Monthly Archives: May 2012

I Cannot Always Make It Better

Dear Daughter,

You are finally asleep in a wrap against my chest. It is 5:28AM, and for the past two hours something has been bothering you.

Most of your days are spent without much in the way of crying. You communicate clearly and I know when you need a diaper change, to be held, to be nursed, to move, to have your legs bicycled to let go of gas, or to be bounced for a burp.

Sometimes, though, something bothers you and I cannot find the cause. I step through each of the things that could be bothering you. I hold you skin to skin. I rub your body gently to see if there is an itch hidden somewhere. I talk to you and show you things which temporarily distract you. I read from a book, as my voice sometimes soothes you when nothing else does. You did not want to comfort nurse, you did not want to dance, you did not want to watch the ceiling fan, to be naked, to be bathed. You did not want to sit upright, you did not want to lay down, you did not want to be skin to skin, you did not want to be swaddled, you did not want a fuzzy blanket, and you did not want to lay side by side and nurse between cotton sheets skin to skin. You did not want the light off, but were not much happier with it on. You soothed momentarily with each thing that I did before letting me know that it was not the answer.

I cannot always make it better. This does not mean that you need me less. Some say that it makes no difference if you cry in my arms or in your crib once I’ve made sure that everything is “okay” and that you’re fed , dry and warm.

I disagree. I can hold you while you cry. I can whisper. I can keep trying things to find the answer. I can show you now in your infancy what I will show you for the rest of your life: Comfort is always free and there are never any strings attached. I love you when you’re happy, and I love you when you’re screaming in my ear. I am not afraid to hold you when you cry. I cannot always make it better, but I will always try to be there for you.

<3 Mama

Schedules Bad, Routines Good.

I don’t have my six and a half week old daughter on a schedule. Many of my friends hear this and say “OF COURSE NOT!” and some ask “why not?” I’m of the opinion that schedules are harmful for breastfed babies and for the breastfeeding relationship. I have three reasons.

Reason One: The baby needs to thrive. In order for an infant to thrive, the baby needs to eat enough and the food has to meet the right nutritional balance. The way breasts and babies work together is designed to make this work. Schedules interfere with the way breastfeeding works, which can interfere with the baby thriving. When eating is baby-driven the baby will not eat unless the baby is hungry, and the baby will not go without eating when the baby is hungry. When the baby eats the type of milk that the baby gets will depend on the last time that the baby nursed. If the baby has gone some time without nursing then the baby will get a rapid flow of foremilk which will fill the baby up quickly and which is digested quickly. If the baby is still hungry the baby will eat more and more until the baby also gets higher fat hindmilk which is digested less rapidly. The more frequently the baby eats, the more hindmilk baby gets. The more hindmilk baby gets the less rapidly the milk is digested and the less often baby will need to nurse. The longer baby goes without nursing, the more foremilk.. You get the idea. It’s self-regulating and a baby-driven balancing act driven by the question of “what does baby need?”

Now throw a monkey wrench in the works. Baby’s hungry. Baby gets told “No baby, it’s not time to eat yet.” Suddenly baby has to wait exactly three hours between feedings. Baby has 20 minutes on each breast, and then baby has to wait another three hours between feedings. Three hours means that baby gets a lot of foremilk. Maybe baby fills up on it since there’s so much. Baby is then full of rapidly digesting food that doesn’t have much fat, and needs to wait another three hours to feed again even though it doesn’t contain what baby needs and even though it digests rapidly. Instant recipe for infant weight loss exactly when infants need to gain.

To make matters worse, breasts are designed to scale supply according to demand. So you have reduced demand (feeds every 3 hours, baby can’t take all the milk, doesn’t empty the breasts completely) and the breasts recognize this. Your milk contains a protein called “Feedback Inhibition of Lactation” (FIL). When your breasts are emptied there is less FIL and production speeds up. When your breasts are not emptied there is more FIL and your breasts make less milk. Full breasts make less milk, empty breasts make more milk. Spacing out feedings lowers your supply.

Remember. Baby needs to thrive. You suddenly have a baby whose feeds are infrequent, rapidly digested and low in fat. And you have a feeding pattern that decreases milk production. You also have a rule about the baby only getting a certain amount of time on the breast, so they cannot work to increase supply.

In order for baby to thrive on a schedule mom must have a supply that is not very sensitive, she must store just enough milk so that baby gets enough milk to not become dehydrated but not enough that baby is only eating foremilk at each feeding. Baby must be able to take in enough milk, digest slowly enough to use all of the portions of the milk, and must not have any physical issues such as reflux, spitting up, a high palate, a faster metabolism, a tongue tie, a lip tie, etc. that interfere with either digestion, weight gain or nursing effectiveness.

In other words, everything must be eerily perfect in order for baby to thrive on a schedule without supplementation.

Reason Two: Supply. Supply is regulated by demand. Both “Amount eaten” and “frequency of eating”. As mentioned before, your milk contains FIL which reduces supply. Infrequent spaced out nursing decreases supply. This is a good thing because if baby’s not hungry and goes a while without eating, supply reduces so mom is not overproducing and wasting her resources on milk that is not needed, and the milk isn’t sitting in mom’s breasts raising the risk of mastitis. With scheduled feedings that space out feedings this is NOT the case. Baby IS hungry, baby would nurse if allowed to nurse. Supply is reduced not because of decreased demand, but because of spaced out feedings.

Breastmilk is not present in mom’s body in a static amount. It is created according to demand. An artificial reduction to demand results in a very real reduction of supply.

Reason Three: Duration of breastfeeding. The AAP recommends that exclusive breastfeeding happen for at least the first six months of baby’s life and that breastfeeding continue to at least a year with complementary solids. Exclusive breastfeeding can only happen if baby is thriving. A schedule which means that EVERYTHING has to meet a delicate balance that many babies and moms are not able to meet.. Means that the duration of exclusive breastfeeding is drastically reduced. A schedule in the early weeks means that mom’s supply may be damaged for the long haul and that in order to restore breastfeeding mom has to feed more frequently than she would have if no schedule had been in place during the early weeks and mom’s supply was allowed to regulate according to baby’s demand and needs.

 ROUTINE is different from schedule. My partner wakes up at 6:30. His alarm clock tends to wake up the baby who nurses and then wants a diaper change, and then nurses again and falls back to sleep for her first nap of the day. Her brothers and I have lunch at 12:00 which means I’m sitting down so she wakes up in her wrap and eats as well. The routine encourages feeding at a certain time, but it does not require feedings to be spaced out. Before we go anywhere I nurse her so that she can wait until we get where we are going. An offered feed is very different from a delayed feed. Routine is different from schedule.

You can have all of the benefit of convenience without spacing out feeds or being on a rigid schedule. Offer feeds, have a good consistent routine. Everything falls into place without needing to watch the clock and push a pacifier into your baby’s mouth because “it’s not time to eat yet”.

Fitting You Into The Schedule

Dear Daughter,

I hear a lot about “scheduling” and how to “fit a baby into a family’s schedule. There’s some gobbledygook about training and waiting to feed you and making sure to never feed you unless you’re hungry, and spacing out feedings so that you’ll get nice and full and not interrupt me at some inconvenient time. I think there are even some books that encourage me to teach you how to leap through flaming hoops. Or maybe that’s dogs. I always get confused when I hear the word “training” and “infant”.

I’m not quite sure what to make of the advice. You have fit into “the schedule” since you were born. Some portion of “The Family Schedule” belongs to you by the simple fact of your existence within the family. “The Family Schedule” is not my schedule, it’s not your father’s schedule, it’s the schedule of the family. When your biggest brother started Kindergarten, he modified “The Family Schedule”. When the middle brother starts summer camp, he will modify “The Family Schedule”, and when you were born you modified “The Family Schedule”. I do not see how it could be otherwise. Our family encompasses each individual member, and we all adapt to each other.

You do not ask anything unreasonable of me. I’m sure that will come when you’re two and you want me to somehow use laser reconstructive surgery to make your four squares of toast back into one piece of toast so that I can properly cut them into triangles. (Toddlers love geometry) or when you’re five and you feel very strongly that “I HATE YOU mommy” is a compelling reason why I should let you have ice cream for dinner. Unreasonable will come soon enough, I’m sure. We all have unreasonable dreams and wishes that we must grow past. At thirty-two I still have those unreasonable wishes, although I’m mostly able to recognize the fact that they will not come true any time soon. (Like the desire for an uninterrupted moment on the toilet to finish pooping in peace. That, with children, is the epitome of unreasonableness on my part.)

You expect to sleep snuggled up to my body and safe. It is modern sleeping arrangements that diminish the safety of your sleeping next to me at night. Your design and your evolution know nothing about too-soft mattresses, back-to-sleep, and the odd habit that adult humans have developed where they like to sleep atop miniature cliffs where you could easily plummet onto a hard floor. You are meant to sleep next to me, and so you sleep best when you are next to me. During the day it is safe to be next to me, and so you cry to be held so that you can sleep safely in my arms or in a wrap, or on the boppy at the breast. You like warmth, my heartbeat, my closeness, safety.  Considering that I am your only defense against the tigers and lions and bears that your instincts insist are prowling our house at all hours of the day.. It is understandable. I try to find ways to give you what you need while keeping you safe. Your reasonable demands and our desire for sleep drive us all to be more creative. And when we can’t be, I can’t think of any better reason to be awake at 3AM. I definitely cannot think of any better company than one curly-headed blue eyed babygirl who I love to pieces.

You expect to eat when hungry. You know nothing of ticking clocks and deadlines, of brothers that need to catch buses, of doctor’s appointments, of work schedules.  Words have no meaning to you just yet. Why should clocks and timers and hours-passed and minutes-until have any meaning over the rumbling of your belly? Of course you expect to eat when you are hungry. Of course you become confused, annoyed and increasingly upset if I can’t feed you right that moment. You come from within a warm watery world where all of your needs are met before they even exist. This world of ours where you feel hunger and have to wait to be fed.. How alien it must be. Of course you screech. I’ve seen some adults freaking out when their dinner isn’t brought out fast enough at a restaurant. You’re only six weeks old. Patience comes later.

You expect to be kept clean. The diapers that you wear hold your poop and pee close to your delicate skin, and they turn cold against you. You know nothing about the time to line dry, to machine-dry your diapers, nothing about the cost of disposables, nothing about whether it’s a good time to be interrupted for a change of diaper. You don’t pee or poo on a schedule, so the idea of letting you sit in pee until that three-hour timer goes off? No thanks. I’d be rather upset if I had to sit in a puddle for an hour because “it’s not time yet”. I don’t expect you to have more patience and understanding than an adult can muster in a similar situation. You’re uncomfortable. You’re not able to change your own diaper. I got it.

You expect to be held, to be carried, to be kept close. You are a single infant, born to a primate, who eats rapidly digested milk. You are a “carry mammal”, not a species that is often left alone in a nest while its parents disappear to forage. You are helpless, no more suited to being alone than a newborn kangaroo. You evolved to be in my arms and close to my milk. Not to be bounced, vibrated and swung in a mechanical plastic contraption that plays oddly disembodied nursery rhymes. Sure, there are moments where I would really really really really like you to appreciate the bouncy seat that I bought for such moments. I can’t exactly fault you for not liking it, though.

You wake when you are done sleeping. You sleep when you are done being awake. You cry when you have a need. You eat when you are hungry. And you do all of these things without any knowledge of “the family schedule”.

So how do I fit you into this schedule of ours?

In the morning I nurse you when you are hungry. I carry you in one arm while I wake up your brothers, I nurse you on a boppy while I help them get dressed. I wear you in a wrap while I make sure they eat. I change your diaper on my lap while we wait for the bus. I nurse you before we go anywhere, and if you need to nurse on the way we stop and sit and talk while you eat. Your brothers give you kisses and play with your fingers and we all talk about random things and explore whatever happens to be around us.

In the afternoon I nurse you while I eat my lunch. I wear you while I tend to the garden. I step back and let your five year old and two year old brothers be the ones to dig in the dirt, to pull up the weeds under my direction. It is their garden, it is imperfect and amusing and awesome and lovely. In part because my hands are occupied by you. They flood the dirt with the water from the watering can. And their plants thrive in oddly spaced intervals. They lose interest half way through and I finish the job when you’re asleep again in the wrap. Sure, sometimes they pull up one of the bean plants and let the half-dozen tiny little maple trees stay firmly rooted in the careful (sort of) rows of cucumber plants. I don’t mind, it’s an experimental garden after all. Just as our schedule right now is an experimental schedule.

I learn to parent your brothers with my voice and with my attention, to compel cooperation rather than use my arms to step them through the motions. I come up with games to make the process fun. I explain where things are. To the left, to the right, down. It’s in the drawer with the three stickers on it, no the other one. Good job! I ask for favors using please and thank you. By the time you’re ready to free my arms, your 22-month-older brother will know the words for all of his colors and the up-down right-left dimensions of 3D space.

At night we all snuggle down into the big bed and we read stories together and your brothers snuggle up to me while you nurse. Then when you are all asleep I lay you down and carry them to their beds. This is when I am home alone. When your daddy is here he does the story reading and the child-carrying while I hold you a bit longer. The snuggling divies up a bit, sometimes they choose to snuggle with dad, sometimes with you and with me. Sometimes you’ll be in your daddy’s arms and both of your brothers will have found their space in mine.

After everyone else is asleep, we curl around each other and nurse. Your eyes come open in the quiet and we talk to each other. This is our time, yours and mine. Soon you’ll fall into the same schedule as your brothers. Soon we will encourage you to have a more consistent bedtime and more consistent napping times. That will come when you’re awake longer, sleep less, when you’re older, when you put down your own roots in your own routine, and carve out the space that is yours.

Until then, schedule can wait.

<3 Mama

 

(Guest Post) “WTF am I going to do with a daugher?”

This was my facebook status after I found out your gender during an emergency room visit that I took your mother to because she was concerned at your very sudden lack of movement. Needless to say this statement made some of my friends respond in various forms of surprise and incredulity. Partly because they themselves couldn’t believe I was having a daughter (and a third child at that, but that’s a different story), but also because they could not believe that I wouldn’t “know” what to do with one. The responses ranged from sincere advice on how to raise a daughter, to outright scolding me for not knowing that I should “LOVE HER”.

The responses were amusing, especially since my main intent was generally lost on those of my friends. You see, in reality, this was my way of announcing your gender to all of my friends and acquaintances whom were curious about it. I thought everyone knew my sense of humor enough that they wouldn’t take this statement as serious. I was expecting a herd of congratulatory responses and was not expecting to be scolded for making this statement. So your gender announcement turned partially into a very successful troll.

Of course, I was only half joking when I said this. In my mind I really did ask this question of myself, but I had also answered it. You see, before I had children I always thought that I would be a father eventually but my thought process never made it past that point. So the question of gender never really entered my mind until after I had my first child.

At some point after that I realized that I definitely wanted a daughter. This is not to say that I didn’t want my sons- your brothers mean the world to me and I would not give them up for anything. But the thought entered my mind that I would want to “try” for a daughter. Well, it turned out that, whether by trial or chance, your mother and I had succeeded in making you.

And suddenly, even more questions began to pop up. I began thinking about your upbringing, how it would differ from your brothers, the things that I would want to teach you… how to handle your first boyfriend, how to help you understand and deal with your emotions, how to teach you what to look for in a relationship. Many fun thoughts entered my mind then, such as the best way to freak out your first boyfriend when he comes over to “meet the parents” (none of which I will write here- those will be a surprise), but the most important conclusions that I came to was that I needed to lead by example. This made me remember a popular phrase: The best thing a father can do for his daughter is to love her mother.

Well, dear daughter, I can tell you that I am very much, definitely, sincerely, incredibly, regrettably, overwhelmingly in love with your mother. There will be no shortage of love here. We may express our love in very… odd… ways at times, but as you grow up I’m sure you will come to recognize it as such. So with all that in mind remember this: no matter what happens, always know that I’m never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you.

<3 Your Daddy

The Six Week Growth Spurt

Dear Daughter,

You turned six weeks old on Friday. This means many things, but the most all-consuming thing of the sixth week of life is your six-week growth spurt. I lovingly refer to this as the “growth spurt from hell” as it seems to be the most difficult one of all. In happier news, once this growth spurt has passed we move on to the second stage of breastfeeding that I like to call “SUCCESS!”

First, though, we must get through this growth spurt. It is the one where many moms decide that their milk supply is vanishing, that their baby actually hates them (but not as much as baby hates anyone who attempts to hold them without a breast for them to latch onto). You are divinely unpleasant, fussy, and do not believe at all in the idea of sleep. You switch sides constantly and are vocal about your annoyance when there is not enough milk or when there is too much milk. You flail your little limbs in displeasure, and pummel me with your fists while you tsk at me like an angry squirrel.

I know exactly what this is, and exactly how we will pass through it. I know the best practices. I know the reasons. I know that you are getting enough. I know that the contents of my milk adjust across time to meet your needs, and that your fussiness is not because you’re starving but because your body and mine are communicating and modifying my supply to meet your needs. I know that the way that I make this easier for both you and for me is to listen, to go through the motions, to switch you from side to side, to talk to you, to soothe you in all the ways I can, and to soldier on through trusting both your body and mine to do what needs to be done. I know from the poopy and wet diapers that you are putting out that not only are you getting enough, you’re practically drowning in milk. I know that the frequency of your nursing is making sure that you get the highest fat milk from my body.

I know that how you are acting is not an indicator of my supply, nor is it a judgement of my ability to provide for you. It is how breastfeeding works. It is an indication that things are perfect and as nature designed. You nurse frequently to keep me there with you. You nurse frequently to keep my breasts empty so that my body will produce more milk rather than releasing a protein that decreases lactation. You nurse frequently so that the milk you drink is all high fat, not foremilk.You nurse frequently so that your belly will fill more slowly from a less full breast, so that you will digest more slowly and use every iota of what my milk provides for you, rather than gulping it down only to poop it out as quickly as you can eat.

This is communication, not indictment. Success, not failure. Provision, not starvation. I have been through this with each of your brothers, I have read the studies, the information, talked to lactation consultants and can recite all of this backwards in my sleep while you nurse. I’ve read enough about how lactation works to visualize everything that happens as it happens like a 3D medical animation on youtube complete with monotonous droning narration.

None of this makes it any easier. You and I are deeply loved by people that care a tremendous deal about us. No one likes to hear you whimper while you nurse. Your displeasure is obvious. No one likes to see me exhausted with bags under my eyes. No one likes offering to hold you to give me a break and to have you cry moments later because you need to nurse again. Out of love they ask if maybe my milk supply is low. I refer them to the hundred-some ounces of oversupply that fill the basement freezer. To the stack of diapers that disappears so quickly across the day that your growth spurt means we’re turning to disposables as the 27 cloth newborn diapers no longer last even a day. You are eating so much, pooping and peeing so much. You are getting enough. My supply is fine.

This is not starvation. This is growth. I could give you a bottle but you are not the only thing growing and changing. Your milk supply is, too. A bottle might fill up your belly and ease your fussing for a short time, but it just slows the job that needs to be done.

You don’t need a bottle right now. A change in amount is not what you need. You need for the composition of my milk to change and better meet your needs as you make the move from newborn to infant. That is the purpose of this. Your fussiness and my sleep deprivation are the doing of the job that needs to be done.

I can see why so many women give bottles, convinced that their supply is low. When you hear the question once, you can dismiss the idea. When you hear it twice, three times, four times, every day from everyone that loves you and everyone that loves your baby… You start to question everything that you know.

You may wonder why I’m telling you this. It is simple. One day you will have your first baby. One day your first baby will be doing exactly what you are doing now and exactly what nearly every baby throughout time has always done. I want you to know that questioning yourself is normal. This is the third time I’ve been through this. I know more now than I ever have before.  I still question myself every step of the way.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that questioning is normal. And that often the answer is that everything is fine. The fussiness will pass. The sleep will return. Your baby will grow. This will pass. Trust yourself. I trust you now in your distant past, at six weeks old. Trust yourself now in your present with your own child as you go through the same dance. Listen to me when I tell you exactly the same thing that I tell you now: You’re doing great, beautiful girl.

You’re doing great.

<3 Mama

A Green Blanket

Dear Daughter,

It’s dark outside. Quiet. Warm. The ceiling fan is on above us, and you lay by my side on a simple green blanket with an embroidered butterfly at the bottom. I won this blanket as part of a clothing lot in an auction years before you were born. It belonged to each of your big brothers and now it belongs to you. Somehow it has managed to avoid the stains of frequent use and it has made the move between four homes and three states over five years.

I, too, have made a journey. Not only between each of those places, but also through motherhood.

More than five years ago, this green blanket ended up in the black Similac diaper bag that I had taken home from the hospital at the insistence of the cheerful blonde nurse that stepped us through your oldest brother’s discharge after he was born. It accompanied us to your brother’s first pediatrician’s appointment. It was the blanket that I pulled out the first time I ever tried to nurse in public.

I was unprepared.

Your brother was a week old. For the first three days he refused to latch on (other than once) and was fed colostrum from my fingertip. When he was three days old and we were home for the first night since he was born, my milk came in and he finally latched on. Engorgement made my breasts larger than his head. I struggled with a terrible latch and he managed to suck a second nipple onto my right breast. A second nipple that leaked blood rather than milk and that was black and blue. My mother took us to the drug store the next day and picked out a tube of lanolin. I gritted my teeth and held my breath when he latched on. I cried in the shower when the water hit my breasts. I tried to pump with a pump that I now refer to as “The Nipple Shredder”.  I was inexperienced. Struggling. In pain. Without support.

I was unprepared.

I had nursed him just before we left the house just a half an hour before.

He taught me this: Babies don’t know how to tell time.

He couldn’t possibly be hungry.

He taught me this: Even babies that are completely full will want to nurse for comfort when they’re out and about in a hectic world where the breast is that one comforting and familiar thing.

He needed to nurse.

I had no clue to how to nurse in public. Most of what I had heard about nursing in public was people telling me “for the sake of everything that is good, DON’T DO IT! It’s gross.” Or they told me that it was fine as long as I covered up. Covering up sounded easy. You just take a blanket and.. Cover it up.

I quite possibly cannot repeat this enough times. I was unprepared. Horribly horribly unprepared. Unprepared emotionally, unprepared physically, and without any sort of knowledge that would have made my first experience nursing in public any easier.

I laid him down on my lap. My Boppy pillow was at home. I put a blanket over him. I looked at a blanket-covered screaming baby and realized that I couldn’t see my breast. I couldn’t see him. I had enough trouble getting him latched on at home when I could be naked from the waist up. I had no idea how to work the clasps on my nursing bra. I fumbled with one, getting it unlatched and watching in horror as my reusable cotton nursing pad fell to the floor. I ignored it and tried to latch my son on blind.

You, I can latch on in the dark in my sleep with a single hand while updating this website with the touch screen of my cell phone with the other and counting backwards from one hundred. You are the third of three. I am a pro.

The screaming escalated. Everyone was staring. I considered the bathroom but then I saw the line. Finally I ducked my head under the blanket and lined everything up just right and your brother latched on. Chomped down. I stifled a squeal of pain and held my breath and then emerged disheveled. Sweaty. On the verge of tears.

The first face I saw was the very unhappy looking face of an older woman who looked like she had just seen a prostitute wander into the pediatrician’s office to solicit everyone.

This was not the first face I needed to see.

Daughter of mine, I can tell you unequivocally now that this woman was WRONG to look at me and your brother this way. Horribly horribly wrong. Cruelly wrong.

She could have smiled. She could have come to sit by me and offered to hold the blanket to help. She could have reassured me that it didn’t matter if anyone saw. She could have looked away. Instead she chose to inflict shame upon a young first-time mother who was struggling to provide the best for her child.

I, too, could have done things differently. I could have used that moment to wither in shame and choose to let your brother go without milk and without comfort. I could have made the choice to switch to bottle feeding. I could have lashed out in a reaction to my own shame and started to tell other mothers to cover up.

I didn’t.

Breastfeeding is not like breakfast lunch and dinner. It is something that is a part of a baby’s day constantly. When woken suddenly from sleep by an unexpected noise. When woken by the need for a diaper change. When they are awake in an unfamiliar place. When mom is stressed out and they pick up on it. They want to nurse. Babies come from a world where every need is provided for before it is even a need. Where food comes from blood pumped through their umbilical cord. They are driven by instinct and design to replicate this through constant contact with their mother and seeking food and closeness in times of stress.

It is not by accident that each state of this country where you live protects your right to nurse, and protects me from any fallout from doing so. It is for a reason compelling enough to craft a law that seems to go against the outspoken voices of the minority who seek to cast shame upon women who are simply feeding their children.

I have many positive stories as well. Of smiles and of people who have brought me paper cups of water in waiting rooms in other offices or that have purchased me bottles of spring water when they saw me nursing on a bench in the summer. I have many many stories where people simply didn’t notice. Or didn’t care. I have only a small handful of negative stories to tell after three years of nursing on the go.

This simple green blanket with its pink embroidered butterfly has made this journey with me, with each of your siblings that came before you, and it will be among the gifts that I will give you when your first child is born.  Not to act as a cover, but to act as a reminder.  The difference between my positive stories and my negative stories were simply a choice that another person made. The negative stories come from someone else’s poor choice to be cruel instead of supportive.  I hope to be by your side to offer you all of the reassurances that I wish had been offered to me that first time that I nursed in front of strangers. However, if you find yourself alone.. Know this: You are feeding your child. There is no shame in that. Ever.

<3 Mama

Dads Don’t Bond With Bottles

Dear Daughter,

When I watch you and your daddy, I smile. There’s this myth that says “Dads don’t bond without bottles”. Your dad scoffs at such things. He believes that his bond with you comes from listening to you. From holding you. From loving you. From always seeking the best for you. And from understanding that the best way for you to eat is a way that he cannot provide for you. He is not jealous of this fact. This is the only thing that he cannot give you. He understands that even though he cannot breastfeed you, he can support me and ensure that I am able to do so.  Just as during pregnancy you had needs that only I could meet, and he helped me to do so.

Instead of feeding you, he listens. From the moment you are born he has watched you. He listens to the sounds you make. He feels how you hold your body, how you kick your feet. How you are when you are content and curious, how you are when you are gassy. He recognizes your feeding cues and when you just need comfort.

He holds you. He sits with you and looks into your eyes and you look into his. He plays with your feet and your hands. He rubs your ears and runs his fingers through your hair. He strips off his shirt and yours and sits with you skin to skin while you listen to the rhythm of his heart and doze off to sleep in the safety of his arms.

He bathes you, he changes you, he dresses you, he notices if you’re warm to the touch or if you have a rash.

He offers up his pinky finger as a pacifier when you cry, he doesn’t just soldier on through your unhappiness. He stops. He slows down. He talks to you. He tells you that it will be alright. He helps you calm down. He dances with you, his body knows the rhythm that soothes you. Sometimes when you cry in my arms he’ll start to bounce along with us without even noticing.

He smiles at you. He plays little games with your feet, your fingers, your toes. He tickles you.

He understands that feeding you is just meeting one of many needs. He finds his own ways of doing things with you, of comforting you, of loving you. He bonds with you through being your father and setting your needs ahead of his own.

When we are nursing he lays down next to us, and plays with your fingers and strokes your hair. He curls his body around mine which is curled around yours. He whispers that he loves you and he wears it as a truth upon his face. You’ll know this to be the truth as far back as you can remember. Know that it was the truth from before your memories as well, and from before you were born.

<3 Mama

laid back/upright nursing

 

LaidBackUprightLove this nursing position. Laying on my side with my legs curled up behind baby and my torso rotated slightly back, baby sitting up and nursing. Great for refluxy babies and fast letdown. Added bonus: baby tends to burp herself when nursing like this. It’s the snuggliest most comfy position I’ve found. And it works from newborn up.

When baby is smaller you can support baby’s bum with a pillow or your arm. As baby gets bigger then baby will be self supporting.

I like this nursing position because the baby can unlatch/pop off if the milk flow is too fast whereas it is a bit harder for baby to do this in normal “top laying” positions.

LaidBackUpright2

Be Considerate (NIP)

She sits off to the side of the coffee shop, a month old infant cradled in her arms. She looks exhausted, or like she has been crying. It is mid January and she feels like the cold has seeped into her soul, but the coffee shop is warm and bright with people chattering happily. She is there alone with her baby, but for the first time in a month she is starting to not feel lonely.

Then her baby cries. He’s hungry.

She hurries through the grocery store with a two year old and a newborn. Her husband has been deployed on active duty. She is alone with two under three. Her heart is full with missing him, and her days are full of just trying to figure out how to split her attention between her older child who is missing daddy, and her newborn.

Then her baby cries. She’s hungry.

She climbs onto the bus, two children in tow. She is an hour from home and it is rush hour. This is the last place she wants to be, but she had to pick up her oldest child from visitation at his father’s house, and her car broke down last week. She has no one to help. She sits at the back of the bus, her older kids share a single seat and she stands, baby in her arms, rocking back and forth. No one offers her a seat, and she does not ask for one.

Then her baby cries. He’s hungry.

One mother desperately needs to be around people. Lonliness is crushing. One mother needs to shop for food to feed her family. One mother is doing the best she can in a situation where she faces losing her child if she cannot manage.

All three have to feed their babies. All three are struggling.

All three do what they have to do and take care of their baby.

What choice do you make in this moment? Do you choose to smile? Do you choose to seethe at the fact that a woman has the audacity to nurse her child right there where you can see? Do you insist that she let her baby scream while she rustles through the diaper bag looking for something to cover with? Do you choose to approach her and offer to help her somehow? Do you choose to approach her and make her feel ashamed?

Some people seem to think that it is okay to shame a mother for feeding her child, to choose what a woman should and should not do to make those around her feel comfortable. They choose to place a burden on a woman who may be struggling. To place a burden on a hungry baby. To make assumptions about a mother’s ability to “cover up” without knowing the context of what she is juggling. They choose to be so offended that they are unable to avert their eyes a few millimeters in one direction or the other.

What do you do? Do you choose to be considerate, or do you choose to demand consideration?