I just got off the phone with a friend who is three weeks into her first baby. She was eating breakfast while talking to me, her baby asleep on her chest in the baby-wearing-thingie, dropping crumbs into the baby’s hair as we talked. She sounded happy – exhausted, but happy, and as at ease with being a first-time mother as one could expect.
All that changed when we started talking about breastfeeding. “I can’t leave the house,” she told me. “My husband is great and keeps telling me to go take a break, take a walk, whatever. But all I hear in my head, the whole time I’m gone, is the baby screaming with hunger. What if she gets hungry before I get back? I hate being the only way she can get food.”
GOD, I have been there. Being someone’s sole source of nutrition is one of the most physically and mentally taxing temporary jobs I have ever taken on. You get your “break” and all you do is stress that the baby got hungry before the normal feeding time, and next thing you know you’re texting your husband constantly – or worse, cutting your massage (side-lying, because your boobs hurt too much to lie on your front) or pedicure or coffee with a friend short and racing home to bring your boobs back within firing range of the baby’s mouth.
So, this friend and I got to talking through learning to use her pump, then beginning to build up a stash of milk by pumping once a day, immediately after the morning feeding. We talked about giving the baby a single ounce of formula to make sure she could tolerate it, and then having the can of formula on hand in case of absolute emergency and for some mental relief that there is a back-up method if it’s needed. We talked through introducing a bottle to the baby, and how she shouldn’t freak out if it didn’t go well at first (when my son first seemed to be rejecting the bottle, I went immediately to a dark place of I’m Never Going to Be Able to Go Back to Work, I’m Going to Be Tied to This Baby Until College). These tactics, together, create a tiny space for independence: get to the end of the pedicure, sip the cup of coffee slowly, take an extra loop around the block with the dog. Little victories that can lead to bigger ones later. And, for working mothers, these things also set up skills and resources for the back-to-work bonanza.
In the midst of this conversation, the second big thing my friend said to me rang just as true: “Why don’t any of the books tell me how to do this?” I asked her what she meant specifically, and she replied, “You know, they say ‘start pumping to save up milk for when you go back to work’ – but they don’t ever say HOW to do that. They say ‘introduce the bottle’, but they don’t tell you what that’s going to be like. You’re just totally on your own.”
Continue reading Breastfeeding Confidential: What “They” Are Not Telling Us…and Why?