Thoughts on Breastfeeding

Without a doubt, I knew I was going to breastfeed Georgia.  My mother breastfed all three of us girls, to various lengths and levels of exclusivity: Katie had nothing but breastmilk for her first year, Allison was supplemented at an early age due to her low weight, and I think I had six months exclusive, and another six partial.  Jason and his brother Justin were also breastfed.  For children of the eighties this is somewhat remarkable, as formula-feeding was the norm.  Being raised in a home daycare also helped-I was quite used to mothers coming in on their lunch breaks to nurse their babies.  I grew up knowing that boobs had a purpose, and a damn important one at that.

Breastfeeding is hard work.  It may be natural, but it’s not exactly easy.  I remember I had a cousin “warn” me at a shower that it was going to hurt like hell, and that there was no shame in switching to formula…but her warning was more like “I tried and failed and you’re probably going to fail too so you might as well quit while you’re ahead and not even try.”  I don’t think there should be a sense of shame for trying and switching to formula-some boobs just don’t work right, some milk never comes in-but I think a positive attitude is important.  As is preparation, and a strong support network.

I learned as much about breastfeeding as I could, mostly by reading books like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding, and by finding resources like Kellymom and La Leche League.  My midwives also dedicated an appointment to breastfeeding, and there was a whole session on it as part of our prenatal classes.  Youtube videos were another goldmine, and if I saw a woman nursing in public I would talk to her about it.  Most breastfeeding mamas are very happy to talk about their experience, and to share their wisdom and advice.

Support for breastfeeding is HUGE.  I had it lucky, as my family is extremely pro-breastfeeding.  Health resources such as our midwives, family doctor, and public lactation consultants were key during those early days when I didn’t know what I was doing, and went things didn’t go so well with Georgia’s latch.  Living in a province where nursing in public is a protected human right was reassuring-I could nurse anywhere, any time.  

Everything else went on hold in those early days.  I didn’t cook, I didn’t clean, all I did was hang out in bed and nurse my baby.  Other people took care of everything else: my sisters, my mother, my husband.  I didn’t have to worry about food-Jason would make me a plate of goodies I could eat with one hand.  Everyone was great about helping me organize pillows, checking Georgia’s latch, making sure I was drinking plenty of water.  If you have help, use if, if you don’t have help, ask for it.

Having a tool-box of breastfeeding supplies was also important: a nursing pillow (or flat bolster when the baby was a wee little thing), a hand pump to relieve excess milk, good bras and tanks, clothing that lets me nurse in public without much fuss, lanolin for sore nipples, an easy-to-use cover that allows for eye contact, these are the lifesavers.  

Now…we nurse.  We worked through other issues (poor latch, foremilk imbalance, clogged ducts, excessive gas) and we’ll work through whatever life throws at us.  Georgia is five months old-one more month and I can start her on solids, although we might delay those for a while yet.  She’ll take a bottle when she needs to, or will also drink milk from a cup.  My breasts are her favourite thing in the universe, it seems.  I nurse in public with no problems.  I want to nurse her until she is a toddler.  

It’s an ongoing conversation, and a beautiful relationship.

Rainbow Days

There are days that stand out in my mind, days of perfection and bliss and smiles and good things to eat and wonderful people to share with.  My mum calls them Rainbow Days.

“Special occasions” are NOT Rainbow Days in my mind.

My wedding?  Stressful as all hell.  There was fainting, crying, muscle spasms, and a few “go-the-fuck-away” prayers.   There was also love and laughter and friendship and mimosas and eggs benedict, but two years later when I look back on it all, I still wish we had just eloped.

Georgia’s baptism?  Again with the stress thing.  Too many photos, too many people, too many things that needed to be done (that I hadn’t planned on or didn’t want to do).  Loved the friends and minister and COOKIES but now I wonder if there is such a thing as a baptism-elopment.  In case we have another child and do this again.

But there ARE rainbow days, and they catch you by surprise.  Sometimes there’s some planning involved, sometimes not.  Like my 24th birthday: semi-planned joy.  A trip to the cottage with the girls I looked after.  Beer on the beach.  Sunshine and new freckles.  Flowers and then lobster for dinner and creme brulee for dessert.

Today is my second anniversary.  It is humid.  We had pancakes for breakfast and then went to run errands.  The baby cried and Jason was grumpy and I rolled my eyes and now he is at work.  The gift he ordered has not arrived.  I still need to bake a cake, assuming there is time.  We ate takeout Indian food-him partially dressed in his uniform, me in a tank top and undies.  I don’t think today is anything special.

But I know there will be a rainbow day to come, with my husband on my side.

Happy anniversary, Mr. Swan.

Am I Mom Enough?

Time Magazine recently published a cover photo of a woman breastfeeding her older child, accompanied by the headline “Are You Mom Enough?”

What does that even mean?!?!?!

The photo and article were intended to create controversy and sell magazines.  Period.  I do not believe that Time honestly cares about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, or mothers.  They care about profits and pageviews.  And what do you do to raise both?  Take an already controversial subject, such as breastfeeding (and it really shouldn’t be controversial in the first place) and then put an extreme spin on it.  Sit back and laugh all the way to the bank.

I nurse.  We nurse.  Georgia is currently exclusively breastfed, and will be so for a few more months.  I intend to keep on breastfeeding as we add solids because I believe in the benefits of breastmilk.  Georgia will probably wean when she is a toddler, but it might happen sooner than that, or possibly later.  I don’t know.  At the end of the day, the decision will mine and hers, with some consultation from Jason, and with our health care providers.

Does this make me “mom enough”?  Does it make me a better mother than someone who weans early, or someone who never breastfed in the first place?  No.  No, it does not.  At the end of the day, women make the choices that work the best for them and their families.  Who am I to judge?  Some women cannot produce enough milk.  Some women have to go back to work.  Some women have unsupportive families.  I want breastfeeding rates to go up, but we need to stop being so damn judgmental of women who breastfeed AND women who don’t.  We need to be supportive of MOTHERS, whatever their need and situation.  Because you know what?  It’s a damn hard job, but every single one of us is mom enough.

 

Nursing in the great outdoors

Baptism

Georgia is being baptized in just under two weeks time.  This is somewhat of a big deal.

Basically, Jason and I are making a promise that we will raise her in the United Church, and when she is old enough she can make her own decisions about faith and spirituality.  In the UCC, the congregation acts as godparents in the traditional sense, and it is the members of our church that are responsible for helping with Georgia’s Christian education.  She still has her own godparents, but their role is more to support Jason and I as we raise our family, and to support Georgia as she grows.  This can include nurturing her spirituality, but doesn’t need to be focused solely on that one aspect of her life.  Georgia’s godparents are close friends of ours, people who we love and respect, and who love and respect us.

While I would be very happy if Georgia decides to officially become a member of the church when she is ready, I would also be happy if her life takes a different spiritual path.  I was baptized Anglican, but am now a member of the United Church of Canada.  I am also very drawn to earth religions and Buddhism.  I believe the Divine manifests itself in many different ways, and that God gave us freedom of choice and created such a diverse world for a reason.  I believe in a loving God who wants us to make the choices that work best for ourselves-and that is why I will be teaching Georgia about a wide variety of religious practices, not just ones limited to Christianity and my particular denomination.

 

Why does it have to be black and white all the time?

Here’s the problem with most mommy blogs: they looooooove to paint things as black and white, and then say “but we’re all in this together!  each family should do what works for them (but really, they should do what I’M doing)”.

Home birth vs. hospital birth.  Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding.  Co-sleeping vs. nursery.  Public school vs. private school vs. Waldorf vs. Montessori vs. Reggio vs. charter vs. homeschooling vs. unschooling (can you tell I spend a lot of time thinking about education?). Stay-at-home vs. working parent.  It doesn’t end.  Even the tiniest of things become an all or nothing situation.

Why all the judgement?  Why all the negativity?  Why the mommy wars?  Why the “you’re either with me or against me mentality?  Just why?

I understand judgment.  I do.  I don’t think a person can make a big decision without there being some judgement there.  It’s human nature.  But why reduce it to an either/or level???

I had a midwife, and had planned an unmedicated homebirth.  Well, Georgia had other plans, and so I delivered at KGH instead.  And the unmedicated part?  Didn’t happen.  I needed rest if I was going to deliver vaginally, so I asked for a shot of morphine.  It was one of the best decisions I made in labour.  I am glad that I had the option of going to the hospital and receiving amazing care in what had the potential to be a dangerous situation.  I am also glad that I had a team of midwives to help me have as natural a birth as possible.  I do not think my situation needed to be reduced to an either/or situation.  I had the best of both worlds.

Life is not black and white.  Things change, flexibility is needed.  Life is full spectrum, and so is parenting.