Before we had our daughter, I thought a couple of things about breastfeeding. The first that it must not be that difficult if as a species we’ve survived, and the second is I had a few opinions on breastfeeding in public. I realize these were pretty stupid.
Breastfeeding is hard
While every other animal on the planet seems to do it naturally, You 2.0 only has one instinct it appears: to suck. Generally babies suck at sucking.
The problems range from latching on incorrectly to not managing to get a good seal to being at the wrong angle to swallow. Babies suck at sucking, and new moms have difficulties troubleshooting soft docking methods employed by an alien entity.
Breastfeeding takes time
About an hour of time if you’re lucky – every two hours. Babies suck. You can shorten this time by getting a pump so she’ll know when there’s something there. Boobs don’t have a meter to tell when anything’s come out.
Usually with a pump you can be done within 20-30 minutes.
Breastfeeding doesn’t produce milk initially
In the first 4-8 days after a baby is born, what’s produced by the breasts it something akin to butter although it’s got the consistency of snot.
A baby feeding for an hour may only get 1ML of colostrum (the name of pre-milk.) For those who weren’t raised in the metric system (I’m looking at us, USA,) 1ML is roughly 1/5th of a teaspoon.
Using an electric pump you can extract that amount in about 30 minutes, however attempting to retrieve less than a teaspoon of liquid from a pump using a syringe is absurdly hard.
Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally
I’m not a woman, not going to attempt to claim I understand, I’ve just observed that breastfeeding is more of a learned technique than a natural one.
All the women I’ve known seem to have had the same story of coming home with a baby and having problems initially and thinking their breasts were malfunctioning or that they were a horrible mother for being unable to produce milk for their baby. They’re not.
A failure to Breastfeed is a learning experience, not a failure
She’s going to fail on a feeding, the baby is going to be grumpy, most likely screaming her lungs out in an attempt to get some food. You’ll think your baby is starving and stress will kick in like you wouldn’t believe.
Stress, and stress hormones tighten up the supply like you wouldn’t believe. Worrying that the baby isn’t getting anything after half an hour of sometimes painful sucking doesn’t help. Not feeling anything coming out and being stressed about it doesn’t help. Not much helps other than letting baby go to town and attempting to not worry too much about it.
Here comes the milk man
After some time the breasts will start producing milk. The output will go from less than a teaspoon a day of colostrum to small bottles full of milk.
Between bouts of passing out, your baby will do everything in its power to convince you she’s starving to death. It’s important to note that a newborn is designed to lose about 1/10th of its body weight during the first week as it’s been filled full of stuff in the womb that will keep it going until there is a milk supply there.
A failure to breastfeed is not failure
If you can’t breastfeed, you’re not a horrible person. Just be aware there’s not much physical evidence that you’re on the right track for the first week and it feels like you’re attempting to starve your baby.
This is also during the time when your baby can’t do anything but express complete discomfort in everything. Baby will also be extremely good and convincing you to pay total attention to her needs. This is a scam. They’re born with it.
If you can’t breastfeed, you’ll get formula after a few days and a consultation with a pediatrician or lactation specialist. Canned formula isn’t as good as breastmilk, but whatever. In the past a failure to breastfeed meant death, now it just means paying for formula. You’re not a horrible person if it doesn’t work.
Thoughts on the whole thing
A lot of people think it’s natural and that not being able to breastfeed is a failure. If I’m not mistaken natural also equates to an infant mortality rate of roughly 60% and a pre-adult mortality rate of nearly 75%. That’s natural as of 200 years ago.
Be calm, hopefully have read this before you’ve brought the baby home, otherwise you’re probably sitting on the internet searching for something on how to breastfeed while your baby is screaming her lungs out in an attempt to get your attention and something in her mouth and you’re feeling like a failure.
You’re not. Now carry on. You’ll talk to a pediatrician or breast feeding specialist at some point later if things are bad, for now you’re fine. You’re a good person, your baby is getting something albeit slowly, and your baby is learning how to latch on and suckle correctly.
Just like you didn’t know how to surf the internet at age 1, your baby isn’t born with all the things she needs to be a sucking champ. She’ll learn, you’ll learn, life will go on and things will be great.
Even if it turns out you can’t breastfeed, you’ll still bond with your infant. A bottle doesn’t mean a life of crime and misery. Bonding doesn’t come at the end of a nipple, it comes at the end of the day.
I’m not a doctor
It should be pointed out that I’m not a doctor. I’m going on the advice of doctors and the experience of my friends. As such, you might be a horrible person for not being able to breastfeed and you might be leading your child down a dark and dangerous path filled with evil.
But probably not… carry on
Breastfeeding in public
I’m not particularly fond of seeing anyone breastfeeding. I’m not opposed to it personally but I used to think that it was something best done behind closed doors. I’ve changed my ideas on this considering that means that the average mother is going to spend a couple of hours a day at least feeding and pumping for baby. This can’t be done all at once.
To deny a woman breastfeeding in public is to say a mother has to remove herself from the world for hours a day simply to feed a baby. This is to say you’re taking a human being and telling her she’s unable to socialize for hours a day due to her reproductive choices.
While you may not want to look at it, there’s no reason to position yourself against it. Or maybe I’m wrong and you want to tell me why, which quite honestly I’m not particularly inclined to hear 🙂