I was always on the fence about breast-feeding. During my pregnancy, when I was asked if I was going to
breast-feed my baby, I would say, "We'll see," as if breast-feeding and I had
gotten in a fight and I wasn't sure where we stood with each other. We were sort of at odds with each other, actually. Breast-feeding my son 10 years ago was a rocky
experience filled with unending bouts of thrush and mastitis. I didn't really want to do it this time, but
I couldn't ignore the health benefits to the baby. "I'll try it," I said to my husband, "but I
can't promise I'll do it for long."
The night that Stella was born, when I was urged to feed her
in the hospital, she latched on like a champ, "OK," I thought, "maybe I can do this." The next morning, the lactation consultant came in and
squeezed my tit so hard I thought my nipple would shoot off. What just happened?
Then my milk didn't come in. Not the first day after, or the second or the fourth. "That's OK. The colostrum [pre-milk] will feed her," the hospital nurses would say.
What colostrum? I couldn't squeeze a
drop of ANYTHING from my fun bags. Is it
invisible? Is my baby drinking invisible
I was discharged from the hospital and still no sign of milk. I was torn up and stressed out. As I lay in my bed, half-lucid, unaware that I was drooling, feeling like Floyd Mayweather had just gone 10 rounds on my Vaggie Pacquiao, I read Internet articles about the joys of breast-feeding and how my milk should have come in by now. I called the doctor who advised that if I wanted to exclusively breast-feed my baby that I needed to be patient, hold off on the formula and pump. I wanted to punch someone in the neck! Instead I took a Sitz bath and sent my husband to get a hospital-grade breast pump.
I pumped aggressively over the next five days, barely squeezing
out an ounce of colostrum each time. I
had no choice but to feed Stella formula somewhere around the fourth day. She was losing weight and becoming dehydrated. I felt like a failure, and suddenly all I
could think of was the benefit of breast-feeding. I became obsessed with breast-feeding her. And just when I was ready to hang up my boobs—somewhere around day 10—my milk came in, and I became a porn star. Hell
yeah, I'm breast-feeding, Mofos!
Then the scabs healed, and I realized how relaxing and enjoyable it was to hide away in my room and have that alone time with Stella while I fed her.
Then came the scabs and the pain. After all the bottles, Stella had lost her
latching groove. She was leaving me raw
and cracked. The advice for dealing with
bloody, scabby nips is to keep nursing. "Build
up calluses," they say. I pictured my
nipples wearing little hardhats doing construction work. Forming calluses on what was once an erogenous
zone is not easy. Stella looked like a vampire after feeding and I was back on the, "This pain is not worth it. It's not working. Breast-feeding, you can eff off!"
Then the scabs healed, and I realized how relaxing and
enjoyable it was to hide away in my room and have that alone time with Stella
while I fed her. I loved watching her
rest her chin on her fist while she nursed, "I have to keep going. I love this!" Additionally, my husband and I realized how much money we were going
to save on formula. We were in love with breast-feeding.
RECORD SCRATCH! Then silence—enter the clogged milk duct.
Have you ever sat in the front row at a basketball game and had someone put a pewter statue of an eagle into a T-shirt gun and shoot it directly at your chest every 10 minutes? Well, if that didn't give you the results you expected, try a clogged milk duct.
I tried everything to clear it—hot showers, warm compresses, massages, hanging my breast in a bowl of warm water ... still clogged. I even followed the suggestions of moms on the Internet; to hover over the baby on all fours and feed her like a cow. That was unsuccessful, not to mention degrading. I was in agony and tears. And also, you're welcome for the disturbing visual.
Googling "clogged milk duct" took me to a video on a baby
website which demonstrated how to "hand express" your milk. It was a video of a lactation consultant
sitting next to a nursing mom on a couch explaining the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock
positioning of the fingers on the "AAReeOOlla" while mom's husband and kids sat
behind her at the kitchen table eating chips. I shoved the computer away. That was it. I'd had
Maybe it was that I could not
identify with this smiling, pain-free mother winking at me with her nipple, or
maybe it was the family picnic going on behind her, or the searing pain in my
breast, or my worry about my milk production, or the farting sound of the pump or
the word "lanolin." I don't know. But, I was done. It was consuming my life. It still is! My boobs are just a battered feeding device
now. I don't feel well, let alone the
least bit sexy, anymore.
I saw the doctor. He
told me how he recalled me saying, "As long as I can do it for six weeks, I'll
be happy." He very sensibly told me that
I could decide to quit now, being that I had far exceeded my goal. "Besides," he said, "you're in a lot of pain.”
I shook my head yes and said, "You're right."
I got home, drank a glass of water, unstuck my nipple from
my T-shirt, took one look at my precious baby girl, and ... I fired up the pump.
I guess I'm still on the fence about breast-feeding.