Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Guest Post: How I Learned to Love Boobin'

 By Ani Lipitz

Ani lives in Brooklyn with her awesome husband and adorable baby. She runs the (sadly neglected) Jewish mysticism blog, Light & Coffee. Ani will get her Lactation Counselor certification at the end of the summer.

Looking back, I don't know how I managed to soldier through those first few months, but I'm glad I did. There was no secret recipe for boobin' success, no expert tricks or tips. Just plain old persistence. 

How I Learned to Love Boobin'
by Ani Lipitz

As I sit here typing this, my seven-month old is laying on a pillow in my lap, happily enjoying what our little family has come to call “boobin'”. He nurses with a look of pure bliss on his face, stopping to smile at me as I gaze down at him. He reaches his sweet little hand up and strokes my hair. I melt a little.

Then, with demon-like speed, he grabs a handful and yanks a clump right out of my scalp. I screech in pain. He giggles.

Ah, the joys of breastfeeding.

Despite my bald patches (and the occasional bite mark, now that he's sprouted two razor-sharp chompers), I love nursing. And frankly, that's a miracle, given the way we kicked off our boobin' relationship.  

My baby was delivered via C-section after a labor filled with pretty much every intervention imaginable. After he was born, we were separated for more than three hours. When the nurses finally brought him to me, the very first thing I did was put him to the boob as I proudly checked off the “Exclusively Breastfed” box on his medical chart. After some coaxing, he sleepily opened his mouth and latched. I waited eagerly for the wave of maternal ecstasy I'd read so much about to wash gently over me.

Instead, I got thrashed by a tsunami of toe-curling pain.

I quickly went over the mental checklist I'd compiled from the breastfeeding research I did in the weeks before he was born. Mouth wide open and covering the bottom of the aureola? Check. Lips flanged out? Check. Head tilted slightly back? Check. “Well, WTF?” I thought. “We're doing everything right!”

The staff lactation consultant later confirmed this. “You've got a textbook latch!” she announced. “It just takes a little time for your nipples to toughen up.” I thanked her for her help, secretly doubting that this applied in a situation where a freak genetic accident caused a baby's tongue to be made out of sandpaper, as I suspected was the case with my kid.

Raw nipples aside, the next 24 hours seemed to go swimmingly. The baby had the right amount of poop diapers. He was nursing every two hours or so. He was chill and content between feedings.

And then he started crying. And he wouldn't stop. For hours.

Exhausted and frazzled, I finally summoned the nurse. She promptly diagnosed my baby with an empty tummy and stuck a bottle of formula in his mouth. He sucked it down in minutes and then fell asleep as I watched, crestfallen. “You get some sleep, too,” the nurse said, as she wheeled his bassinet to the nursery. Feeling like a horrible failure, I did.

The problems got worse after we went home. Sore nipples turned into bloody nipples, which I tried to remedy by stuffing frozen cabbage leafs into my bra. (Nobody told me I was supposed to use purple cabbage leafs. I used green and ended up smelling like halupkies for three days). My milk took extra long to come in because of the C-section. The baby cried for more nursing every time I thought he was done eating. I cried every time I supplemented with formula. Then the baby went two days without pooping, and the pediatrician wanted us to come in for a weight check. He had lost almost a pound in the ten days since he'd been born. That scared me. I wanted to give up nursing, but the pediatrician insisted that I visit her practice's lactation consultant to try and make things work. Not really believing it would work, I agreed.

The lactation consultant was amazing. She gave me exercises to do with my baby to strengthen his sucking ability. She put me on a pumping regimen and prescribed raspberry and nettle leaf tea to help boost my diminished milk supply. Within a week, my boobs were leaking, and my baby was gaining weight again!

But the whole ordeal left my confidence totally shot. I was constantly worried that he wasn't getting enough milk. Every weight check felt like Judgment Day, and every ounce he gained felt like a temporary stay of execution. The baby still wanted to nurse every hour during the day, and nursing sessions could last 45 minutes. Clusterfeeding was a way of life. All I wanted was to get off the couch and get my figure back, but all he wanted to do was boob.

Then, when he hit three months old – miracle of miracles! - he started going three hours between feedings. I could go out for a coffee! I could go grocery shopping! I could actually leave our 500 square-foot studio apartment! The possibilities were intoxicating!

Looking back, I don't know how I managed to soldier through those first few months, but I'm glad I did. There was no secret recipe for boobin' success, no expert tricks or tips. Just plain old persistence. Boobin' forces me to take a break from the craziness of my day to really connect with my baby. It's a mandatory time-out every few hours to make sure I relax and enjoy him. Cheesy as it is, it makes me feel natural and womanly. And on top of all that, my kid is really freakin' cute when he's nursing (hair-yanking and boob-biting aside).

But I still really, really, really hope it's easier next time around!

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