April 25, 2012

milking it

About a month ago, Lauren posed some questions about breastfeeding on her blog.

Being caught up in the hustle and bustle of having a new baby around (and doing a lot of breastfeeding myself!), I didn't find the time to respond via comments, so I thought I'd describe my own experiences in a post.

This is a mommyblog, afterall!

First, I should preface by saying that choosing to breastfeed my children was an easy choice for me. Not only would it be cheap (no formula to buy!), but it would also eliminate any middle-of-the-night, half asleep, bottle preparations ... And, it would be good for my baby.

What's better than that, really?

I also had a lot of support from many of the women in my family ...  Cousins, mothers, aunts, sisters-in-law ... Some may have been a little too supportive, to the point of giving me (outdated?) "exercises" that I could do to make my breasts feeding-ready when my baby arrived, but, overall, every little bit of information I could glean from their experiences (with the exception of those "exercises") was helpful.

Next, I should add that, in addition to being an easy choice, breastfeeding is also a very easy practice for me.  I am a human milk machine.  Without doing anything special, I produce more than enough for my babies ... And then some!  In the first week alone, I end up with a freezer-full of pumped milk (just to alleviate some of the pain and discomfort of the ridiculous engorgement that results from my milk coming in) ...  And, even when the engorgement period is over and things have scaled back a bit, I still make too much milk (often causing coughing and near-choking once it really starts letting down).  I guess it's a good problem to have ...

When Malcolm was an infant, and as a breastfeeding beginner, I tried my best to be discreet and careful about how I fed him.  I got a cute little "modesty cover" at my baby shower and often used it, even when I was at home ...  But as soon as he hit about three months old and became aware of his surroundings, all bets were off.  It didn't help that Malcolm was a bit of an over-enthusiastic latcher ...  He'd root around spastically, barely grabbing on before my milk would let down, then sometimes letting go and then having to root some more.  A flurry of breast pads and receiving blankets helped to keep things under control (most of the time), but did not aid in my hopes of being discreet ...  And, even if he had a quick and successful latch, Malcolm could easily be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of milk that would flow out as he was nursing.

In the full year that he nursed, I think I found a pretty happy medium of feeding him comfortably, and remaining somewhat covered up (although I didn't use anything more than the shirt I was wearing, and, of course, had access to a receiving blanket that was there to mop up any mess).  I never nursed in overly-crowded, public places (restaurants, shopping centers etc.), but I felt just fine feeding him in the living room at a friend's house, or even at the beach while on vacation.  And, having such a plentiful supply, I could easily pump a bottle to bring along whenever we left the house (a much less-stressful and less messy alternative).

With Pearl, it's more of the same.  She is equally, if not more over-enthusiastic, when it comes to latching on, so there are many moments where milk is flowing everywhere.  That means that everything is pretty much "out there" when she is eating, so that I can get her back in place more easily should the need arise.

Overall, while I feel like I'm much more well-versed (today) in the whole breastfeeding experience that I was three years ago, I'd have to say that I'm no more likely to go out and nurse in public. 

I guess, like Lauren in her post, I don't want to make other people feel uncomfortable, and I certainly don't want to make a spectacle of myself when my baby inadvertently or intentionally lets go and milk starts flying everywhere (which is not an exaggeration) ...  Seriously. 

Nothing screams "look at me and my exposed boob!" more than a woman scrambling to help her choking baby and reduce the flow of milk (which caused said choking) at the same time. So, until I get a bit of control over my milk supply and things tone themselves down a bit (around the six month old mark), it is just easier for me to nurse in the comfort of my own home and to bring a bottle along for any feedings that may pop up when I'm out in public. 

As natural and normal as I think breastfeeding is, I don't feel the need to be the "face" of breastfeeding when I am out of my house ...  Especially since things can go so comically wrong sometimes!

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