One of the most debated topics of childrearing these days is how to feed them once they’ve arrived and breathed their first gulp of polluted earth air. There are many schools of thought, but the most typically discussed are: 1) Exclusively breast milk (some opt for no bottles, others pump and use bottles, too); 2) Exclusively formula; 3) Combination feeding – some formula, some breast milk.
Husband and I chose option one. There really was no discussion or debate. That’s just what made the most sense to us.
As a result, obviously, I would be the only one feeding Little Miss – at least until we introduced a bottle, which we had to do because I would be going back to work. While this is easy enough to digest mentally before it happens (and even in the first couple of days), after a while it starts to get to you. After a couple of days, I felt as though I was only around to be an on-demand all-you-can-eat buffet for a little creature I’d just met who couldn’t even speak my language.
So while I was constantly in the rocking chair or on the couch with my (invaluable) Boppy pillow and my breast stuffed in Little Miss’ mouth, Husband was up and about getting things done. He’d clean the kitchen, mow the lawn, take the garbage out, start the laundry, clean the shower, put clutter away, get the mail, make dinner, run to the store, bring me water, fetch me a tissue, turn on the fan, turn off the fan, and otherwise make himself the hero.
This was especially difficult when we wanted to get together with friends. When Little Miss was one week old, we had some friends over for dinner and games. We’d done this all the time before Little Miss arrived, and had enjoyed it immensely. This time, however, things were vastly different. (Though you may be tempted to say “duh!” at this point, hold your tongue until you’ve been there, too.)
Instead of enjoying the chit-chat while we ate, either Husband or I were constantly up walking around the dining room bouncing a fussy newborn. We tried the swing, too, but she’d rather be in someone’s arms. So we took turns eating, and when Little Miss got too loud, one of us would take her out of the room so the other could continue a conversation with our guests.
Then came the after-dinner games portion of the evening.
While Husband and our friends set up the table and chose a game, I was fishing through the diaper bag looking for my “nursing apron” (also known as a Hooter Hider – and yes, that’s its real name). I needed to feed Little Miss, but needed to be discreet about it, as well, since one of our guests was male. Finally, I find what I need and start getting situated on the couch. Meanwhile, Husband is getting an explanation of how to play the game (which neither of us have played before). They’re including me, and have set up a place for me, but I’m on the other side of the room with an 8-pound appendage in the shape of a tiny human on my chest.
I did eventually move to the table and nursed her there. The others moved my pieces around the board for me and even rolled the dice for me once or twice. It was nice of them, and they didn’t seem to mind, but I was frustrated that I couldn’t do even that on my own. I was stuck holding a baby and trying to keep myself modestly covered at the same time, all the while feeling my arm get more and more tired of holding her up and starting to sweat from being pressed against a little heater under the apron.
I felt like I’d lost my freedom.
By the one-month mark I’d made some adjustments. I still needed to feed Little Miss every couple of hours, but it didn’t matter if I was at home on the couch or in the nursery in the glider or not. When my parents came to visit, we went to “the big city,” an hour’s drive from home. Little Miss slept most of the way, and stayed asleep as we walked through the mall and shopped. When we got to the restaurant, however, she woke up. She needed a diaper change. At that point she also realized it had been several hours since she’d eaten. Naturally, she demanded food.
That afternoon I successfully breast-fed while sitting at a booth in a restaurant, right there with everyone else. I even managed to eat some fries, onion rings, and part of my very messy burger – all one-handed. I was still a part of the conversation, I was still able to order my own meal, and I could even dip my own fries in the sauce. (It was during that feeding session that I discovered another handy aspect of the nursing apron: It keeps crumbs off the baby!)
Even after 7 1/2 weeks, I’m still not perfect at feeding Little Miss in public or when we have guests at our house. Far from it, actually.
Over Labor Day weekend we went to the fair. After a couple of hours we got hungry so we went to the Catholic school concession stand and ordered and then found a table. Little Miss got hungry so I pulled out my apron and got everything set up, then tried to feed her. For some reason she wasn’t comfortable no matter how hard I tried, and she couldn’t get a proper latch-on. So she was desperate to eat and started whimpering. The whimpering turned into crying, and pretty soon she was squirming to the point that I didn’t stand a chance of getting things in their proper place.
The solution: The restroom. I went into the bathroom, closed a stall door behind me, and sat on the toilet. While in there I didn’t have to be discreet, modest, careful, or even cheerful. I could cry from frustration (and the fact that my back was hurting like…well…a lot), and I could feed my baby in peace, without worry of embarrassment.
A friend we were at the fair with came into the restroom to change her daughter’s diaper. By this time it was long into the dinner hour and the restroom had a short line of women waiting. My friend, in front of the group of patient women, said, “Hey, Becky, how’s it going?” I smiled from inside my private stall and said, “Oh, good!” I laughed to myself, imagining what all the women out there were thinking. None of them had seen me go in with my daughter. When my friend left the bathroom, she said, “Good luck, Becky!” And, stifling my laughter, I said, “Thanks! I should be out soon!” I wish I could have seen those ladies’ faces…
It’s been almost two months since I started the whole breast-feeding thing. Though it’s natural and easy for me and Little Miss, we still have problems occasionally. My biggest one is being frustrated that I have to be stuck in one place for so long while things happen around me. Little Miss is a slow (when I’m feeling nice I call it “dainty”) eater and her feedings take around 40-45 minutes. Though that’s handy when I want to watch an entire television show, it’s incredibly irritating when Husband is home and I want to be walking around the house doing things with him.
My perspective has changed a lot since I’ve started breastfeeding. I jump at even a 10-minute window to check my email, read my online comics, and catch up with the outside world. I’m ecstatic when I have the time and freedom of two hands to cook a meal. I actually find myself excited to be able to empty and/or fill the dishwasher. I hate doing dishes, but at this point in my life, being able to feel productive – and to feel that way with two free hands! – is something I seriously envy of Husband.
Life is never going to be the same again. Meals are never going to be the same again. Sometimes I eat with one hand (sometimes it’s even my left hand – and I’m a righty), slowly moving the fork or spoon closer and closer to my mouth in an effort to not drop spaghetti or soup or haystacks or lentil roast on Little Miss as she lays across my lap eating her own meal. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. The pijamas she’s napping in as I type this have a brown mark on her hip from where I dripped chocolate syrup last night while eating ice cream. But I’m okay with that. I’m doing what I believe is best for my baby, so in the grand scheme of things – it’s best for the whole family.