Thursday, October 23, 2008

Got Milk?

As seen in Valley Babies
February/March 08

Ah, childbirth. I was terrified of it. I’ve always been a bit of a Nervous Nellie, to say the least. So when it was over, I was really happy! I had a healthy, beautiful baby, I felt pretty good, so on to the next challenge, right?

My son took to the breast with no qualms. He latched on the first time as skillfully as he does now! The problem was, the nurses said he acted as though he was starving. The colostrum wasn’t satisfying him. They would bring him back to me after bathing him, and he’d be howling. We began to give him formula with a nifty little contraption called a supplementer. Without getting into too much detail, it allowed him to get formula through a small tube that attached directly to me while he nursed. It was a great temporary solution.

Like many mothers, breastfeeding made me apprehensive because I feared the baby wouldn’t get enough nourishment. Therefore, when my milk still hadn’t come in by the time we came home from the hospital, Nervous Nellie grew more nervous. The supplementer was becoming tedious to use, particularly at 2 a.m. with my mother and my husband hovering over trying to help. Make no mistake, I was grateful for ANY help I could get, but it added to the pressure.

Obsessing is one of my greatest talents, and I put it to use in those few days. I waited and watched, terrified that no milk would come. I had read book after book during my pregnancy. I could recite the way it was supposed to happen, how it should feel. I asked anyone pertinent who came to see us, “How did you know when your milk came in?” They always answered with certainty, “Oh, you’ll know!” But still, nothing. Five days had passed. The supplementer solution, intended as a temporary fix, was becoming less and less user friendly.

On the sixth morning, just before going to the pediatrician’s office for Rafe’s first check-up, I undressed to shower. When I caught my reflection in the mirror, I knew. I hadn’t felt any of the sensations I’d read or heard about, but there was no mistake, the milk fairy had visited while I slept. I was so overjoyed I ran (well, walked gingerly, I had just birthed nearly 9 lbs of baby) into the bedroom to let my husband in on the good news by showing the proof. He would have thrown beads if he’d had some handy! My dear mother-in-law also was startled to see the proof when I hurried into the nursery to flash the happy tidings. I think three adults have never danced around so merrily at the advent of properly functioning mammary glands!

Breastfeeding has become so routine now, I can’t believe I felt that nervous. I was blessed that Rafe had such an easy time with it. I personally am glad not to boil bottles, warm formula, pack milk, etc. I’ve got the goods already packed, warm, and with us where ever we go. The sheer convenience of breastfeeding sells me on it again and again.

Sure, there are drawbacks, like being solely responsible for your child’s meals for most of the first year of his life. Even if you don’t physically feed the baby yourself, you still must pump to keep up your milk supply (and to preserve that precious nectar for when he sleeps over at Nana’s!). And with the pumping, you get the boiling, steam cleaning, storage, etc. You also miss out on adult conversation if you don’t feel comfortable covering up and nursing in the room with some people.

However, for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. In addition to the health benefits for him and for me, I get something even more precious. For a fleeting few minutes, and for a few more months, I sit down with my boy. I have his total attention, and he, mine. What a privilege, this cherished connection with him that no one else gets! I consider it a miracle. God gave me the ability to perfectly nourish my child, all the while looking into his sweet face and catching the corners of his mouth turning up when I talk to him. I can’t imagine anything more wonderful.

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