedly.

Also seriously, it's CRAZY to think about the fact that I literally have sustained a human being all on my own for over a year now.
jessiedwheelie From: jessiedwheelie Date: August 31st, 2015 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I discovered reddit about a month ago (specifically the baby forums) and I'm pretty sad I didn't see it earlier. It's the best!! All other forums are full of crazy people haha.

5 amusements -- amuse me