Scarlett came into the world with a roaring appetite. They say that babies don’t actually get hungry in their first few days of life, and that’s how they can survive on only teaspoons of colostrum before their mother’s milk comes in. But you couldn’t tell that to my daughter. In the first few moments after she was brought back to me cleaned up in the delivery room, I adjusted my gown so that I could put her to my breast. After kind of fumbling through only a few months of breastfeeding Matthew, I’d put an extensive amount of research and preparation into the idea of breastfeeding Scarlett over the past six months of my pregnancy. I remember feeling a little anxious, out of practice, and unsure of myself, but I was ready to start what I expected to be the rocky beginnings of a roller-coaster experience. I was shocked when the child practically lunged at my nipple from across the room. There was no guiding her, no adjusting her, she didn’t even give me time to fumble over proper positioning. I virtually took her from the nurse and got attacked… In a good way -- not a completely painless way, but a good way.
I later browsed through the postpartum section of my What to Expect book and found the name “barracuda baby” appropriately attached to the description of my child. Basically, a child who nurses so enthusiastically you’d think she was trying to literally eat through the flesh to get to the milk. But more importantly, a child who at least knows what to do.
Ever since, it’s only gotten easier. Especially with her being such a… productive suckler, I fully expected all of the discomforts that came with nursing Matthew, but got none of them. When a nurse from the hospital called me a few days after returning home for a routine postpartum telephone check-up, I was able to tell her that breastfeeding was still going wonderfully. She responded proudly, but quickly added, “of course, your nipples are pretty sore, I’m sure…” and the only thing I could say was… “I have no idea how they aren’t, but no. I feel great.”
My milk came in before I left the hospital and about a week after being home, the engorgement had already gone down. There have been no tears, little discomfort, and thank God, no need for that awful lanolin cream. I also have a great baby sling that doubles as a perfectly discrete cover for public feedings. (I’ve even had two strangers tell me that they were surprised to see me take a baby out of it later on… that they had no idea I wasn’t just carrying a neat shoulder bag). I’ve been so thrilled with the unexpected ease of breastfeeding that I look forward to it now in a way that I just never fully could two years ago; transforming the chore I once viewed it as into what now feels much more appropriately like a wonderful privilege.
Because Scarlett shares me with a whole family of people, feeding her has had to incorporate itself into other parts of my life, and that’s really been the biggest challenge. It can definitely be tough at times to not feel a little detached from the rest of the family. A mother knows in her heart that when her newborn baby cries, that baby is calling for her… She isn’t crying to have her cradle rocked and she isn’t crying to have her music turned on -- she’s crying because you’re not holding her, and most of the time that she wants you to be holding her, she also wants you to be feeding her. I’ve tried to ask Spencer to help out here and there when he’s home from work, and even though he’s more than willing to, it just doesn’t work for me. Try as I might, I just can’t breathe easily until I get to her myself. Even when she’s perfectly content in his arms. I’m sure that when she’s a bit older that’ll change, but for now, I relish being her main source of comfort and security.
So I’ve learned to feed her in the sling while I’m cooking dinner one-handed, and I’ve learned to maneuver the cover a little more gracefully so that feedings don’t have to mean being banished to an empty room when someone drops by. And because sometimes a toddler just can’t wait to be cared for, there have even been times already that I’ve had to climb the stairs or hop up abruptly and scurry over to his side without breaking the latch between Scarlett and I.
Whenever I can though, I try to just be still with her while she nurses. And even though most of the time it can be a challenge (challenge being a pretty RADICAL understatement) to keep Matthew safe and under reasonable control from underneath of the Boppy Pillow on my lap, there’s nothing like the feeling of having my son scoot into the nook of my free arm, lean over with all of the delicacy that a two-year-old boy can congregate, and whisper to his baby sister that she is “so, so pretty.” To watch them study each other as contentedly as they do during times like these is Heaven fifteen times over.
A kiss from my son to my daughter
So I guess like anything else in parenting, I’m finding that where there are new conveniences in breastfeeding, there are a whole host of new complexities, too. But hey, at least my nipples aren’t bleeding.