Written by Alice Gomstyn for Babble.com
I know I'm very lucky to be able to have nursed for this long, but I'm also proud of myself for persevering. My baby's clothes often don't match, my infant nail-trimming skills are mediocre at best and you'll never catch me looking fit and fabulous while running behind a jogging stroller, but at least I've proven adept at shoving my breast into my son's mouth and letting him go to town.
In all seriousness, it's an especially auspicious occasion for me because the first time around, with my older son Saucer Eyes, we didn't make it this far. I went back to work 12 weeks after he was born and found myself having a hard time producing milk while on the job. Sure, hanging out topless in a locked office may sound like a great way to spend the afternoon, but not while you're hooked up to a breast pump.
Despite my best efforts to channel my inner dairy cow, the amount I was producing didn't come close to meeting his needs. We began supplementing with formula. Eventually, we made the switch to all-formula, all the time.
Now that I'm working from home, I'm able to nurse Scrunchy Face full time and my supply, so far, has remained intact. I'm so happy and grateful , but I'll admit there have been some C-cup sized bumps along the road. Check out the seven lessons I've learned from six months of exclusive breastfeeding.
1. Learn to Live With That Water Balloon Feeling
Who doesn't love waking up in the morning and feeling like someone's inserted an overactive tire pump under their skin?
With Saucer Eyes, I suffered engorgement at the beginning but by about five months in, my milk supply had begun dwindling so it wasn't an issue. This time around, I find my chest still feels uncomfortably full now and then, especially in the mornings. It's nice and all that my mammaries decided to crank it up a notch overnight, but a.m. engorgement -- or engorgement at any time during the day -- is not pleasant, no matter how great it makes your cleavage look.
2. Your Baby Should Be the Only One Bouncing
Since I wasn't returning to a professional office, I assumed I didn't need my nursing bras and could just wear my less-flattering but more-comfortable nursing tank tops.
And then one day, when I tried chasing Saucer Eyes around the playground as Scrunchy Face dozed nearby, I realized I was bouncing...or, at least, parts of me were.
I'm not saying supportive tanks don't exist, but the one I wore let me down. Literally.
3. Breast Pads Aren't Foolproof and Black Doesn't Always Hide Leaks
Sometimes supposedly absorbent nursing pads don't always work. Sometimes when they don't work, you happen to be standing right in front of YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW. Sometimes he notices a dark spot on your black shirt and says, "Alice, you're leaking." Sometimes you look down and say, "And so I am. Excuse me while I go hang myself with my nursing bra."
4. Not All Babies Chomp Alike
With Saucer Eyes, by month five, sometimes his little gums clamped together HARD during feedings, leaving me screaming loudly enough for the whole neighborhood to hear. Fortunately, the neighbors never called the police with noise complaints...maybe they feared I would sic my little toothless chomper on them in retaliation. (Click here to learn more about how my babies have accidentally injured me. Fun stuff.)
I'm happy to report that, to date, Scrunchy Face has been a much gentler nursling and hasn't given me any "love" bites. Of course, now that I've praised him so publicly, I'm sure a piranha-style munch is just around the corner... If you're in the New York metro area in the next few days and you hear a high-pitched "Yeooooowww!" that would probably be me.
5. If It's a Fever, Suspect Mastitis
Are you nursing and feeling hot? It might be because of your newly huge chest (see no. 2)... or it might be because of mastitis.
When I awoke one morning with a high fever and a massive headache, I just figured I'd gotten the flu. I never suspected mastitis, the breast infection bemoaned by nursing women everywhere, because my chest didn't hurt. And then a day or so later, it did hurt. With a vengeance.
The fever started on a Friday. If I'd realized what it was right away, I could have gone in to see my OB-GYN that morning. Instead, I had to wait (in discomfort) until the following Monday to be seen and treated. Now that I know what it feels like, if it ever comes back, I'm calling my doc stat and getting it off my chest! (Did I mention that having mastitis makes you more predisposed to making bad puns? Yeah, I'll blame it on that...)
6. Bottle Train Early, Bottle Train Often
Saucer Eyes took to the bottle pretty easily. Maybe he somehow figured out that, with mommy going back to work, he didn't have a choice.
Scrunchy Face hasn't been nearly as willing, and it's my fault. Since I didn't have a deadline (i.e. returning to the office at the end of maternity leave), I was lackadaisical about conditioning him to drink my pumped breast milk from a bottle.
Recently, I've been trying harder, but sometime he'll just smile at me and roll the bottle nipple around his tongue like a Cuban cigar...which makes sense, because at the rate this kid is going, he'll take up smoking stogies before he takes up the milk bottle.
7. It Gets Easier
Despite the challenges I've faced, breastfeeding today is definitely far easier than when I started six months ago. Nursing once left me sore. Now it doesn't, and even engorgement doesn't hurt nearly as much as it used to. I used to dread each nursing session, and now we just do it, sans anxiety.
Our next step is eating solid foods with a spoon, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about how well Scrunchy Face will adapt to that. Not that we have a choice -- last I checked, scientists weren't working on ways to get breasts to secrete mushed bananas and sweet potatoes.
Wish us luck!
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