Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dispatches from the Breastern Front

I happened upon the following advice from a self-proclaimed breastfeeding expert: think of nursing as your special time with your baby. You know, because otherwise it can be tedious to spend so much of your life doing it? Well, nursing is certainly my special time with Bun Bun. My special painful, frustrating, awkward, I-dread-this-whole-experience time.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. Things have improved vastly since the BLOODY FISSURE days, and even at their worst, they were never as bad as many of you have had it. far. I'm making no assumptions that things won't take a turn for the horrible at any moment.

But they haven't improved a whole lot since my last dispatch. And what I'm finding difficult is this. I've reached a plateau and don't know how to get the rest of the way up the mountain. It makes me feel incompetent. Stupid. I mean what the FUCK! It's been almost five weeks of this, and as you can see from my chart, I've spent much of that five weeks practicing. Yet it still takes me several tries to get her on. It still hurts, though typically just on that initial latch. It's still incredibly awkward. In fact, I have sustained some wrist injuries because my tiny little arms are unable to support the weight of my big fat baby (during the period while I attempt to get her on, before I can stuff some pillows under her various parts, and yeah, I have a hand me down Boppy, which I find great for tipping her into me at a really weird angle, but useless for breastfeeding, and okay, she's probably only about nine pounds now, which makes me really impressed by those of you who have been wrangling giant babies from birth, although maybe giant babies make breastfeeding easier?). I've considered not feeding her ever again so that she won't get any heavier. Mr. Bunny says that's not a tenable plan. So now feeding involves ice packs and ace bandages.

And it's also incredibly MESSY! The moment I unleash a breast, milk goes shooting out everywhere, and at every failed latch, there's a geyser (often spurting into her eye, which I can't help but enjoy, in a So, you don't want to latch on? TAKE THAT! kind of way), plus a bunch dribbles down her I have to keep a towel on hand or end up sitting in a pool of milk. Of course, the towel turns out to be handy as once every few days she projectile vomits everything she's ever eaten since she was born all over me, which makes me cry.

So. When I imagine ever feeding her anywhere but in the comfort of my home, where I can assemble the wedge pillow for sitting up and the three or four other pillows for propping her up, and the towel, and the burp cloth for catching major spills, and the ice pack, and the ace bandage, and the nipple ointment, and the ItzBeen* and the notepad where I record feedings (screw iPhone apps! I'm old school!), and the water so I don't dehydrate instantly, and the handkerchief for when I weep...well, it seems unfathomable. Though it would be pretty funny if I opened up my diaper bag and pulled all that shit out...

But then I remember this. When I was in college, I got my first car--an ancient Volvo. I'd never driven stick before and had hardly driven at all, ever. I really couldn't drive for shit. My wonderfully patient boyfriend agreed to teach me, but I found it ridiculously hard. The coordination required was just too much for my tiny brain, plus the stress of not really knowing how to deal with other cars, plus the cantankerousness of an old vehicle... Many episodes ended in tears. I honestly wondered if I could do it.

One day we set out for a lesson, driving around my neighborhood, a semi-ghetto in Oakland, CA. The kind of neighborhood where everyone sits out on stoops drinking from bottles in brown paper bags, where the local crack-house is grudgingly tolerated, where I would constantly get mistaken for a prostitute when waiting for the bus. As I lurched around the block, stalling and grinding and stalling and squealing, I naturally attracted the interest of my stoop-sitting neighbors. A group of them put down their drinks and gathered round. They began shouting instructions, illustrating with their hands the movement of clutch and gas. Cheering me on. Their support totally chirked me up. I felt a wave of confidence. I can DO this! I thought. I can kick driving stick's ASS! And, I thought to myself, If I can do this, I can do ANYTHING.

I DID learn to drive stick. And that means I CAN learn to breastfeed. I just may need to take a quick trip to Oakland to get some encouragement.

*If you're having a baby, get one. You might not understand how it could possibly be useful, but I swear it is. Mr. Bunny thought it was totally stupid, then spent the first few weeks of Bun Bun's life apologizing to it.


  1. Go back and see the LC again? I'm not sure since I gave up and went to the Simalac dark side (but I pump and give him some breastmilk so this will keep him from becoming an asmatic serial killer right?!?!). Hope it gets easier.

  2. omg, i have this HORRIBLE bf'ing book that i keep weeping angry tears over because when it would even admit that bf'ing could be hard at all -- for reasons that were your own fault, of course -- it kept saying that the cure was "more rest for the mother." which sounded great except that didn't mean more rest, it meant more locking yourself in your room and fucking breastfeeding, which is not restful or curative and in fact sounded a great deal like hell on earth. HATE THAT FUCKING BOOK. i can't tell you how many times i imagined its pages curling as flame licked across their smug faces. (and i still intend to burn it, for reals.)

    but it sounds to me like the cure for your problems is as simple as settling down to nurse on the steps of the nearest crack house. yay!

    also: i stacked blankets on top of the boppy to lift the bean higher up. the LC said i didn't need to, but she doesn't live at my house, now does she? there's no way i could have held him all that time, and he weighed a lot less than bunbun.

  3. Hang in there. It does get easier. Babies do learn to latch properly with out a zillion tries as they get older. You are a rock star!

  4. No advice, but I hope it gets better for you! And thanks for the advice on the ItzBeen - just added it to my list.

  5. Is it too optimistic to assume that things will naturally improve next week? The first 6 weeks are supposedly the hardest, or so they say. I'm sorry about all your suffering but glad to see your sense of humour remains intact.

  6. Just based on my own experience, I feel so, so confident that things will slowly improve for you, Bunny. Seriously? I found BF literature to be some of the most dispiriting shit that I read. You really are so fucking vulnerable when you're trying your hardest during these early weeks...

    It takes your milk a good 6-8 weeks to become solidly established at Bun Bun's perfect feeding pace, so I think the messy torrent of breastmilk will subside. (Though Arlo does get the occassional unexpected facewash when he pops off--out of distraction now--when my milk letsdown...and I have a forceful letdown. Wipeout!

    I was stuck with the nipple shield for the first 4 weeks, and as we started moving away from it, it was like teaching Arlo to latch all over again. It IS frustrating. It DOES hurt sometimes. But it CAN get better. You're both new at this!

    Funny, I was also taught to drive manual by an exboyfriend. :) And I, too, felt like a total badass being one of the only girls I knew who could drive stick shift. After lots of practice, I could shift seamlessly and reflexively. And that is exactly how breastfeeding is now, 5 month later.

    I think I may have already said this, but I found the Boppy worthless for breastfeeding, too.

    Anyway, you're doing a great job!

  7. I curled up my giant Pregnancy Pillow of Doom around me with all the couch cushions and nested there for, like, six solid weeks. Boppys are made for... holding puppies? I don't know.

    "If it hurts you're doing something wrong" was written by someone who was high for the first five months of her child's life. I wish I knew on what, because I could use some.

    I also had the milk spurting- eventually I started collecting it in a cup instead of pumping. For real. And, as someone who had five months of searing agony but then nursed Bug until 23 months and it was fine: yes, it can get better!!

  8. I've heard My Brest Friend is a better pillow for supporting your child. All I know is that I used the Boppy with my son and got aching arms and back for my efforts. For my daughter, I just used sofa cushions and got a lot more experimental with positions.

    But I could do that because my daughter was better at it. A lot actually is to do with the baby rather than the mother. My son honestly took at least three hands to get him latched on (one to hold the breast in position, one to hold his head/neck/shoulders in position and one to keep his little fists from knocking me out).

    If I was trying to latch him on by himself, I was having to depend on luck to replace that third hand. It was terrible, and it made it almost impossible for me to find a comfortable position to feed in. Once we got him actually latched, I just had to hold myself in whatever contortion until he was done.

    I ended up pumping almost exclusively for two months, only nursing him overnight. When he was a bit older and better at supporting himself, I went back to nursing during the day, but it never did get very comfortable, and the fact that I had supply issues didn't help.

    I also never ever nursed him in public for that reason. My daughter on the other hand has been on the breast in numerous places because she's easier (I'll grant I have more experience too, but they are night and day)--and also because she's a high maintenance bottle-feeder who requires her milk to be warmed. My son took his bottles at almost any temperature.

    I'm not sure if that encourages or discourages you... I'm really just trying to assure you that it's not just you and that you will find your own way of coping with it.

  9. So much to comment on here....first of all, you are the only other bloggie I've encountered who's totally hooked on the Itzbeen. Should we join their marketing team or what? GOD I LOVE THAT GADGET!!!

    I also can not fathom nursing one of the babies in public for the same reasons. Each session is this circus of situating the pillows, holding a towel against my ntot-in-use boob, and then feeling sooooo sad when the baby either 1) loses the latch and then, 2) gets hosed down by my geyser-ing milk stream. And I'm always sticky and sweaty after a session. It's crazy-ness. I'm at 11 weeks and the best solace I can offer you is that I've noticed the latching and sucking have improved as the babies have gotten bigger and stronger and b/c their heads aren't as floppy. That said, my babies current sizes = the size of your younger baby, so we may be on the same sked, not sure?!

    I heart your posts, Mama! So much I relate to. xoxo

  10. Ha ha ha ha! I love the idea of the Oakland crew cheering you on! :) I hope it gets better soon- and I know it will. I'm still not that great at doing this in public, though. The one thing that gets WORSE is that when the baby starts to be able to grab things, she'll basically pull all of your clothes off, while thrashing about and refusing to latch-- so you'll appear to be wrestling a wolverine, while naked, spraying milk on innocent members of the public. I tend to stick to bathroom stalls for that...

  11. I am so glad to read your post & the comments; makes me realize I wasn't the only one with these issues.
    I went through all of this with my son...needed at least 4 hands to get him latched, incredibly painful, sprained wrists and all. And this was after the LC told me he was "latching beautifully", while I screamed and cried in her office. Basically I quit trying after 4 weeks because there was no way I could do it on my own, both physically (see above the 4 hands thing) and emotionally (i.e. fucking depressed). Also no one else I talked to or read about seemed to have similar issues---so I figured something was wrong with me or him.
    I ended up exclusively pumping & feeding him bottles for about 3 months & then supplementing formula until my breastmilk just disappeared at 6 months.
    Good for you for keeping at it. I am due with son #2 in October and I really really want to try to make it work this time; its good to know (though still kind of depressing) that it may take longer, I expected that things would work out by 2-3 weeks as it did with all the women I knew.
    And, Bionic Baby Mama, I think I had that book! A friend of ours lent it to me & I made my husband go to her house & return it because I couldn't stand to have that hippie dippie smiley happy drivel in my house for another minute!

  12. I love the driving story and all the unexpected support you found.

    I really do hope it gets a lot easier soon, like so many have suggested it might.

    Your posts are scaring the shit out of me. ;)

  13. This is not designed to make you feel better (I could sell ice in Alaska!) but the first 4-6 weeks, perhaps a tad longer, are breastfeeding hell. It does require time and a stronger baby to get a better latch. (And why oh why does it seem like everyone else has it so much easier in the real-life-world? My friends all either A) said they had a perfect latch and gallons of milk from day one [whores] or B) quit breastfeeding within 6 weeks and encouraged me to give up, too [also whores].)

    I can't quite remember exactly when it got easier, or else it was a slow process that culminated in the stress of feeding dissipating, but I know that by 2 or 3 months I no longer wanted to weep when Jackson cried for milk. And my supply has adjusted multiple times, before I returned to work (good) and then after (bad) and now again that I'm freelancing at home (good again).

    Just know that you are a FUCKING SUPER TROOPER and what you are enduring is selfless and noble and commendable and it will get better. Pinky swear.

    AND. I also learned to drive a stick from an ex-boyfriend and drove a 5-speed until recently. Badass shifting motherfuckers, we are.

  14. I found an old diagram Rocco drew when we were in the hospital. It showed the number of pillows, the angles, the degree, every detail to try to replicate the one feeding that worked. Course, it was professionally arranged by a lactation consultant and we never recaptured it. Dammit.

    9 pounds is some serious progress. Congratulations for making it this far. I swear it gets better. I cannot promise you will ever have decent production levels, but luckily this doesnt seem to be your issue.

    Everyone knows the boppy is a prop when the little one learns to sit. If it fails in the feeding dept, it gets flying colors in the head protection area.

  15. BLOODY FISSURE - AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Words to strike dread into my heart.

    Oh bunny. POOR you. I can but hope that things continue to get much better, as they appear to be.

  16. Hey Bunny,

    I see that since the last time I visited you had yourself a baby :)

    I could have written these posts, about the Fucking Depression and the breastfeeding. My daughter was born at a whopping 9 lbs, and I had a bitch of a time at first keeping her from rolling into me. I found that the old Boppy I had was partially to blame, so I started using a newer one. I also had a case of selective amnesia. I was sure that I had a handle on the breastfeeding of the twins by this point...but I found the notebook I had kept and NOPE I was wrong. It took me a good 8 weeks to figure out the learning curve, and it was a good 6 or 7 before everything was going smoothly with A.

    I recommend a firmer pillow, it really helps, and many flannel burping clothes. I tucked one around the boobs to capture spillage, and two over my shoulder at every for my tears and one for her spit up. You are just about over the hump, I promise you. Hang in there.

  17. I'm glad things are a bit better and I hope that things improve even more v. soon. I wonder if when bun bun grows a bit - with a bigger mouth, etc - the pain and awkwardness will disappear.

    hang in there!