Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nursing is a two-person job!

I'm taking a few minutes between our afternoon nursing session to type this note.  It's the first post on nursing, and it's taken me a few days to consider what might be most valuable to post for new parents.  Here it is:

Nursing is a two-person labor of love.  Before experiencing it directly, I had unconsciously formed an idea of nursing as a simple act of offering the breast when the baby was hungry.  Baby roots or otherwise cues (or cries, if mama's late in responding), mama offers the breast, and baby eats until she's full.

Well...sometimes that's accurate.

I have learned that nursing involves a learning curve that wobbles at times.  Both of us needed to learn the most efficient techniques to latch, how to maneuver the baby's body without being overly clumsy or rough, and how to read signs that there are other needs happening concurrent with nursing!  She might be tired *and* nursing.  She might need to nurse and pee at the same time!  She might want to keep nursing but have to burp.  She might feel distracted but still hungry.  And it's not all her conflicts, either.  I might need to tend to the dogs, want to finish the paragraph I had been reading even as she's cueing me to pay more attention, or I might need to shift my body or grab a cloth that I didn't place close enough.  Our best sessions in these early weeks are when I am fully focused or prepared to fully focus on her instead of multitask.  (*note: I didn't realize I was so used to multitasking, so I hadn't anticipated the challenge of truly doing one thing well.  this has been a very good personal lesson for me.  thanks, baby!)

Also, before breastfeeding, I was not aware of the many potential physical complications.  I knew that some women had trouble with things called, "let-down" and "latching" but I didn't really know what these were.  I hadn't seen - and don't see - many women breastfeeding in my neighborhood or on the bus or in my town; this, in my view, is regrettable, if only for the lack of exposure and education it leaves for us, the new parents.  

After the 2nd week or so, my baby found herself challenged by my early oversupply of milk.  It meant that she choked on the milk, felt frustrated by the rate of flow and her inability to manage swallowing and breathing and sucking, and often tired out before she was able to really feed, and so gave up.  Also, she seemed to react physically, her symptoms matching what we read about oversupply: rash, frothy poops, sometimes greenish poops (due to the amount of lactose she ingested before she could get to the fatty milk that had risen to my upper ducts).   Needless to say, these responses to our nursing sessions provoked emotional strain as well practical worries.  As the weeks passed, my milk supply and baby's ability to manage the milk seem to have evened out more, and I may avoid "true oversupply" which can last beyond the early stages.  We have *both* worked hard to overcome this period.  As I said, nursing is a two person job - and very much worth it!

-- Here you can see an early nursing session while I hold her over her potty bowl --

As far as EC and nursing, there have been great lessons. When our baby is nursing, she might need to pee every 10 minutes.  Heck, if she fusses 5 minutes after a pee, I'll hold her over the potty and she just might pee again!  I don't take her off the breast to do it, but generally if she has to pee while nursing, she's taking herself off the breast in a frustrated manner and getting back on, and off, and on again, so I just remove her when she takes herself off and give it a try.  9 times out of 10, she just has to pee.  Then she settles into nursing more peacefully (until she has to pee again, which might be in 5 minutes, or in 30.  Up to her.).   This was a great learning process in trusting  your baby to tell you what she needs, because before I got wise, I just responding to her cues by thinking, "but she *just* went 10 minutes ago!"  Then, she'd pee on me and go back to nursing with a relaxed face, and I would laugh at myself and think, "I should have listened to her!"

I love the dialogue, closeness, and complexity of nursing.  It's a gift to both of us.

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