Friday, June 16, 2006


You might think that breastfeeding is easy. The equipment comes already attached. There's no milk to buy. No nipples to lose under the sofa. No batteries included.

But activating the suction machine correctly is only one of the many malfunctions that can interfere with the supply of milk.  

Everything from inverted nipples to a baby who can't suck properly to being too tired for your body to make enough milk are just for starters. Plus, what works for one woman doesn't work for others. The usual.

Thirty-six years ago Mrs. Linklater decided she wanted to breastfeed her children. She'd heard about all the good stuff it could do for a baby. Yes, they knew about the benefits back then, too. Using one's titolas for suckling a child wasn't invented yesterday. She also thought it would be great to have huge boobs for a change.  [Until that unpleasant encounter with a delivery guy who became fixated on her chest.  EWWW.]

Reducing allergies, preventing illnesses, having healthier, happier babies, all the good things you hear about now were the same good things they were touting then. Plus nursing offered the added benefit of providing protection for breast tissue against cancer. The theory isn't quite as simple as use it or lose it, but close enough.

The one major difference three and a half decades ago was that many doctors didn't realize how what you ate or drank, like alcohol, coffee and orange juice, the diseases you had, like hepatitis and now HIV, and the pills you took, from diet pills to sleeping pills, could go through the milk and affect the baby.  Even now you'll get arguments about alcohol, because no one likes to give up their booze. So your baby is a little LD, those cranberry cosmos were worth it.   

Back in the golden olden days, the doctors didn't listen to the moms.  They only talked among themselves. What do you think, Al, would Mom's Mai Tai before nursing make a baby drunk?  Nah. a little sleepy maybe, no big whup.

As a nursing mother I could tell right away that my babies were affected by my food choices.  For some reason, orange juice made my second child fussy. I didn't do caffeine, nicotine or booze.

When my younger daughter was a eleven weeks old, I took Dramamine before a plane ride and the bad news was that I knocked her on her ass for the good part of the next day. The good news was that I knocked her on her ass for the good part of the next day. No, I didn't do it again. Breastfeeding should be used for good, not evil.

Around that time, I was asked to start a milk bank at one of the hospitals. Diligently, I wrote down all the drugs each volunteer mother was taking and got very worried when the doctor said it didn't matter about the drugs because they didn't go through the milk.  If you're wondering whether I said I didn't agree with him, I said "I don't agree."  Like he cared.

I was concerned because more than fifty per cent of the nursing mothers who donated milk were on Librium, a powerful psychiatric drug. Holy shit. If you think Brooke Shields invented post partum depression, guess again. She just made it infamous.  I can only wonder what happened to the babies who got the Librium in that milk.

Plus, the women were asked to express only an ounce or so of their foremilk into a bottle, then freeze it. When the bottle was full I would pick it up and take it to the milkbank at the hospital.

Foremilk is the first milk that comes out of the breast.  It looks thin and bluish like skim milk because it has less fat.  If you keep expressing milk you will begin to see the hindmilk which has more fat.  It mixes in with the foremilk as it comes out, like a river, bright white and opaque.  

It seemed to me that a baby would need the fat in the hindmilk for calories.  I wasn't sure if foremilk alone was enough for a new baby. Ultimately, between what I considered dangerous drugs in the milk and the lowfat stuff I collected, I decided to get far away from the milkbank.  When the docs finally realized how much crap might be coming out of mom's machine a few years later, the bank closed.

Trying to breastfeed my first child, I was pretty much on my own.  There were no lactation specialists to count on. While breastfeeding was enjoying a resurgence after decades of bottlefeeding, you were SOL back then unless you had family or friends who were currently nursing and could demonstrate for you. My mother had been an obstetrical nurse, but she had passed away.

I tried La Leche League, the national support group for nursing mothers. They had reading materials which weren't very helpful to me ahead of time. As a group they seemed  to sit around and brag about how long they breastfed their kids. That, and how many birth orgasms they'd had. Don't get me started.

If you needed help preventing sore nipples which I assumed would happen to me, nobody offered much. To sum up what most of the literature said, "Shit happens."

For women with fair skin who had never breastfed, their suggested methods for toughening up nipples were lame. No need to discuss their dumb thumb twisting techniques here. Mostly because they were totally ineffectual. Nothing short of dragging your tits on the sidewalk all day can toughen your nipples like attaching a baby to your boob for ten minutes every two hours. Unfortunately no matter what you do, if you've got fair skin, or it's your first baby, you're probably getting sore, sister.  [For most people that last paragraph is probably TMI.]

Ultimately, I didn't get to the weekly meetings of La Leche until my child was three weeks old and by that time I had figured the important things out.  Sore nipples were part of the initiation rite. It took about a month to get past them.

However, the ladies at La Leche seemed more interested in whether or not I'd had a birth orgasm, since I hadn't had an epidural. Let's see, having an orgasm while pushing a bowling ball out of my body. Not going to happen. Besides, why would you want to have an orgasm in a delivery room with your doctor sitting with his or her face between your legs? Could there be a more inappropriate time or place?

In the hospital, after trying and failing several times I finally got my baby to latch on. Having the nurses try to help me was a comedy of errors. They were useless.

All they seemed capable of doing was weighing my child before and after she was fed -- something hospitals stopped doing, then started, then stopped again. Depends on who's running the place.

Following the failures, one nurse marched into my room with my hungry daughter and said in a firm voice, "This baby only got a quarter of an ounce the last time, what are you going to do about it?"

Sitting there in bed, naked from the waist up, thinking I was finally going to be able to do this, I had to fight back tears. Wait a minute, I'm Mrs. Linklater!!!  This isn't MY fault!! Besides where does that bitch get off talking to a new mother like that?

"How dare you talk to me that way! That's MY baby! Not yours!  I've been trying to nurse her every time you bring her in and this time I thought I could finally do it. But you've made me so upset that I probably won't have any milk at all."

She stuttered and stammered something about just being concerned and I never saw her again. I did see the head nurse peeking her head around the door while I was ripping El Bitcho a new body part.

Despite the altercation, I managed to nurse successfully for the first time. Now I worried about making enough milk. Supposedly you shouldn't have to worry about that, but you do. My first child nursed every three or four hours. Peeped. Pooped. Slept. My second nursed every hour and a half around the clock for four weeks. Sucked air, never  burped, pooped from midnight to three AM. Both had gained 2.5 pounds after a month.

What I learned is that it isn't how many fluids you drink, especially if you're into beer, which is pretty stupid, it's how much rest you get. Good maintenance means good production.

Breastfeeding is not a time to diet. Or pig out. In my perfect world there would be spas for nursing mothers. With chefs to make all the meals. Massages, pedicures, manicures.  Soothing music. Aromatherapy. Who am I kidding?  I also think that Elizabeth Arden would be a great place to have a baby, too.

My second and last child was weaned at a year. But I could still express milk when she was three years old. That might explain why some grandmothers can become wetnurses. Once you've done it you can do it again with or without a baby. It may take some WD40 to get things up and running, but think of the bond grandma can have with her grandchildren. Yep. Just imagine.

Maybe that's a new career I could carve out for myself. Being a wetnurse for moms who have to go back to work after twelve weeks. I might be on to something.  Get me one of those powerful electric milk pumps -- the big shiny chrome ones -- and I could go into production and start selling Original Mama's Milk from a stand on the corner.  'Lipitor free."  "Paxil Free."  "A little Zantac from time to time."    

Now that our trusty government has stated unequivocally that babies should be breastfed for six months or you are a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mom, how soon do you think companies will start operating their own daycare centers or set aside a special place for nursing moms to express milk to bring home to their babies?



yakvette said...

I tried breastfeeding for 5 minutes and said "oh, HELL, no...give me a bottle".   Plus, I thought it would be fun if Daddy Ray participated in the sleep deprivation fun and games during night-time feedings.   Ray likes to tell people that I didn't breastfeed because: "It hurt too much when she boiled her nipples"  

Both of my sons were formula-fed and they have been much healthier than the majority of my breast-fed cousins.   Putting warning labels on baby formula????  Get the hell out of here.  

Although I do think somebody should put a warning label on Britney Spears.  Caution:  Falling Baby Zone

lacaza3 said...

I breast feed my 24 year old 3 months...My tits bleed...hurt like hell...for about a month it got better... the second one I breastfeed 2 weeks and the last one not at all...I was on prozac and they said I couldnt breast feed...oh weel I had great pamela anderson boob for a day when the milk can me...I also had milk come out for about 3 years after the last one...werid huh
donna In TEXAS

onmiownnow2 said...

OMG!  You've done it again, Mrs. L!  What a great entry!  Your perspective on things is SO enjoyable!  Thanks!  Lisa

screaminremo303 said...

Deb breast-fed both of our boys, but not without some serious psychopathic ranting about her nipples. I've never heard of birth orgasms. I once took a crap that made me feel like Joel Grey - does that count?

I remember trying to mount a frontal assault on Deb a few months after the birth of our first child. She responded by turning on the nipple sprinklers and casting me back into the forest. It tasted like coconut milk.

ksquester said...

Now I know WHY I used the playtex nurser and formula.   You are right about there being no useful information during those times. OUCH, my nipples hurt just thinking about it!    Anne

mosie1944 said...

Brunettes get sore nipples too; I think mine even bled at one point.

jevanslink said...

Yo Mo, I'm not a natural blonde.  This isn't about hair color, it's about skin type -- pink or brown nipples, ya know what I mean?  Pink is more susceptible to the pain of a thousand tiny needles.  I know women who were cracked and bleeding with their second kid. Breastfeeding ain't for sissies.   Mrs. L

mombzbe said...

I nursed all four of my kids.  (Two of them past the point of 'oh-my-God-she's-nursing-a-toddler-in-public' propriety.)  

I endured the convenient indignity of a breastpump at work; sitting in parking lots to do it in the relative privacy of a locked car; and the impolite scrutiny of strangers.  Not to mention the 'well-intended' comments from friends and family who just didn't get it.

The most amazing thing about it all was how it didn't always work the very first time.  Those first few weeks could be a struggle, but once past the soreness, it got easier.  It helped more that one could imagine to have a supportive spouse.  

I hate it that it gets drawn into good-Mom, bad-Mom.  I think every Mom does what they can, the best they can, for their children.  She shouldn't be knocked because she can't  or chooses not to breastfeed.  As long as the baby is fed and happy, does it really matter how the fed part happens?

I have to stop talking about this.  I'm having phantom letdown.  lol

jevanslink said...

Actually, with all the drugs people take these days, and the amount of alcohol people drink, the viruses we carry, and the poisons in our food, I wonder which milk is truly safer.  Mrs. L

onemoretina said...

    This was right on the mark, Mrs. L.     I had my babies in the mid seventies, where you couldn't show your face if you didn't experience natural childbirth, let alone breastfeed.  Well, my first child was a ten and a half pound emergency C-section, and between the birthing experience and the fact that I gave birth to a toddler, the breast feeding experience was a nightmare.  I tried ... Ohhhh, I tried.  But when you can leave a kid on your nipple for forty five minutes, only to have them drink five ounces of formula afterwards, something is amiss.  Needless to say, I felt like a complete failure.  I hope those overzealous breastfeeding types are kinder to today's new moms than they were to me.  Tina

sistercynthiadr said...

Mrs. L, I simply love this. I nursed my daughter for 14 months and took crap from every side because of it.  She was a tiny baby who grew slowly, just like her dad when he was a baby.  The nurses were convinced I just couldn't produce either sufficient quality or quantity of milk, even though she was healthy as a horse.  There were the nursing Nazis who disapproved because I used a shield.  My family thought I was just being licentious and shocking even though I never let anything show when I wasn't alone.  A good diet, tons of rest, strict medication management and a skin thick enough to endure both the chomping gums and the snarky remarks are what every nursing mother needs.  As for the day spa for nursing moms, I'd invest.  What an idea!

sunnyside46 said...

I have to share my fave breastfeeding story...while I was home all day with my colicky Cailtin, my DH (who is normally much more circumspect) came in, looked over the pigsty of a house and said, "so what dd  you do all day?' to which I replied, "singlehandedly kept another human being alive. What did YOU do?"

bosoxblue6993w said...

a milk bank?    is that like a sperm bank?     do they have ATMs?

bgilmore725 said...

This entry is hilariously true!! I breastfed my son, my only child. I had no one to guide me, no friend, no family. Just the literature fromLa Leche League. I attended a few of their meetings... it was very much an elite social club of sorts, but at least they did encourage and support me. I never got over seeing 2 and 3 year olds throwing up their momma's shirt to grab a snack when they'd see another baby nursing. I weaned my little one before he was a year, possibly he weaned himself. It was a painful and difficult beginning, took five days for my milk to "come in", but I was pretty much on my own, armed only with determination to make it work, and strength to keep going against well-meaning suggestions from friends. Sometimes, mothers do have a very righteous instinct. We just need to listen to what our bodies tell us to do. You are right, what we eat does affect the child of a nursing mom. Didn't need a doctor to tell me that either. Common sense and keen observations are all we need to know the truth. Love this entry! Bea