Friday, August 31, 2007

I Go Stupid in the Fall

It's football season. Last night I dusted off that big black box in the living room and remembered why we pay for cable. My Saturdays are spoken for, for the next four months.

Will this be my excuse for not blogging? I'm taking a hiatus. Oh, I'm sure I'll post from time to time, when I just can't keep my mouth shut. For the most part, though, I've got to direct my energy elsewhere.

No, it's not really because of college football. But I'm feeling called to a time of silence.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I am pleasantly surprised to see such a mainstream magazine as The Economist showing concern for a falling population. In the July 28th-August 3rd, 2007 issue, page 11, it describes how the world's population almost quadrupled in the twentieth century, then goes on to say:

"Numbers are still growing; but recently-- it is impossible to know exactly when-- an inflection point seems to have been reached. The rate of population increase began to slow... Women started having fewer children than the number required to keep the population stable. Four out of nine people already live in countries in which the fertility rate has dropped below replacement rate. Last year the United Nations said it thought the world's average fertility would fall below replacement by 2025."

It's not the collapse of Social Security that concerns me, since I'm not gambling on the government for my retirement. I just want a large enough workforce to fill the gap and support an aging population when my generation is too old, feeble or sick to work.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Radio Gaga

I am spending my son's naptime watching Filipino prisoners dance on youtube. Sister Act isn't bad, but Thriller's the best.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Husband, (Not) the Lactivist

On the road last Saturday, we stopped at a Chik-fil-A. This was a strategic plan. We'd spent 2 hours driving, and we were about to spend another two hours in the car with a realtor. I chose a place where we could eat, play, and have somewhere to nurse since we'd missed the usual before/after naptime feedings.

Sweating from the outdoor playground, we came back inside to a booth in the back of the restaurant. "Um, Martha?" Tom asks. "Do you just want to do this in the front seat of the car?"

It's August. In Alabama. In a heat wave, at the hottest part of the day. It's 103 degrees outside, and my husband asks in all sincerity if I would like to nurse our toddler outside in the car.

"Um, Tom, do you just want to bite me?"

In his defense, he didn't argue. He sat with me, and we talked of other things. A year ago, he would have continued to suggest alternatives while anxiously looking over his shoulder. We've actually come a long way.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Princess of Power

Nine days ago, I pulled a muscle in my back. The pain was so excruciating, I could hardly move for ten minutes. I hurt for the next 48 hours, even after taking painkillers.

So how did I do it? Blow drying my hair. You read that right: blow drying my hair.

When bathroom mishaps lead to pulled muscles, you know you're out of shape. Truly, I've not exerted myself since the last week of my pregnancy, when I swam. I've never liked "working out," and the calories I burn breastfeeding has been a great excuse to put it off. When you have signs of muscle atrophy, though, it's time to do something.

But what? I used to dance. Loved it. Still, I've got to much pride to put on a leotard, and I just don't think that my knees belong anywhere near my nose anymore. Then there's horseback riding, which I've dabbled in here and there, but equestrian pursuits are now well beyond my wallet.

What about swimming? I've always been a water bug. I enjoyed it while I was pregnant. It's certainly appetizing in this August heat wave. And it's one of the only forms of exercise that you can do without sweating! There you have it. As soon as my back let me, I joined the Jewish Community Center. (No, I'm not Jewish, but the JCC is practically in my backyard, and it's a pretty happening place.)

It's been seven days, and I've gone to exercise almost every day. Peter is a-okay in the nursery, and I've realized something: When exercising means an hour's break from your very active toddler, it is no longer a chore. I've even ventured from the pool to the treadmill and even to the weights. Next thing you know, I'm gonna look like She-Ra.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

That's a Wrap.

In Peter's sixth month, he had something similar to a nursing strike. I could barely get him to latch on, and even when I did, he'd pull off in under two minutes. I knew that he was too young to self-wean, and finally I discovered the problem: distractions. My days of novel-reading while nursing were over (for a time), since the only way I could get Peter to nurse was lying down in a dark room.

Gone was our schedule. Gone was my pumping. I was glad for any time Peter was willing to nurse. For the first time in months, his breastfeeding gave me a sense of relief, much as it had when I brought him home from his newborn surgery. I decided that I would no longer place impediments in our nursing relationship.

So did Peter. He weaned himself off the pacifier within a month. When I tried to introduce solids, he refused. In fact, he would have nothing to do with solids until he could feed himself at nine months.

Since then... What is our story from nine to 18 months? Oh, so much to say! That's the heart of our story, really. All this other stuff I've been writing is a prelude.
The older Peter gets, the richer (and the funnier) it all gets. But Breastfeeding Week is over, so the rest of the story will have to wait. I'm sure I'll get the mad impulse to share more sometime in the next few months...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

'Cause They Gotta Have a Bottle Sometimes, Right?.... right?

In my nurse-in-public paralysis, a pumped bottle of breastmilk might have come in handy. Since I was already trying to pump once a day for a "daddy's bottle," though, that was enough for me.

Uh, let me clarify: by "daddy's bottle", I mean a bottle that Tom could feed to Peter. It was to serve three purposes. Well, it was supposed to, anyway. Here's how it worked out:

1) Bonding. No way I was going to be a selfish mother hoarding all of our son's feeding to myself! Didn't my husband deserve the opportunity to gaze into the eyes of his suckling son? If they didn't have this opportunity to bond, surely we'd be sowing the seeds of an emotionally distant family.

So to prevent that whole Cat's in the Cradle thing, I'd hand Tom the baby, burp cloth and bottle when he got home from work. Father and son would fumble along on the couch, Tom awkwardly holding Peter as he sputtered and fussed and spit up more than his usual share. It was painful to watch, really, but I reminded myself that they were bonding.

Until one day I passed the bottle to Tom, who sighed and asked, "Do I have to?"

Next go round, I think we'll reserve daddy-bonding time to baths, tummy raspberries, and a little bit of babywearing.

2) A Break. The books said that having daddy give a bottle would be a nice little break for me. So each day, in anticipation of this break, I would find twenty minutes to pump. Then I would rinse and sometimes boil the pump parts. When Tom got home, I'd warm the bottle then coach him through the feeding session. Finally, I'd clean the bottle.

Gotta love those breaks.

3) Babysitters. If my infant couldn't take a bottle, I couldn't leave him with a sitter, right? It was imperative, I decided, that my son take bottles several times a week so that he wouldn't forget how. The first time we left Peter, he was five months old. I was helping to host a party, which meant I was gone for five solid hours. That's a long time. Thank goodness my son could take a bottle (well, sort of), right?

Soon after I left, the sitter offered the bottle. Peter took less than an ounce, then slept peacefully for the remainder of the time we were gone...

Monday, August 6, 2007

My Venture into Cultural Breastfeeding

For the first two months of Peter's life, I read several books a week. I'd tuck away with a novel each time he nursed, encouraging his frequent and long-duration suckling. It was a time in my life that I knew I'd never see again: only one child needing my attention and a cleared calendar to boot. I was going to make the most of it.

I joked with friends that books were "how I got out of the house." Except that it wasn't a joke. Books were the only way I got out of the house. Eventually cabin fever set in, and I rejoined society.

This produced a dilemma. I was petrified to nurse in public. Oh, I could nurse in public in theory, I could nurse at a La Leche League meeting, but what about playgroup? What about restaurants? I decided that Peter needed a feeding schedule, to spare me the mortification of being "that mother who is always feeding her baby."

For two months, I pushed Peter to spread his feedings at least three hours. I avoided comfort feeding. And boy did we use that pacifier! I look at our pictures from those months, and he's plugged up in every one.

While this allowed me to visit the zoo without whipping out my boob, it also meant that of every three hours, I'd spend at least one of them bouncing, rocking, and otherwise consoling a cranky baby. It never occurred to me that he might be thirsty and want that thin foremilk, or that my boobs might lack the capacity to store 3 hours worth of milk. Other babies went three hours between feedings-- and, by, golly, Peter was too.

Here we were-- doesn't this look fun?
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Friday, August 3, 2007


Our house was filled with friends. It was Tom's 30th birthday. Peter, at two months, was a crankypants. Finally, I took him to the bedroom to wind down.

A few minutes into that nursing session, Peter made eye contact with me and smiled. His first "milk grin."

Much as I adore those milk grins, I think Tom likes them even more. He loves to get Peter laughing in the middle of a feeding, watching that little tongue dart like a reptile's as he laughs open-mouthed without ever releasing his latch.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Safe Place

I finally had milk. My son's great latch was back. Things were looking up. Then, our first day alone together, Peter began projectile vomitting. At ten days old, he was admitted to Children's Hospital, with surgery to follow the next day.

The doctors ordered me to quit feeding him, and I knew they were right. His pyloric stenosis (a hardening of the valve leading to the intestines) was closing, and the more I fed him, the more he threw up. Plus, I didn't want to place him at risk for aspiration in his surgery. A pacifier and constant cuddling were his comforts, and an IV was his nutrition. Meanwhile, I pumped.

While I pumped, I read some literature which Children's gives to all nursing mothers. Included was a section on how crucial the first two weeks of a baby's life are to building milk supply. It described in terms I no longer remember how getting it wrong at this stage could lead to a supply problem for the rest of the breastfeeding relationship.

Yikes! In the midst of our emergency room arrival and admission, I let seven hours pass without nursing or pumping. Could that have a permament effect? I wondered. And the pacifier-- and Peter's not being able to latch on to me for the next few days-- will Peter forget how to breastfeed? Adding to my fears, my milk supply dwindled each time I pumped. I blame stress and sleep deprivation.

Through those few days, my constant thought was, "If I could just nurse him... If I could just hold him to my breast and nurse him... I just want to go home and nurse him, and we will never want for anything again."

After the surgery, before checking out of the hospital, the doctors wanted me to re-introduce milk in small measured increments. By this point, my third day pumping, I could barely pump an ounce. I followed "doctor's orders" for the most part but at one point put Peter on my breast. I felt like my entire milk supply was at stake. (And, yes, he did throw up.)

We went home with orders to continue pumping and bottle feeding until we knew that Peter could hold down "X" ounces in one feeding. I don't remember what that magic number was. I forgot it by time I pulled out of the parking lot, because I knew I was done with pumping. I'd measure Peter's feeding in minutes, and gradually increase the minutes he nursed each session. He did not throw up again.

I well remember the comfort of coming home: plopping in the chair, holding Peter to my breast, his vigorous suckling a sign of our mutual relief. It was the first time that I experienced the relief of nursing, though I'm sure Peter knew it well. No wonder he wanted to be in my arms all the time. What a safe place, us being together.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We've Only Just Begun

In a morphine haze and darkened room, I struggle to hold open my eyes as the nurse and my husband put Peter's cheek to my breast for the first time. His eyes are wide. So is his mouth. He eagerly finds the nipple and latches. My husband and the nurse, both still holding the baby as I lay there helpless, laud his technique.

Having only slept one hour of the past 48, I doze, then fight to awaken. When would this kid be through? Couldn't they just let me sleep?

That whole first week of breastfeeding, it was as if someone had shot me with a tranquilizer every time Peter suckled. It would have been nice to nurse lying down, but I didn't know how. Besides, I was in too much pain to move.

Ah, the first week of motherhood. Gotta love it.

Peter did not want to leave my breast. This was confusing to visitors. My mother, who fed me formula back in the era when that's just what a God-fearing Southern lady did, expected him to eat every four hours. My friend A, who breastfed twins, was used to newborns who wanted to sleep more than eat. My friend D, who did breastfeed on demand, had the rare baby who only demanded it every three hours. "Didn't you just feed him?" became a common refrain in the room.

And so I would think, "Didn't I just feed him? Why does he cry every time I lay him down?"

The lactation consultant and in-house pediatrician assured me that my colostrum was sufficient, that my milk would be there by time he needed it, and to feed him frequently-- "every hour if he wants it."

On day four, when I still had no milk, when my son hadn't produced a wet diaper in over 24 hours, when his lips were peeling and he had lost over a pound, the pediatrician told me to give him some purified water through a syringe, followed by some formula through a syringe, until we saw a wet diaper. "I just want to be sure his kidneys are working well," she said.

I felt demoralized feeding my son like an orphaned baby bird and pictured cans of formula on my kitchen shelves, but I couldn't watch him gnaw his fist. And maybe now he'd sleep! As far as I knew, I had the first newborn on the planet who didn't sleep, and surely this would solve our problems.

When Peter wasn't sleeping by midnight, Tom and I called a nurse for more formula. Tired of the syringe, we bottlefed. When that didn't put him to sleep, we called a nurse for a pacifier. When that didn't work, we called the nursery, where he went to sleep in a heated bed. In a span of 24 hours, I had done every thing I said I'd never do.

The next morning, the pediatrician's eyes visibly widened when she walked through our door. It looked as if Similac had planted a bomb, scattering silicon nipples, bottles, and wrappers across the room. "No more supplementing," she ordered. "He had a wet diaper, and we know his system is working. Your milk will come, and your colostrum will increase until it does."

I spent the rest of that day re-training an angry infant, who'd grown accustomed to the bottle literally overnight, back to my breast.

When we left the hospital, my milk had still not arrived. "Stick with it," begged several nurses as we left. "We see this all the time with the c-section moms, and a lot of them give up even before they leave the hospital. But you can do this."

Well, as my nursing 18-month-old proves, I could and I would and I did.

If I have another c-section, I can do it again. But one of the reasons I'd really love a VBAC is this:

Click to see a minutes-old infant crawl to his mother's breast and eat.