Disclaimer: this post is about some of my experiences in nursing, so I apologize in advance if it’s TMI for you or if you are easily offended by nursing. But I guess that’s why they have this week, to allow it to become more socially acceptable to feed your baby in public or to encourage mamas to attempt to do it if you have the ability to do so and have doubts. I also recognize that not everyone who wants to is physically able to, and not everyone has the desire to. But this is my experience so far, the only way I know it to blog about it.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I’d post a little about my own journey with breastfeeding, something I’d always planned to do and, more recently, prayed I’d be able to do, when, like pregnancy itself, I realized it’s not something that always automatically happens. I have been fortunate to be able to nurse my son as long as I’ve wanted to, beginning just moments after he was born when he was placed on my chest. (And that nurse who checked my latch just happened to attend middle school with my husband. It would have been awkward if I had any sort of modesty left in me at that point, but I didn’t). I have no immediate plans to stop now that my toddler has hit the 12-month mark. It was always been a 2-way relationship that I can’t imagine discontinuing right now, so I’m very, very grateful to have that connection with him while I still can. At least until January, when he’ll probably have to be weaned so that I can leave him with family for a week while I run the Disney marathon. (Note to self: research airlines policies on milk and whether a pump counts as your carry-on, juuuust in case.)
I went back to work when my son was just weeks old, which necessitated pumping twice a day for about 15-20 minutes at a time for the entire school year. My schedule drastically changed every 4 days, so when I could pump at consistent times, I’d come home with plenty of milk to send to the sitter the next day. Oftentimes, though, my schedule was difficult and unyielding, so I’d come home relying on any surplus milk I’d pumped and frozen to make up enough ounces for his bottles. It made me so, so frustrated and upset on these days when I couldn’t provide enough to feed my newborn because of the schedule I was locked into. Sure, there are laws protecting my rights, but when school’s don’t have money for sub coverage and the building you teach in doesn’t seem to have an ounce of privacy, what can they really provide?)
As I finished up my summer workdays this week and anticipate the school year starting up again (I’m an elementary School Counselor), I can’t help but think of what a hectic, hectic schedule I had last year when I got home, and a lot of that revolved around ensuring that my son was fed. Moms do so much behind-the-scenes for their babies. I’d unpack all the pump parts to get them ready to clean, measure the milk into bottles, being so, so careful not to spill the “liquid gold,” as I called it. My husband would wash all the tiny parts (he had quite an efficient system of washing, rinsing, and stacking them to dry just so). I couldn’t repack the bag until morning, because I had to throw the ice pack in the small cooler in the bottom of the bag. There were times I forgot various parts of the pump, but I always made it work. There was just enough time for dinner before it was his bedtime — bath night, reading, nursing him to sleep while singing him the same 3 songs since he was born (4 different verses of “Jesus Loves Me,” followed by “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and then a special song my mom used to sing to us that has our names in it). Once he was asleep, it would be time to attend to his cloth diapers – either switching out cycles, hanging them up, or folding them, depending on what day it was. (Honestly it sounds like a lot but it’s not. I never touch them once they go into the pail until they’re clean and ready to dry – the washer does all the work while I do other things). I wonder how life will be different this year without all the hassle that comes with the pump, but I’m sure it will be replaced by older-toddler tasks, like packing lunches.
So anyway. Earlier today I was trying to think of interesting places I’ve nursed:
- My office at school
- while babywearing
- standing in bathroom stalls with him in his Boba 3G carrier (ugh! the worst, but at least he wasn’t touching anything)
- on a couch in the foyer of a church
- parked car – all.the.time, which gets more difficult as he gets bigger
- Busch Gardens
- designated nursing station at Magic Kingdom at Disney – amazing!!
- EPCOT at Disney (on a bench outside at the French pavilion)
- In the grass at a pumpkin patch during a Harvest Festival
- Friends’ houses
- Sunday School classrooms
- At a picnic table in a pavilion
- Every square inch of my house, except the bathrooms, I’m sure
- Probably tons of other much more exciting places I’m forgetting!
And interesting places I’ve pumped:
- Busch Gardens
- Car after a 10k race
- While riding shotgun to Disney World (passing the bottles to my sister in the back to give the baby)
- Italian restaurant parking lot in friend’s car
- At a professional development conference
- Usually while multi-tasking
- Again, probably lots of other places! I blame my lack of memory for these things on the very act of nursing itself. It’s like it drains braincells right out of you, what little I felt like I had left after having a baby.
I’m happy to say I never complained once about my pregnancy, and I would never, ever complain about nursing. Sure, I experienced difficulties with each, as most people do — mastitis was NOT fun — but after the reality of a miscarriage, I didn’t take any part of this process for granted for a second, ever. But I do *already* find humor in what I’m going to now identify as a couple of my breastfeeding “casualties:”
- 3 months after my son was born, I ran a 10k race, and my intention was to pump right before I ran, not having nursed in about 12 hours. But I realized I had only put batteries in one side of the charger pack (there are 2 sides of batteries?!), and I didn’t have an outlet in my car at the time (I do now!). So I ran the entire 10k completely engorged. And I was so desperate to pump afterward (we found more batteries at a convenience store) that I got dehydrated and became very, very sick. Lesson learned.
- I can’t even begin to count the number of times I got walked in on while pumping in a closet at work – a large closet with no lock. I didn’t care, but I always felt bad if I caught the passerby off-guard. Lol. At least I always wore a cami and a cover.
- Just the other day at the beach, housekeeping barged in on me while I was nursing, to deliver the dinky towels that our room didn’t come with (full review to come later.) I hadn’t had a chance to change from my wet bathing suit, so I was only wearing the bottoms.
- Forgetting to unpack the milk when we had a different sitter one day (my routine got off), and I had to toss out 4 full bottles of expressed milk. I did it quickly, like ripping off a bandaid, and was upset for a long time afterward.
- Spilling precious milk. Inspired by this post by BabySteals.com today:
- And my most recent pattern of casualties: getting bitten. By a toddler with teeth. Enough said.
If you nurse or have nursed, where are some of the more interesting places you’ve nursed or pumped? What sorts of “casualties” have you had?
Quoting Stephanie’s post at Abby’s Lane today, “So to all of the mamas who like our page, breast or formula, we take our hats off to you this week. If you feed your baby with love, this week is for you.” (I’m not sponsored by them or anything, but their company is FAB.U.LOUS.)