Before I delivered by first son I knew basically nothing about post-delivery recovery. I knew a minimal amount from medical school. There would be bleeding and soreness. I didn't need a medical degree to assume that. What to really expect was a mystery. These aren't things that moms and moms-to-be discuss very often, at least not in my social circle.
Tears in my eyes, I looked up from my nursing chair at The Hubster, who had our hungry newborn daughter in his arms. I felt like I was trapped in a cruel science experiment to determine how much nipple pain an exhausted new mother could take in two hour intervals before she cracked. Expectant first-time moms: Breastfeeding is hard.
I'll be the first to admit that kids are time-sucks. They can literally consume every waking second you have by demanding all of your attention. And if you have more than one and they're young, good luck trying to "nap when the baby naps." What if they're on different nap schedules? What if that's the only time you get to have a shower or eat something that requires both hands?
Even though mothers are anxious to see their child latching well and feeding on the breast, to know that their particular experience is occurring in most every room on the ward, does help somewhat to dispel the belief that they have done something wrong, that there is something wrong with them, and/or that their baby will never breastfeed.
For my son's birthday, a parent wasn't comfortable with my husband and I driving her child from a gymnastics centre to our house. Fair enough. But what of the consequences of such vigilance towards our fellow parents? To what extent do these kinds of parent-against-parent preemptive risk aversion strategies threaten the fabric of mother-to-mother relations?
It's all about context, the message seems to be. We need less sexualization of women's bodies (breasts in particular) and more acceptance of them as functional and natural. But the matter gets confusing is when you add in women like Paulina Gretzky, whose scantily clad body is all over Instagram in unmistakably sexy poses-- because she has freely chosen to put it there. Is she a feminist foe who is ensuring that generations of little girls will grow up objectified and not taken seriously by men? Or is her personal decision to celebrate her sexuality and glory in controlling her own image, critics (and Dad) be damned, actually a feminist move?
Two summers ago I developed the rash of all rashes. There was only one medication the doctors told me would make it go away: prednisone. A steroid that crosses into breast milk. Breastfeeding was too important to me, so, I declined. That is -- until today. After almost 30 consecutive months of breastfeeding, I reclaimed my boobs.
I'm starting to accept that all the research in the world can't prepare you for the day-to-day realities of parenting, and that the parent you hope to be isn't necessarily the parent you will be when you are faced with the child you end up with -- who is, after all, an individual in his or her own right. What matters is that I am the right mother for him, and he is the perfect child for me.
It turns out that breastfeeding doesn't actually protect against later childhood obesity. This comes as no surprise to those of us who have devoted much energy over the years trying to quell the 'breast milk as miracle food; formula as rat poison' polemic. Today's breastfeeding culture is a zealous one. The paradigm that guides our thinking is one where we are prone to believe everything about breastfeeding is good and everything about not breastfeeding is bad. Overstating the science to encourage breastfeeding and prop up its importance is not only not necessary, it's also false advertising.
A new study debunks the idea that extended exclusive breastfeeding wards off childhood obesity. Maybe we should use these results as an opportunity to ask ourselves whether having all mothers breastfeed exclusively for four or six months should really be the ultimate goal? Shouldn't other considerations about mother/child bonding, maternal sanity, child thriving and family unity be taken into account? Isn't it possible that we may have reached the level of exclusive breastfeeding that reflects the portion of the mother/child population for whom this is the best option, all things weighed?
The first two days with my newborn were hell. Those weren't exactly the words I'd expected to come out of my mouth as a first-time mom, but from the moment my new little man laid eyes on my breasts, his reaction was to scream. I had intended to breastfeed, just like I had planned on having my baby sleep through the night at eight-weeks-old. It wasn't about my struggle though, or my sore nipples, or my frustration -- it was about my new best friend in the world, and he was hungry. That was it. That was all that mattered. I got the feeling from these nurses that if I were to feed him formula it would be like pouring a bottle of vodka down his throat.