- Proven to be the best way for babies to get all their necessary nutrition. (Not that bottles are "bad." I commend any loving mom for doing what she feels is best for her and her baby).
- A way to keep baby healthier (i.e. if mommy gets a cold, guess who gets antibodies against that cold passed on to them? Baby!)
- Bonding and togetherness for mommy and baby.
- Not having to wash any supplies (okay, so yes, I do have to wash my body every day, but I do that anyhow, so it's more like multitasking).
- Not having to pack anything but the nursing cover or a blanket.
- Don't have to warm anything up. Always the perfect temperature.
We've all seen the cover of any breastfeeding book. The mother is sitting quietly with her baby who is eating contently. The mother might be looking lovingly down at her child, or kissing their hand gently, while the little one looks up into the mommy's eyes. Exact example of breastfeeding, right?
This never happens with me and my baby. Ever.
Okay, so maybe not never ever ever, but it is on great occasion that we do have a sweet, simple, bonding breastfeeding session.
Although I knew that the perfect situation on all the book covers couldn't possibly happen every single time, I kept seeing it, so I figured it must be the norm, and the hard times were few and far between.
Like I said. I. Was. Wrong.
After Kessie was born, I was told that it may be difficult to keep a newborn awake, and that sometimes you may even need to wake them to eat, since newborns are so sleepy. I was further told that if I did need to wake Kessie up for her feedings, I was to do whatever I could to wake her up; strip her down to her diaper, change her, rub her hands, tickle her toes, do baby exercises, etc.
This turned out to be another thing that was entirely different from what I expected. To me, it sounded like if I was ruthless in keeping her awake, she would stay awake and eat and be done.
Again. I. Was. Wrong.
This child would have starved herself to death if I wouldn't have done everything I could to keep her awake during feedings. She was the queen of sleep. She hardly ever was awake, and I'm pretty sure she even slept through most of her feedings too.
So the first few weeks, there we were, every single feeding, she was down to her diaper, I trying desperately to keep her awake, while she was trying desperately to stay asleep. Our little game went as follows:
Undress baby. Baby squirms and falls asleep. Change diaper. Baby squirms and protests a bit and tries to stay asleep. Sit baby up and down a few times until baby is really irritated and really protesting. Obviously awake...until she dozes again. Repeat for 10 minutes. Finally, start feeding baby. Within 5 minutes or less, baby is asleep. Tickle baby's feet. Baby starts eating again. Asleep and pacifying in less than 5 minutes. Tickle feet again. And again. And again. Eventually, baby will become immune to this. Move on to rubbing her back. Again. And Again. And again, until baby is immune to this as well. Rub her hands. Again. And again. And again, until immune to that as well. Sit up to burp. Baby spits up. Probably everything she ate too. Start all over and repeat all these things until either A. Baby won't stay awake or B. Baby falls asleep while being burped. or C. You've done all you can and are just done.
Needless to say, the game of "keep the baby awake" was very tiring. Eventually, we realized that part of it was that her latch wasn't very good and she was somewhat tongue-tied, so she wasn't getting enough milk and was working so hard she was just too tired, and the other part was that she associated breastfeeding with a way to go to sleep. After we got help from a lactation consultant (which I would say is worth EVERY penny if you are having any problems), and after I was ruthless with not letting her fall asleep while nursing, things got better in this area. And for a while, things were actually quite perfect for the most part. Until she started to notice the world around her.
It was like a strange metamorphosis. Here I had, a beautiful, sweet little baby girl who slept so well and was eating much better after our months of troubles. But slowly, she began to transform into something else. Her hands and fingers became suctioned to everything within her reach- my hair was a popular one, as well as skin, clothes, and my face.
I swear her arms and legs grew 10 feet long and could wrap around my entire body 3 times.
Her mouth became a little beak that, despite having no teeth, could make me sore for days. And not just from biting. She rarely bit. It was instead from a strange obsession with, not latching on and off, but pulling on and off. Continuously. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. And it always happened for the same reasons. 1. If Daddy stepped in the room. 2. No reason. At all.
In my mind, she began to take on an entirely different form. She became...
How had this happened? What had I done to my poor little girl to make her into this? It was extremely difficult to believe that this little thing had once been my calm, sleepy, inactive little girl. This was a full fledged sea creature who was always alert and always awake and always...
So what did I do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What could I do? There's no way to reason with a baby. It would only turn out something like this:
Very effective, right? -_-
I also couldn't make her be still and sit there. That would just unleash her wrath.
And the wrath of the octopus should not be provoked.
Anyway, so I've found myself stuck with this interesting little octopus for about the past 5 months. So what, you may ask, keeps me from ending breastfeeding sooner than later and enduring through this? Why would I put myself through this insanity? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure myself. Maybe it's because we invested so much time and money into getting help so we could breastfeed successfully so it would be a waste to stop early. Or maybe it's because I know it's the best thing for her, so I would feel selfish if I denied her the best. Maybe I feel empowered that I'm the only one who can do this for my baby and that makes me awesome and feel better about myself? These are possible reasons. But deep down, I don't think it's any of those. I think, perhaps, it's because any time I do think about ending early, this terrible sadness overcomes me.
A day or two after Kessie was born, I had a moment where I just started crying for many reasons and none at the same time (oh hormones...). When my husband asked me what was wrong, I said that I was sad that I was laid up so much that I couldn't do anything for Kessie but feed her. I wanted to take care of her immediately and I didn't feel it was fair that after carrying this child for 9 months and then giving birth to her that I should be unable to do anything for her. I wondered though why I felt this way since I should just relax and enjoy not having to do anything, since for the rest of forever I would have to do everything. Then I realized it was because, while she was inside of me, I was able to do everything for her. I fed her, I carried her, I kept her warm. Then it got me thinking about how attached we were. We were always together. And now, suddenly, we weren't anymore. She was in her own bed, someone else could hold her, someone else could change her diapers, essentially, someone else could do everything for her...except for feed her.
And maybe this is why we keep breastfeeding. Because it's the only thing left that keeps us attached and as close to each other as when she was inside me.
Although the going gets rough, there are times when the little creature subsides and transforms back into a little baby girl. I cherish these times like no other and am very thankful for them, because I know that in just a few days or less, the octopus will emerge again...like it always does. Call me crazy to keep breastfeeding an octopus, but deep down inside, I love it.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding book picture: http://www.amazon.com/Womanly-Art-Breastfeeding-Diane-Wiessinger/dp/0345518446/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354924127&sr=1-1&keywords=the+womanly+art+of+breastfeeding
The Breastfeeding Book picture: http://www.betterworldbooks.com/the-breastfeeding-book-id-0316779245.aspx