The Lactivist

Dear Lena,

Your Mutti has been thinking a lot lately about breast-feeding. There is a fresh new baby in the family so naturally the subject comes up. 🙂 You love to nurse. You have from the moment you slipped gracefully and silently into the  air breathing world. I’ve always known I was going to breast-feed you, there was never a question in my mind about that, but all of my friends and family members who recently had babies were unsuccessful in their attempts. I decided after your Cousin M was born and force fed a bottle of formula for “low” blood sugar I would arm myself with as much knowledge on the subject as possible. I would not allow us to fail. So I set out to learn all things lactation. I was quickly alarmed with just how much I did not know. Valuable information like the fact that even just ONE bottle could cause a very quick domino effect on a nursing relationship and that there are truly a miniscule number of circumstances that would require anything other than simply MORE breast. Mutti went into your birth with a ream of knowledge so I could battle with the various hospital forces that be. I didn’t realize before hand though that I was a lucky pregnant woman and an even luckier breast-feeder. The hospital that you were born in is one of the most breast-feeding friendly hospitals in the state. Not only was my midwife (and the OB/GYN that assisted in your scary delivery) completely on board with all things breast-feeding related, so too were the nurses and all other staff as well. (That we came in contact with at least). You went straight onto my chest (despite a bottoming out heart rate before birth) and stayed there skin to skin until Mutti was ready to have you cleaned up, weighed, and measured.

Your birth was about your birth into the world, not into the world of hospital records and efficiencies. They did not insist you be clothed and swaddled, instead they encouraged as much skin to skin contact as possible. Mutti didn’t even have to argue when I nestled you in bed next to me instead of the cold plastic box across the room. They had a lactation consultant on duty at hours too, which meant if I needed help, it was readily available. The LC even stopped by to give a few pointers and check to make sure your latch was good (it wasn’t). We saw the same lactation consultant 3 days later when nursing was excruciating and Mutti dreaded every feeding. My suspicion of tongue tie was confirmed, the lactation consultant told me about APNO (all purpose nipple ointment aka GOLD), you underwent a frenulectomy 7 days later and the healing could begin.

That is the story book version of our nursing relationship. And here is the gritty truth. Breast-feeding you my Lenabear hurt like hell in the beginning, especially before your tongue got clipped. There were so many times where I thought I can’t do this and pounded my fists against walls and couches and air. I spent hours with gritted teeth and toes curled in mind numbing pain because babies are supposed to nurse not bite with boney gums. There were cracks and blisters and 6 hour nursing sessions. Through it all the constant hum of “just give her formula, its easier, its healthy, it’ll solve your problems” rattled in my brain. Mutti received no less than 6 cans of sample formula. Samples that told me if I gave this to my baby it was the gift of strength. That it is what strong mom’s chose. That breast is best, but there is a formula for every baby, even my tongue-tied baby. Even the ENT who clipped your tongue said 75% of tongue tie goes unnoticed until kids are in school  because tongue tie effects only speech and breast-feeding.

We did it though. We made it through. So much of it is owed to my research but so much more is owed to your Vati. Who not once questioned the benefits of nursing you. Your Vati who happily cut my food up into bite sized pieces and delivered everything to my seemingly permanent dent on the couch. Who went shopping for all things dairy free when we realized your tummy and Mutti eating dairy did not mix.

Once we made it out of the critical newborn stage people seem to become obsessed with when I will stop nursing you. When? How much longer? What if she bites you? What if? What if? What if? I respond usually with vague references to “at least” and “no later than…” but really I don’t know. Nobody questions how long other mammals nurse their young, it amazes me how concerning it is to see a mother nursing her toddler, but not a grizzly bear and her 3 year old cub. You my Lenaturtlebear will nurse as long as it is beneficial to the both of us. We will decide together when you’ll move on. I will never question the frequency or length of nursing sessions because I know that nursing is not just about food, but also about connection and comfort. You will grow up knowing that milk for babies does not come from a can or a bottle (sorry baby doll manufacturers those baby accessory packs will be losing their bottles in this house). Milk comes from breasts. I hope one day you get the opportunity to nurse your own babies and I will do my best as your mother to foster an environment that shows you that breast-feeding isn’t subversive and it certainly isn’t something to be embarrassed about. That tells you breast-feeding isn’t best in a sense that there is some sort of competition, all (most) mothers want what is best for their babies, but that breast-feeding is natural.

I hope that when you are having babies breast-feeding will return to default mode and you can nourish your baby without hiding under a cape or shawl for fear of offending somebody. Know that your Vati will never refer to your breast milk as gross or gag worthy and know that your Mutti can identify tongue-tie from a mile away. Know that we love you always.

Love,

Mutti

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One Response to The Lactivist

  1. Gilda Ekbatani says:

    Jennie-

    I love love love this. So many mothers don’t breastfeed and I really feel for the ones that have trouble with nursing but some are just so misinformed. Breastfeeding is wonderful, I loved it and was so lucky that I had no issue other than terrible pain the first few days. I will warn you, biting HURTS oh so bad, my 1st nursed for just over a year and he was my biter. Every time he saw my breast for a year after he stopped he would act like he wanted to nurse, I would offer and he would refuse. My 2nd up and decided at 9 months that he was through with nursing and never looked back. Each child is so different, but I just wanted to tell you that I commend you for nursing when so many others don’t and for not letting yourself be intimidated by stupid people. Good for you!

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