Before Hugh was born, I had a sentimental view of nursing. I imagined us, skin to skin, eye to eye, bonding in our own private, primal universe. Instead, my first introduction to nursing came in the form of a Santa hat.
Nurse Linda, with a red reindeer sweatshirt and the aforementioned Santa hat, came to our house to help me and Hugh develop our primal bonding ritual. I learned my techniques: the football hold (couldn’t they come up with a better name?), the cradle hold (my favorite), and the sideways pose. Hugh learned his techniques: fish mouth, fish mouth, fish mouth. (I also learned from friends and family members: a Guiness a night helps your milk let down. Sounds good to me. And a cabbage leaf in your bra helps engorgement. I really wore a cabbage leaf.)
Anyway, in a few days, Hugh and I had it down. And sometimes, I really did experience those moments of bliss. Sleepy fish mouth in perfect cradle hold.
But then, as we started drifting closer through games of kissy-kissy and bouncey-bouncey, our nursing bond started drifting apart. There was little eye contact. Mainly, he stared at the ceiling. Or thrashed around, agitated, if there wasn’t enough milk fast enough. Mainly, I read news on my iPhone, glancing down occasionally to say, “aren’t you done yet?”
At night, I’d wake up every two to three hours to feed him and drag myself out of bed the next day for another sleep-deprived day. Full of baby love, of course. I’d read all the reports, bought all the books, knew all the benefits of “breast is best;” from a stronger immune system to a higher IQ (5 points at least!). I planned to nurse for at least 6 months, possibly 12.
But then something happened. Hugh got fussy. Really fussy every time he was hungry; and he’d stay fussy even after he nursed. Mom suggested giving him some formula: “Some boys really need to feel full.” As if girls don’t. But I thought, why not, just a little to top him off, see how it goes. It was love at first gulp.
Two ounces of milk produced in a factory in Ohio, and my fussy baby was suddenly full of smiles and coos. Instead of thrashing around at the breast, gazing at the wall, he would turn his eyes towards me, full of soulful bliss. Sometimes, he’d even stop drinking just to smile. And that night, he slept 8 hours.
I, on the other hand, enjoyed a new technique: the cuddle hold, with all my clothes on and no cold stomach or shoulders. Tasha has always accused me of having food panic, manifested by an unforgiving appetite and a meltdown always lurking around the corner of a missed meal. Hugh inherited this gene.
Although I’m still nursing him, my milk is slowly getting lighter. I’m grieving the thought that we are weaning each other. But I’m also celebrating my newfound freedom.
And when he looks up from his BPA-free bottle to give me that sneaky smile, I share in it with him. I tell him that Mama likes nothin’ better than mac ‘n cheese, out of the box, made fresh with yellow powder.
NOTE: An interesting article in the Atlantic this month, “The Case Against Breastfeeding” http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200904/case-against-breastfeeding