Monday, November 30, 2009


I am on Google Wave and you're not. So there!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Breastfeeding Redux

I realized over the weekend, when Mini McGee turned 6 months old, that I had met all my breastfeeding goals. I was like, "Huh. How about that."

The goals went like this. I'm the sort of person who, when faced with a large, difficult, or unpleasant task, likes to break it into smaller steps or achievable pieces. So, being surrounded by friends and family who support breastfeeding but have nothing against formula either, I decided my goal would be to breastfeed while in the hospital and see how that went. If it went well, I'd aim for two weeks. If THAT went well, I'd aim for six weeks. Then for three months, then for six months, which was so unimaginably far away I didn't think past that. That way if I was having trouble in the first week, I could say, "I only have to make it to two weeks, then I can stop." And of course most trouble clears up by then, and I can go on. This is a way I've always incentivized myself -- "You just have to get through the first 100 words, then you can stop," on college papers. Of course once I've got the 100 words I want to keep going and get to my 500-word check point. And so on. It works well because it keeps me wanting to get to the next achievable goal, but when I do decide to stop I don't have to feel guilty, since I stopped at a goal.

I bring up the goals because this was among the many, many, many things that the lactation consultant at the hospital told me I was doing really, really, really wrong. Of this entire breastfeeding experience, the top 3 worst things would be:

3. Plugged Ducts
2. Cluster Feedings (Growth Spurts)
1. The Lactation Consultant at the Hospital

She asked if I was planning to breastfeed and how long, and I cheerfully told her about my laddered goals system. Oh, no, she insisted, shaking her head gravely. That won't work. You can only breastfeed if you COMMIT to it. There are going to be so many challenges and people trying to make you stop -- if you want to breastfeed until he's six months, you have to decide RIGHT NOW that you're going to DO IT for six months, no matter what, and you have to make your husband get on board.

I was like, "Um, no, I think I'll stick with my system, thanks."

She warned me darkly that that system doomed me to failure because I wasn't COMMITTING. (Because obviously, ALL HUMAN PSYCHES ARE EXACTLY THE SAME.) We moved on to more questions, where she gave me instructions that contradicted my doctor's about medications (and I curtly informed her that she was not a doctor and was not competent to issue instructions relating to my medical care). Then I got the baby and nursed, and she totally objected to his nursing position: Lying flat on his back, with his head turned 90 degrees. "BELLY TO BELLY!" she barked at me, repeatedly. But when turned belly-to-belly, Mini McGee flatly refused to nurse and wriggled until he got to be flat again. He still mostly prefers this flat-back pose, although he's more relaxed now and doesn't lie there stiff as a board.

So having achieved all my breastfeeding goals, I thought it was a good time to reflect. I posted about breastfeeding before, but now I have stuff to add.

My experience: I generally had a very easy time of it. Mini McGee is a good latcher, I have compliant boobs (they keep up with demand, and they aren't real picky about missed feedings so I can usually get away without pumping), and I can't really complain. A few plugged ducts here and there, but nothing dire. We began formula supplementing 1 bottle a day in week 2 because I needed more than 2 hours of sleep at a time; he's happy to eat either. Now that he sleeps, some days he gets formula, some days he doesn't, just depending on if I'm around all day or not. I didn't really have any problems with pumping, but I don't like doing it, so I mostly don't.

Education: Breastfeeding education is awful! It was so. much. information, and it was all apparently designed to scare the bejeezus out of me ... the 8 billion things that can go wrong. The 62 different ways to time feedings. At age 2 weeks 1 day and 6 hours, baby needs this much milk, but 4 hours later it's different. The 502 things you can't eat, look at, or sneeze in the vicinity of. Don't introduce bottles until week X but before week Y, because too early and he'll get nipple confusion, but too late and he'll reject the change. Good. Lord. (And most of it backed up with claims that drastically overstate the medical literature.)

Here's what I needed: A 1-page summary with pictures of the common holds and the baby's latch. Information on caring for the equipment. Information on a couple common problems (plugged ducts, mastitis, thrush) and a list of symptoms with when to see YOUR doctor and when to see BABY'S doctor. Where to go for more information. And a reassurance that YOU'LL LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM THE NURSES IN THE HOSPITAL. (Yeah, not the lactation consultant. The nurses.)

All the educational information assured me breastfeeding was natural and wonderful and easy, then made it seem terrifyingly complex and prone to horrific problems. The same literature also frequently made a big whoop about people who don't support breastfeeding and how persecuted you will feel while breastfeeding, especially in public. I have not yet met one of these people. Even in public.

The Verdict: For me, I think the biggest benefits of breastfeeding was that it was WAY cheaper than formula feeding and that it's frequently more convenient, since I can go out and about without bottle-feeding paraphernalia or having to think ahead. But I would tell anyone thinking about breastfeeding to skim one book (or chapter in the pregnancy book) and then know you'll learn everything else at the hospital, and not worry over it or read too much about the stuff that can go wrong. (If it goes wrong, it goes wrong, and you can't possibly keep straight all the scare literature -- I had to look up plugged ducts when the moment arrived, despite my diligent reading.) I would also say, take it one day at a time, and if it doesn't work out, isn't it great that modern formulas are so nutritious and convenient?

Now that I've achieved the unthinkably-distant goal of six months, I guess I'll keep going. I don't know until when, but that's probably because I'm insufficiently committed and won't succeed at -- oh, wait. Never mind.

(And how weird is it that it's about "succeeding" at breastfeeding ... implying that other options that result in a healthy baby are somehow "failure." Modern competitive parenting is awesome!)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Swine Flu in Peoria

I understand the Peoria County Health Department (PCHD) is working under constraints, and by all accounts the clinic at IVC on Monday was well-run and efficient. But I was just out at Woodrow Wilson for today's clinic, and there has GOT to be a better way. A long line of families with small children, many of them fussing and running around (near busy roads), standing in the cold, for an indeterminate amount of time. Surely individuals could go to the health department and sign up for 15-minute appointment blocks (15 shots in 15 minutes or however fast they manage them), or at least hold clinics places the lines can be indoors. An adult standing in line for half of forever is no big deal -- Lord knows I've done it at the Cook County DMV -- but trying to corral little kids in line that long is a nightmare.

We were not able to wait and get me a shot; it was simply too cold for Mini McGee to be out in the cold that long, particularly as I had no idea if it would be 30 minutes or 90 minutes or 3 hours. (Plus I have to teach later.)