"Breast is best!"
Those are the words that have haunted my days and nights since the birth of my daughter nine weeks ago. Every time I see that catchy little saying about breastfeeding written on a poster at the doctor's office or on a can of formula or on the freaking bumper of a car I'm stuck behind in traffic, I have a strong desire to scratch it out with a black marker or at least add an asterisk that says: but not in all cases.
Now, before you call the lactation mafia, believe me, I've done my homework. I don't need to be educated. I know the nutritional and developmental benefits of breast milk inside and out. It's truly amazing that our bodies can produce this perfect food for our children, and it's a wonderful option IF you can provide it for them.
If, and at what cost to the rest of your life and sanity, however, are the questions - questions I've struggled with every single day since I delivered my daughter. Here's a glimpse at some of my thoughts as I've battled to breastfeed for the first time*.
Day 1: Lila Claire is born. I'm elated and exhausted after her long-awaited birth. She has a little extra fluid in her lungs and needs to go to the transition nursery for a few hours, so I'm not immediately able to breastfeed her as I had planned. While I'm waiting for her to be brought to me, a lactation consultant comes in to help me pump. She and the other nurses ooo and awe about the huge amounts of colostrum I'm producing.
When I'm finally reunited with my daughter and put her to my breast, she latches on a like a champ. It's the most natural, beautiful thing I've experienced and I'm moved to tears. I'm loving lactation; my body was made for this.
Days 2-4: Sheer and utter pain like hot, dull (those hurt more than sharp right?) needles being poked into my nipples. My eyes spill tears, and I can't help but audibly wince (scream?) every time she tries to nurse.
I start justifying in my mind: I wasn't breastfed and neither were my siblings; we all turned out just fine. My husband is sent in search of Lanolin. I keep reminding myself of the calories I'm burning ...
Day 5: Lila Claire's first doctor appointment, 24 hours after discharge from the hospital. She has gained six ounces. Though still painful, it's working. I'm nourishing my daughter, and she's growing.
Days 6-13: The pain has eased, and we're getting into a pretty good routine. I wouldn't go so far as to say I look forward to each feeding session, but they're getting better. Maybe I'll keep going for a few months. I am a proud, natural breastfeeding goddess. Maybe I should join the La Leche League?