Worth learning for.
August 02, 2010

*** This post is part of a blog carnival hosted by The Leaky Boob in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.  We all know that I’m a total lactation freak, right?  THAT SAID, I also want to direct you to this recent post on the Best for Babes blog.  May this be a reminder to every mother: however we feed our babies, we are all doing the very best we can.

When I walked into the maternity ward, I was nine centimeters dilated.  My body was tired and my legs were shaking.  I’m not ready, I told the nurse, I cannot do this.  She patted me on the back.  If I were you, she said, I’d start getting ready because you?  You are about to have a baby.

And oh, how that baby changed everything.

It will never cease to amaze me how abruptly pregnancy comes to an end. Months of anticipating, of preparing, of rubbing my belly and cursing shoelaces, and then BAM! in a split-second, it was over.  And suddenly, there she was.  She was covered with slime, squirming on my chest, mine all mine.  Wow, I whispered.

Okay, said the nurse, are you ready?  I looked at her blankly.  Ready for what?  It says here, the nurse continued, that you want to breastfeed.  Is that right?  I nodded.  I want to TRY, I said, but I might not be able to.  It doesn’t feel like there’s anything in there.  And what she said next will stick with me forever.

Oh honey, she laughed.  You do not TRY to nurse a baby.  You either do or you do not.  Now.  That baby is hungry, and I guarantee that your breasts are full of colostrum, so what do you say?  How about we let her latch?

So my child was placed at my breast.  She snorted and wriggled and opened her mouth.  And oh, how I swore.  How I cursed, how I cried, how I screamed, how I begged for mercy.

I spent the next several weeks learning how to breastfeed.  Learning to lean forward when I pumped so that valuable, sticky milk did not dribble down my belly.  Learning to position my daughter’s head so that she would not need to correct her latch.  Learning to do something that I had never seen another woman do.  Ever.

When my daughter was three weeks old, I came down with mastitis.  This is what they do not tell you, I complained to the lactation consultant.  People warn you that breastfeeding will hurt, but they don’t tell you that it’s a learning process.  I am, I whimpered, at my wit’s end.  I want to give up.She cocked her head to the side.

Have you ever heard that saying, she asked, the one about how it’s your first time as a baby and my first time as a mother, so we’ll have to learn together?  I nodded.  Well, she said, what made you think that establishing a nursing relationship would be any different?  You have to learn how to feed her and she has to learn how to eat.  You have to learn to respond to her cues and she has to learn how to communicate hunger.  Your body has to learn to regulate its production and your child has to learn to drain your supply.

I thought about that for a long time.

And oh, how that one statement changed everything.

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  1. By Lauren on August 02, 2010

    It’s not for everyone, but it was (and is, as I BF baby #3) definitely worth it to me.  I don’t think you can fully realize how much of a learning curve there is until you’re doing it.  Good for you for keeping up with it!
    Very sweet picture.  :)

  2. By Heidi on August 02, 2010

    Beautiful!  I had the same apprehensions you did going into breastfeeding.  It IS so hard at first but I’m so glad I stuck with it.  Three bouts of mastitis, many tears, some blood, and lots of bonding.  M is weaning herself and it makes me a little sad but I’m also looking forward to owning all of my body again before having another baby. 

    I saw a sign for World Breastfeeding Week yesterday and puffed up a bit with pride.  I can’t wait to check out the links at the top of the post.

  3. By on August 02, 2010

    I totally 100% relate to this post! I am passionate about nursing! when I had my first baby, nobody told me ANYTHING. I got mastitis with BOTH babies around that same time 2-3 weeks. IT HURT and having a 104. fever and feeling delirious with NO hELP was NOT fun either!!! HA !
    my firstborn was a horrific nurser from the start, she hated every part of nursing EXCEPT the let-down, she gulped that up and then quit! She was too busy and wanting to see things to stop and eat. she is still like this now! she qit nursing at 10 months and also had TRIED to quit on me at 8 months, but I FORCED her to keep going by giving her no other options!
    my 2nd daughter was a true joy from day one to nurse! easy, loved it could do it for HOURS. and she continued to do so until almost he 3rd year birthday!!! amazing how different babies can be!
    glad you stuck with it! it’s either you do or don’t for SURE!

  4. By Molly on August 02, 2010

    I totally agree with your passion for nursing. My girl just turned 9 months and my eyes well up with tears at the simple thought of weaning her.
    So, clearly I will nurse her ‘til she’s 17.
    Obviously I’m kidding, but I do wonder how and when our weaning will occur. I hope that we can stick with it until I get pregnant with #2 (probably in 6 months or so), and maybe even during pregnancy, who knows?
    Anyway, I love your love for your girl, it reminds me of my own deep love for my blessed gift of a daughter.

  5. By on August 02, 2010

    It IS a passion, isn’t it?!  Love this post from you.

  6. By Rachel on August 03, 2010

    Just lovely. I relactated when my sweetheart was just shy of a month old. It took 3 difficult weeks, meds and round-the-clock-pumping but was so so so very worth it! I now have a beautiful 7 month old boy who loves his ‘boobah’ and World Breastfeeding Week holds special meaning to me!

    You blog is so sweet!

  7. By Cynthia Krajcarski on August 03, 2010

    Is this THE picture, Sarah?

  8. By Sarah Christensen on August 03, 2010

    Cynthia - NO.  That picture is much, MUCH harder to take than it looks!  We’re still working on it…

  9. By on August 03, 2010

    Sarah, you never saw me nursing? Any of the 3? Maybe you were just too young to realize. I’m thrilled you stuck with it.  I happily and proudly nursed R for nearly a year, J for nearly a year and M for 18 mos. R wanted to try again when I had J a few months after she weaned, but decided she was a big girl and wasn’t interested.

  10. By Sarah Christensen on August 03, 2010

    Carol - I was probably too young.  I mostly just remember running around screaming with R =)  A little bit of running around screaming with J, but I don’t remember M at all until we were all a bit older.  The first time I remember knowing someone was nursing was 20 or so - I went over to their house and they left the room to nurse.  Then about a year later, someone else had a baby and they used a blanket, so I knew they were nursing, but I never saw it happen so when I was starting out with Charlotte, I was constantly worried about doing it wrong.  Because, really, how do you know?!

  11. By on August 04, 2010

    Sarah, Wierd thought: do you think breastfeeding is a ‘lost art’ sort of like writing a letter with a pen on paper?  I was a nanny when I was around 20 and that was the first time I saw someone nurse.  She was very open about the whole process (shirt totally open) and as she was an RN she happily explained and answered my questions. I think my kids owe my commitment to breastfeed to that woman.

  12. By Megan@SortaCrunchy on August 04, 2010

    That shot is magnificent.

    And yes - SO worth learning for.  Beautiful, Sarah.

  13. By Sarah Christensen on August 06, 2010

    Carol - Kind of, that’s an interesting way of putting it.  I had never thought of it like that before, but yeah, I would say ‘lost art’ sums it up to some extent.  Even now as a breastfeeding mother, I rarely see other women breastfeeding - even in mom groups where I’m out and about with other nursing mothers.

    Honestly, I think there are a few reasons that I persisted.  First, one of my parents told me that I wouldn’t be able to.  Reverse psychology works like a charm on me.  Second, Donald REALLY believed in breastfeeding, so every time I wanted to quit, he kept reiterating its benefits.  Guilt also works like a charm on me.  Third, I googled breastfeeding and found a you-tube video that showed a woman nursing her baby.  It was amazingly enlightening to see another woman nursing like that - I learned alot.

    The thing is that it’s really a skill just like anything else.  So yeah, your ‘lost art’ idea really makes sense.  Without seeing other people doing it, it’s hard to get started yourself.  Especially when there are easier alternatives that you see regularly, like feeding a bottle (or using a computer for writing a note lol).

  14. By on August 09, 2010

    This ‘conversation’ has me thinking I should have become a lactation consultant!  BTW from what I observed, it is my opinion that breastfeeding is way easier than bottle feeding.





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