Friday, May 24, 2013

Breastfeeding: This One's Gonna Hurt

Breastfeeding.  If you didn’t know it, there are as many theories on breastfeeding as there are breasts.  While we were in the hospital, we got all the information we thought we’d need.  We just didn’t get any unified counsel on breastfeeding.  No sooner had one nurse left with a satisfied look on her face that she had dispensed the “correct” advice, the doctor would come in and tell us that the nurse was completely crazy.  We had the “Lactation Lady” come in and give us a tip, which would work in some cases, but not all.  Then, the nurse would come in with a helpful hint that her aunt used, and that would work for a while.  Then, the doctor would come in and give us another bit of information—it usually contradicted the other two pieces of advice—but it nevertheless worked, too.   Sunday and I are getting a degree in nippology.

We’ve come to the conclusion that one tidbit of information regularly handed out might be a bit of a lie.  Here it is:  breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.  Logically, this just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  How’s this not supposed to hurt?  We can all imagine the pain and stress put on the nippological region as Jonah feeds.  (Definition of feeds:  When a youngster gnarls the end off of the protruding part of a woman’s chest, forcing her to reconsider this whole idea of “feeding”).  

I can’t imagine a way a man could experience breastfeeding firsthand, but I believe I have gotten really close with the following experiment. 

Here’s what you need.  (All male activities require a parts list.  Have you ever noticed that?)

1.  Heavy duty jumper cables.
2.  Large 4X4 pickup truck, large tires, mud flaps, Hemi.
3.  Your own keys to the large pick-up truck so that you can drive around, showing your buddies your new pick-up truck right after you’ve experienced breast feeding for yourself.

Step one:  Start the truck.  Hear the engine purr.  Try not to weep openly at the beauty of the truck.

Step  two:  Pop the hood. 

Step three:  Spend half an hour trying to find that little lever that allows you to open the hood fully.

Step four:  Attach red cable to “hot” post on battery.  Attach black cable to the other post.

Step five:  Rev the engine.  Again, try to squelch the urge to weep openly.

Step six:  Attach the other end of the cables to your nipples. 

Step seven:  It shouldn’t hurt.  If it doesn’t hurt, rip the cables off the nipples.

Step eight:  Repeat every 3-4 hours until you have formed a bond with the truck, beyond the love-at-first-sight weeping you did earlier.

From my perspective, that is what breastfeeding is like.  There’s cracking, leaking, and wailing.  There’s also bleeding, crying, and cringing—Sunday does most of that—and Jonah simply wants to be fed.  Often.  More than Sunday wants to feed him.  It’s a difficult balance.  We both know that we should love Jonah, but the pain involved doesn’t help matters much

Consequently, during this first few weeks of Jonah’s life, Sunday really didn’t like the little guy.  The way he was treating her, I don’t think he liked her either.  It was rough.

Now, before you start thinking about Sunday’s toughness here, I must rush to her defense.   Sunday and I both thought breastfeeding was a great idea.  She thought it was a terrific opportunity to provide Jonah with the perfect food and with the antibodies he needs as a newborn. Everybody wins.

We had read just about everything on raising a newborn, and almost everyone said that breastfeeding was the best, there is absolutely no way anyone in her right mind would choose the bottle, and that we’re darn near abusing our child if we even passed by the formula section of the grocery store.  Aside from the nutrition, we also understood that the breastfeeding would help bond mother and child, and provide a time for the family to grow together as a unit. 

Breastfeeding is serious stuff, not to be ignored.  If we happened to not have an immediate answer to the “breast or bottle” question, there are always those people who believe it is their duty to spread the gospel of guilt when it comes to whatever they believe in.  They usually warned us about the higher rates of ear infection, colds, lower intelligence, and all-around malaise for those poor street urchins who happened to have mothers who didn’t choose to breast feed. 

After a while, we were convinced that we’d get arrested or something if we bought a can of Infamil. 

On top of the guilt trips, one of Sunday’s “friends” tried to encourage her in her breastfeeding effort by telling her how wonderful the experience is and how she enjoyed every second of the time she breastfed.  To hear this “friend” tell it, she breastfed her kids until they could reach around and unhook her bra strap with one hand. 

Needless to say, the pressure was on.  When, in the second week, Sunday was considering a self-mastectomy because she wasn’t experiencing the wonder and thrill of breastfeeding, she asked her “friend” what was wrong.  That’s when “friend” fessed up.  In her enthusiasm to “encourage” Sunday, she may have told a stretcher or two.  I think she breast-fed her first kid for four weeks and her second a little longer.  (Definition of encourage:  lie.)    

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