La Leche: Part 1

I didn’t anticipate loving breastfeeding. While pregnant I knew I was going to do it, but I felt emotionally neutral about it. Attending a breastfeeding class at the hospital was informative and helpful, but nothing really prepared me for the heartache and triumph that has been nursing Baby Lamb.

For those of you who don’t know my birth story, I initially did not want a medicated childbirth because I had read all about how the medication could potentially interfere with breastfeeding success. Enter polyhydramnios, cue the pitocin and epidural. I’m ok with it. I got a healthy baby out of it. Thankfully, I had a really awesome experience at Tripler Army Medical Center’s Labor & Delivery Unit. The doctor who played catch immediately put Liam on my chest and my awesome L&D nurse was quick to yank little bug’s hands out of his mouth and make sure he was in a good position to find my breast. The lactation consultant, such a saint, she visited within hours of Liams’ birth to make sure he was latching and then again before we were discharged. In addition she taught me how to hand-express colostrum and syringe/finger-feed him if he needed a little jump start.

So when I left the hospital with my 2 day old baby, I felt fairly confident. Tired & sore, but confident.

And then I was back 2 days later in the LC’s office nearly in tears. Liam had ‘failed’ his weigh-in at the first & second well-baby checkup. Feedings were short and it didn’t seem like he was actually latching. He had lost nearly 15% of his birth weight. They were discussing things like admitting him, pumping and storing breastmilk until he had ‘caught’ up by drinking formula, discontinuing breastfeeding altogether…. Not what I had planned. At all. I was engorged, exhausted, in pain, and crazy-emotional. I wanted to know that my Baby Lamb was going to be ok and that I could do a good job. I hadn’t wanted to go to the LC because I was so tired and had run out of ibuprofen but my husband insisted. What good man, he knows my heart so completely and knew that I would regret not going.

The LC who is still obviously my hero gently assessed the situation. She literally guided my hands and taught me how to get a better latch for Liam’s “unique pistoning-action” when he suckled. She told me to pump for 20 minutes after each feeding and to use that milk to supplement rather than rely on formula. Basically that woman saved us a lot of money and heartache. The sound of my newborn son gulping and swallowing is still a very emotional one in my memory.

I don’t remember a whole lot of Liam’s first month… Mostly because I adhered to a strict regimen of only staying awake long enough to feed Liam, pump, eat, and go back to sleep. It did take a long time before I could get Liam to latch without a lot of coaxing and assistance. I bought the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche International and have now read it multiple times both for information and for assurance. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. But it’s been so worth it. And because my husband made me take that elevator from Pediatrics to the LC’s office, I feel like I’m becoming a success at it rather than a failure.

Mostly I feed Liam in his room, sitting in a chair that faces the window so I can see mountains and ocean or read a book. But sometimes in the morning I’ll bring him in bed with me (my secret indulgence!) and just watch him eat while we lay in bed together. I watch his eyelashes flicker over his cheeks and listen to his breathing and swallowing noises. I brush his hair with my fingertips and touch my nose to his forehead. It’s such a beautiful, precious bond. Liam likes eye contact now and sometimes he’ll stop feeding entirely when I smile at him. He’ll slowly stretch his mouth into a huge grin before remembering what his job is and then literally dives back onto the breast. Pretty much every time I feed him I think to myself: Wow. I really love this.

Now we feed in restaurants, walking through the grocery store or mall, on the beach, on a redeye flight across the ocean. I almost don’t remember the anguish of not knowing how to ‘do this’. We’ve only been doing this 5 short months but I feel like I’ve learned so much about my own body and my baby.

My hope is that if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, that you’ll take heart. Don’t give up. There’s always something to be done and somebody to help you out. Any tears shed in the middle of the night, any hours spent pumping to keep your supply up, any strange comments from people who notice that you smell like syrup from all the fenugreek you take…. It’s worth all of it.

Those Navy Wives…

Sometimes I can be a real bitch, in the sense that I am an extremely prejudiced person. I couldn’t care less what your ethnicity is, but I am a complete snob about behavior and perceived character. Even if I keep it all inside and never let one of those barbed comments pass my lips, it’s still not cool. Still a sin, still not right. I am in no place to throw a stone until I am perfect – which means never.

Today I saw a woman sitting in the plaza outside the Exchange, screaming at her two kids to behave while she sat and chatted with a friend. I wanted to scream at her. Holy crap, could you get a little less classy? Your kids are bored and hanging out in this shitty plaza in the direct sun probably isn’t entertaining – hence why they’re bent on destroying the landscaping. Can’t imagine she would have taken my intervention well. So I scooted along with my latte in hand and nose high in the air. One of those Navy Wives. Ugh. Shoot me if I ever become a dependoppotamus like one of those Navy Wives. Tons of those Navy Wives are such terrible parents. Those Navy Wives can be so lowbrow, those tattoos are a huge mistake, so is that tube top. Blah blah blah, basically some really ungenerous stuff. It’s the un-pretty side of marrying into the military: you assume the other wives are hatin’ and so you join right in.

And then I get home and remember that I’m a Navy Wife too. And that being married to a Sailor or a Marine is no easy task. There’s a reason why they offer a lot of free counseling for people facing divorce, abuse, and substance addiction. I’m very blessed in the state of my marriage and that I have supportive friends both on base and back at home. Not all of the wives on this base can claim that.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I feel really convicted. I’m in no place to judge people I don’t know. I’m well within my rights to not appreciate/partake in other Navy Wives’ lifestyle choices, but I need to stop generalizing and stereotyping. Some of these women are in the middle of long deployments and though they would prefer to not have a breakdown in the grocery store, sometimes that’s just where it happens. My mom sure yelled at me for being a punk when I was a kid and I don’t get all judgey about it with her. (Mom, why couldn’t you have communicated with me more respectfully when I was being defiant & disobedient for the 500th time? – really not a conversation that’s ever going to happen)

So once again, not for the first time and sadly probably not for the last time, I’m handing in my License to be Bitchily Superior To Those Navy Wives. Hopefully next time I’ll have some real Truth imprinted on my brain – that our 100% perfect Savior loved me and died for my sins when I was 0% perfect. I have no right to do anything other than extend that grace and love to other Navy Wives.

Read this: Breastfeeding in Public

Read this: Breastfeeding in Public

This is an article I read the other day about how if you don’t support women publicly breastfeeding then you don’t support breastfeeding at all.

I wholeheartedly agree! You will never catch me leaving the house without my nursing cover within reach. I reserve the full view for my husband and those who know me way too well to feel uncomfortable. Like the grandmothers, sisters, nearly-sisters. But I have nursed all over the place without a second thought. When the little man is hungry, hell hath no fury like a baby denied his milk. I’ve gotten a few sidelong glances but nothing else. So I thought our culture had finally evolved a bit.

But surprisingly, a friend of mine just got judged super harshly –  by another breastfeeding mom no less – just because she chose to openly breastfeed (under a nursing cover) at a party. A child’s birthday party. At a mutual friend’s house. Is there anything more wrong than that? I don’t want to meet this other lady – ignorance might not be contagious, but why take a chance…

I just don’t understand where this childish attitude about breastfeeding came about. Oh no! Boobs! Things that everybody’s seen and are being displayed in the least sexual manner one could ever imagine. And most women keep it on the down-low anyways! I know that there were whole generations where women were told to exclusively use formula because their milk was the wrong color, odor, not nutritious enough, et cetera. So there’s that whole group that never did learn to whip a boob out, which is why breastfeeding in or out of the home nearly bit the dust in the US of A. But hey, girlfriends. Now we know enough to know better.

So… why are women still getting kicked out, sneered at, avoided, and criticized for on-the-fly breastfeeding – even when they try to feed discreetly? Misinformation is obviously at fault. An old friend confessed she had been told it’s illegal to breastfeed in public, and that’s why they hardly ever left their house until she gave up. How depressing, sad, and outrageous.

Maybe we mamas need to be a little less discreet. We’re not the ones with the problem, we’re fixing the problem.

So fresh, so clean! (Using my magic bucket)

Oh, hello adorable soapy baby. Let me smell your head.

Is there anything better than a freshly bathed baby? I didn’t think so. Gathering up Baby Lamb right before bedtime when he smells like baby shampoo and lotion is one of my non-guilty pleasures as a new mommy. Completely calorie-free treat.

When we first ventured into the horrific information overload that is purchasing supplies for care and upkeep of one’s very own baby, the whole bathtime thing was kind of a big “huh?”. I knew we’d need soap and washcloths and something to keep Lamb from splitting his skull open on the faucet. Beyond that…. do we want a bath seat? a bath pad? a puj? a bloomin bath? a tub? and the biggest question of all….. why do they make spa/whirlpool tubs for infants…?

It was feeling a little complicated.

So we got this:

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And I totally know what you’re thinking.

People, do you expect me to pay good money for a glorified bucket?
Absolutely NOT. This is a magic bucket. Plus I got it at a consignment store for 50% less than online, so I was willing to give it a try. I knew they had the big box stores on the island and if Baby Lamb hated the Tummy Tub, I was not screwed.
But as it turns out, I love this thing! Mr. Brownie needed some convincing but Baby Lamb will happily hang out in the tub for a good 20 minutes after getting his head scrubbed. I could wax poetic about this tub. But I digress.

And of course, me being me, I have a complete little system for bathing my squirmy baby.

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That’s all I use. The Tummy Tub, baby wash, a squirt bottle, a scalp brush, and washcloths.

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The squirt bottle I use is actually a peri-bottle they gave me at the hospital. But before you get super grossed out…. Yeah, not the same one I used on myself… For whatever reason, they gave me 3 or 4 of them. Anywho, I like it because it’s like a combo between a squirt and spray. If you’ve had a baby, you know. I fill it with warm clear water before we begin the dunking. After scrubbing him, I give him a quick rinse when we’re done.

The scalp brush we also got from the hospital. I ripped the sponge off of it because sponges gross me out. You can buy them on Amazon here. I have seen a saddening number of infants and toddlers with gross, terrible cradle cap and am therefore very vigilant about my child’s scalp. When he started that terrible peeling stage after being born, I nearly cried. But one quick little scrub later, voila!

Washcloths are super self-explanatory but I keep one dry for drying his hair off really quick before I get him out. There is only so much time after he emerges from the bath before the threat of getting peed on becomes REAL, folks. And I hate leaving his hair cold, wet, and drippy.

And that’s the end of our story. I love babies. I love bathing babies. I love smelling them after bathing them!

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