Monday, August 03, 2009


So, as far as I can tell, the point of the ninth month of pregnancy is to make you SO ready to be done being pregnant that you're willing to go through labor and delivery. And the point of labor and delivery is to take away all your shame so you're willing to breastfeed in front of other people. (And I'm pretty sure the point of breastfeeding is to make you ready to never pee alone for the next six years or so when you have to use a public restroom and your little friend has to come with.) This applies even if you have a C-section; I'm all, "Meh, a whole operating room full of people saw my intestines. WHAT DO I HAVE LEFT TO HIDE????"

For some reason it didn't click for me that feeding a baby every 90 minutes to 3 hours meant that it would eat up hours and hours of my day. I got that I had to do it all the time, just not that every time would take so long! I worked it out and on an average day I spend 7 to 8 hours doing nothing but feeding and burping the baby. (THIS is what they should be telling teenagers in pregnancy-prevention programs!)

None of the books I read adequately explained "cluster feeding," and I'm irate about this, since it is possibly THE WORST THING I'VE EVER GONE THROUGH IN MY LIFE. For the uninitiated, cluster feeding is when the baby is about to have a growth spurt and decides to up your supply of breastmilk by feeding CONSTANTLY for 24 to 48 hours and it's AWFUL. Interrupting your sleep/life every 3 hours for 1 hour (so that's 2 hours you get to sleep or do something like dishes) is one thing; interrupting it every freaking hour for twenty to thirty minutes makes you a zombie from lack of sleep, and a VERY ANGRY ZOMBIE from lack of freedom to follow a thought from one end to the other. This being my first child, I'm accustomed to being able to concentrate on things for a couple hours if necessary (husbandly interruptions notwithstanding), so I was shocked by how short-tempered it makes me to never have the freedom to concentrate. It's not so bad during his (the baby's, not my husband's) normal schedule, now that I know my concentration comes in 2-hour blocks or shorter, but during cluster feeding I become the crankiest person on the planet because I don't ever get to THINK.

Another thing that nobody told me is that breastfeeding is BORING. You can only stare into a baby's eyes so many hours a day. (Bottlefeeding is equally boring and has the disadvantage of taking two hands so you can't read a book, but bottlefeeding you can hand off to the non-dairy parent.) I've been watching a ton of Hulu, so that I can have an interesting show ready on demand, and I've been reading a lot, but the reading is limited to books I can hold and read one-handed, which means basically mass-market paperbacks, ideally with cracked spines so I can hold them open easily with one hand, but not read so many times that the pages are too soft to turn with just a thumb. It also helps if I don't lose the thread of the plot reading it in short bites and constantly being interrupted; I haven't gone through books so slowly in YEARS.

I also wasn't particularly prepared for how HEAVY a baby is when you're trying to hold him up to eat. This is fine at home with my Boppy, but when out running errands or visiting people whose couches have inadequate pillows, I might was well just have someone kick me in the spine and throw my back out all at once instead of slowly by degrees.

Not that it's all cranky-making. It is terribly convenient to carry less stuff in the diaper bag and have the baby's food supply with me at all times while out and about. I'm also a pretty big fan of the 500 extra calories a day that *I* get to eat to be a functioning dairy animal. And formula is NOT CHEAP.

I'd like to say that it's worth all the missed sleep when he smiles his milky smile at me, but the truth is he's pretty indiscriminate about handing out toothless grins, and he usually only grins when eating when he's about to spit up all over me. Oh well; it's still cute!


Anonymous said...

My boobs went 13 months with twins and 14 months with the 3rd child.

I took my Boppy went in our stroller so that when I was out shopping, I wasn't at the mercy of whatever pillow was on hand.

I won't argue the benefits/disadvantages of breast feeding over those of a bottle.. It just felt right to me and I never regretted those first two weeks of 'learning it all' that just nearly killed me. I'd do it all again.

Best wishes...

Donna/Doxy/LyricFox said...

So, you'll be pregnant again, when? LOL

There's a reason all my kids have four legs.

Billy Dennis said...

But, but, but ... boobs are supposed to be about the FUN.

Billy Dennis said...

Anonymous said...

Can I just say that I never post on your blog, but am a "lurker". I LOVE this post. My 1st son was born in April of last year, and the hardest thing I have EVER done in my life is breastfeed!! You didn't even mention if you had problems with bleeding or mastitis, which just adds insult to injury. After a while, the mantra of "you are doing what is best for the baby" gets old. :) At least at the point where I was going to lose it, it suddenly got much easier, and he finally spaced himself out to 3 to 4 hour feedings. Whoever said breasfeeding will come naturally is crazy!!!

Don't worry though, it will get better, and even after my 1st couple months of "the hardest thing I have ever done" it suddenly got easier and I lasted the whole 12 months!

Dw3t-Hthr said...

*typing one-handed, small mammal attached*

What an amusing thing to read the day I come home from hospital. :)

Jennifer said...

Breastfeeding was what made me finally start to like short stories. Seriously. It gave me a sense of accomplishment to finish reading something and I didn't risk forgetting a character or key element of the plot.
It's also a good time to reread books that you've enjoyed in the past. I think I reread all the Douglas Adam's books and a lot of Kurt Vonnegut (sp?) while I was breastfeeding my two kids.

Anne D. said...

What Jennifer said: short story and essay anthologies saved my sanity not only while breastfeeding, but when we had multiple small children and I was able to escape to the library, a.k.a., the bathroom for short bits of time by myself. I gave up on trying to read novels (and fuggedabout nonfiction books). I had neither the available brain cells nor the time nor the memory to sustain a narrative thread that long. So I fell in love with short stories and essays by Barbara Kingsolver, Wallace Stegner, Ellen Gilchrist, and others.

Our first baby (adopted) was bottle-fed, and I was so chagrined at all the time it took, I had to retrain myself to do the Zen thing and live in the moment and stop trying to multitask. I wrote an essay about this called "Feeding the Baby" that was published in several places, and received a helluva response from other parents. So: you are not alone. :-)