Russ is on strike. Nursing strike, that is.
While there were rumblings of a revolution over the past days and weeks, yesterday morning was the Fort Sumter of the boob, so to speak. Yesterday was the breakdown, the first shots, the undoing. And while Russ seemed just fine to bounce around in his exersaucer, giggling and doing his newest thing – snorting rhythmically while scrunching his nose – I was not nearly as laissez-faire about the nursing strike. Let’s just say I’m a little attached.
When you’re pregnant and the topic of nursing comes up, a good latch and satisfied baby can seem almost as elusive as the idea of giving birth sans epidural – people often shudder and say “Well, if you can get through the first two weeks of nursing, you can get through ANYTHING.” You go into it somewhat unsure of what to expect. My friend Jessica just had her second baby in the middle of January, and last time I visited her and met her son Jackson, we sat and nursed our babies together while chatting. I asked her how it was going this time around – since her older son had gone into full-on nursing strike at just a few months old, much to her chagrin – and she just shrugged nonchalantly and said “Oh, it’s great…no big deal this time around.” There’s a confidence that I think probably builds up after a baby or two. You know what to do. You’ve got this. But when you’re still preggers with baby #1, you just have to know that everyone and their aunt’s-sister’s-friend’s-daughter is going to have a nursing (and labor) horror story for you. And they’re going to tell you that it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
But for me, it just wasn’t. I’m not trying to brag – I know just how lucky I truly am, believe me! I anticipated having basically the worst time ever with nursing, simply because it was what I had been told to expect by so many women I know. But 20 minutes after Russ was born, I got him to latch on (with a little help from Jonathan, who attended the hospital breastfeeding class with me and actually asked questions!! I so love him…) and nurse on both sides, drama-free. Less than an hour later, he nursed again. And so began the process of constant adjustment called “nursing on demand.” It’s how just about every lactation consultant would tell you to start the nursing process with your newborn – no schedules, no timing, just nursing your baby when they seem to want to nurse. It’s work, no doubt – but you’ve just given birth and you’re going to be laid up for at least a few days (if not longer) anyway, so it all works out. At least, for me it did.
In a situation with a really bad birth (like an emergency c-section) or where your baby is in the NICU, things are almost never so cut-and-dry. But luckily for me, I just never had a hard time with nursing. I came to realization that I might do this for longer than the initial three or four months that I’d planned – and those months went by so fast that it was almost scary. Here I am now, over seven months into it, and things have gotten far trickier than anyone ever told me they would at this relatively late stage of the game.
There’s something very frustrating and impossible about trying to nurse a wide-awake older infant, who isn’t nearly as small or relaxed as a newborn, who has an entire world of colors and noises to pay more attention to, and who is constipated from his little tummy still learning how to process the solids that have only been a part of his diet for a month or two. It’s really, really difficult sometimes. Especially when the engorgement that you thought you were mostly done with after that baby’s first two weeks of life slowly starts to creep back in and you’re suddenly carrying two big rocks around in your bra. Especially when – after you finally get your child to latch on – the phone rings. The challenges of nursing don’t get smaller as time goes by, they just evolve. Some people find the earlier stage of nursing most difficult, for any number of reasons (lack of sleep, discomfort after giving birth, baby health problems like acid reflux or gas, etc.). But for some lucky folks like myself, the early stage is easy enough – we get a pass on the really taxing part until later on. It’s not avoiding the difficulty, it’s just delaying it for a little while.
So, I wondered yesterday after announcing stubbornly that “He’s got to nurse! He won’t get enough fluids!” (he almost refuses bottles, and he has absolutely no idea what to do with his sippy cup – other than throw it)” how I was going to get through this rough patch of road. Then Jonathan – ever the even-keeled problem solver – brought up an interesting point. Russ always nurses with the fervor of a famished prisoner when I have to take him in the nursing room at our church. I think my church is AMAZING, by the way, for hundreds of reasons – not the least of which is the fact that some incredible folks thought to put a nursing room in the childcare area of the church. It is a fabulous, tee-tiny little closet of a room, cozy as heck, warm, quiet and just dim enough. It has been my savior on a number of occasions, and – bad as this may sound – sometimes I take Russ in there to nurse, even if I know he could reasonably wait until we got home from church, because I know he’ll nurse really well in that room. So, Jonathan suggested – why not try to recreate some of those things. Change the nursing environment at our house a bit?
This is why I married the man, folks. Well, this and he’s good looking and tall and really great for moving furniture and heavy stuff and he’s an AWESOME writer and he’s kind of like the human personification of Eric from “The Little Mermaid” and…yeah. But this is another reason – he’s a problem solver and he gets me to chill out when I’m frustrated and/or freaking out about something. He’s fabulous, dahlings.
So we took Russ upstairs, got the Boppy all set up, turned off the TV downstairs and even the dishwasher (so that there were absolutely no distractions), and tried to get him to nurse again. This time, it was a bit more successful. He didn’t nurse for that long of a time on either side, but I chalked that up more to him being older and not needing as much food as a newborn. Kind of funny how just tuning back into the process the way that we did when Russ was just days old helped to bring us all back to center.
And I know a lot of folks would say “Why go through all the trouble? Just give that kid a bottle!” But it’s simply not that simple for us. Our priority and our goal as a family was to get Russ to his first birthday. We’d love to just switch him directly from breastmilk to cow’s milk and never buy the first container of formula. And this is not to say that formula is bad!! It’s just that this is the goal we personally set for ourselves, and we’re really trying to get there in as much as we can. We can’t control everything. But the things we can try and fix, we’re going to.
So we’re in Day 2 of The Great Boobie Revolt of ’11, and we’re finding our way through. It’s a bit of a struggle at times, but we’ll just do the thing that we’ll be doing for the next several decades of raising children and watching them grow into their own people. We’ll “back up and regroup,” as my mom says – and we’ll get where we want to be.