When my second son, Elijah, was a few weeks old, I had a minute to realize I was overwhelmed by the abrupt addition to my life. Nine months is enough time to prepare a room, but nothing prepares you for a new baby! After being a mother already for nearly two years, I was shocked to learn, the second time around would be much different than the first. Nothing in my life as a wife, chauffer, head cook, lover, friend, business woman–not to mention president of “No One Knows What I Do Unless I Don’t Do It, Inc.” prepared me for Elijah. I hasten to add, “as wonderful as he is”.
And the one thing I’d counted on being easy was actually the most difficult part of caring for my newborn. That thing was breastfeeding. My first experience with this amazing idea was short lived because of my diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (otherwise known as IDC….the most common type of breast cancer). I battled with treatments and therefore was not able to provide milk for my first baby, but miraculously, I was given a second chance, and did NOT want to pass it up.
After three weeks of struggling with my breasts; his mouth, my bra; his head, arms, and legs, my “lopsided” shape, his jaw, we finally got the hang of it, and I was able to feel confident that my body could feed my baby the way it was intended. But I went through a lot to get to that place, and even when I thought I was doing it right, I still ran into problems. It took months of research to discover that the stuff which had happened to me was largely unnecessary, and in most cases, preventable.
I had turned to my peers for help, but during those first weeks and even after, I not only heard all the horror stories, I became the horror story. I was sore, cracked and indescribably engorged. If you were to tap on my breasts, you’d have been rewarded with the sound a drum makes.
I remember bending down to pick something up and brushing ever so slightly up against a wall which inevitably turned on the fountain of tears because of the severe pain I was in. I eventually ended up with a bad case of mastitis (a breast infection). Most women, particularly first time mothers have heard these complaints some where down the line. All of these ailments are common, but that does not make them normal. (Car-jacking is common, it certainly is not normal—except in L.A. perhaps).
After months of talking to experts in what my husband referred to as “boobology” (the field is actually known as lactation by the way), I finally learned all the things it would have been nice to know as a breastfeeding novice, things that would have made breastfeeding pleasant from the beginning.
I could have avoided a lot of problems that seemed inevitable (except for the impertinent questions from strangers) if I’d known more. And I wasn’t totally ignorant. I’d read the pamphlets I was handed. I’d gone to childbirth preparation classes. But watching someone drive and driving yourself are worlds apart. I’d decided early that it had to be easy or else how could humans have survived for thousands of years?
So I reasoned that I really didn’t have to pay close attention when we reviewed nursing at our last Lamaze class. And hey… if it didn’t work out, I had other options…right? Wrong!! I didn’t realize until further study, that for me, choosing between breast milk and formula was like asking “Would you rather have perfectly created, sterile, chemical –free organic, nutritious food—or I.V. fluid?”
Formula isn’t dangerous, but breast milk is better for your baby than formula. It is a substance that is so unique and so precious, nothing factory-made comes close. But, when you get right down to it, breastfeeding requires a fair amount of complex choreography.
You’ll want to know how to breastfeed correctly from the beginning so that you can avoid being one of the horror stories, like I was. You’ll need ammunition to persuade a reluctant husband, mother, or mother in law. Or maybe you yourself aren’t yet convinced about what is so darned special about breastfeeding.
I’m currently nursing my fourth baby and I often look back on my “breastfeeding” days fondly. Each time I nurse, my child thanks me with an expression of euphoric bliss which I have never otherwise seen before on a human face. Through making a commitment to nurse my own children, I discovered they are the most valuable things we have in our lives. Breastfeeding is an expression of that value, so any breastfeeding you do is important.
We can’t make blood, hearts, kidneys, livers, eyes, or anything else that human beings need, in a factory. We have kidney dialysis and temporary hearts, but only human beings make the perfect parts. Only human beings make perfect milk for their offspring. And, even though it was a real challenge in the beginning, it was the most rewarding challenge I have ever faced.