Friday, February 1, 2013

Lies. All of it.

Dot and I had some difficulties breastfeeding, but we've been going at it strong ever since that first hurdle. I'm proud of both of us; her for being so patient and diligent, and myself for gritting my teeth through the pain and enduring several bouts cluster-feeding. Granted, I didn't have too many issues once we got started. I've never had to battle mastitis or thrush or the like. And even though she's a biter sometimes, it's something I generally look forward to. So we're lucky. I love sitting quietly with her in our rocking chair while she cuddles up to me for breakfast. Or second breakfast. Or 3am snacktime.

But since returning to work, maintaining breastfeeding has become something of a challenge. And a nuisance. During my first three days back, I noticed a dramatic drop in my supply, which I attribute to the use of a pump. Pumps are simply less efficient than babies at expressing milk, and I learned that I had to pump at least every two hours while at work, in addition to pumping after she goes to bed and in the middle of the night just to get enough to feed her for the next day. I follow the rule that you only send to day care the milk that you pumped the day before, and that your freezer stash is only for date nights and when you're too drunk to nurse. It's a good way to prevent inadvertently telling your body to make less milk. Either way, it doesn't feel like the cozy breastfeeding I'm used to, and kudos to all my sisters who always pumped exclusively. You guys are superheroes. I would have dropped it like it's hot.

I also realized that pumping at work made me much less productive (it's like a 30 minute interruption out of every two hours), so I bought one of those hands-free bra things. The manufacturers want you to think that hands-free pumping will be like this:

Or this:

Who could she possibly be looking at?
But it's not. It feels more like this:

And frankly, you can't do stuff like answer the phone, because even the cadillac of breast pumps is audible on the other line. Other knowing women who call me at my desk hear the rhythmic wheezing in the background and immediately call me out. And you can't just hook up and forget about it for 15 minutes, or the receptacles overflow all over your pants and you end up like me on this day:

Or this day:

Thankfully I have my own office, and I can at least shut the door, but I'm constantly covered in my own fluids, and my desk is probably a biohazard. And contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding (that is, breastfeeding after returning to work) does not lead to less dishwashing, because you have like a million of those Medela tubes and pump parts to wash every day, in addition to the bottles you took to day care.

I'm not saying all this to bash breastfeeding, because I'm sure some people would just tell me to quit if it's this much of a pain in the ass. I'm saying all this in an effort to dispel the myth that it comes naturally to breastfeed. If it did, our newborns would plop out of us and toddle over to nourish themselves from a teat that hung to the ground. But they don't, and now we live in a world where (God help us) women work. It requires continuous commitment, whether you work or not. Thankfully we have pumping technology, but no one really talks openly about how challenging it is to maintain breastfeeding in general, but in particular after your six or eight or twelve week leave. I love the time that I get with my baby when I'm home, and I'm eternally grateful that my job is flexible and affords me the freedom to work from home sometimes and take breaks to pump when I can't. But some breastfeeding advocates are calling on the community to be more frank about the challenges, and I couldn't agree more. I certainly would have liked to know that I wasn't the only mom who sobbed in the shower because the hot water felt like battery acid on my nipples.

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