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Things I Forgot About Nursing

Let me start with the one thing I DIDN’T forget about nursing: at first, it hurts. And all those books that talk about the joy and peace and easiness of nursing forget to mention that fact. I’d even go so far as to say that most of those books actually make it sound like you’re doing something wrong if it hurts. And sure, there’s lots that can go wrong that causes nursing to be painful. But I have yet to meet a woman who didn’t go through a week of sore, cracked nipples with a newborn, proper latch or not.

So believe me, I was prepared for the pain, since I’d vowed the first time around to never forget that tidbit. But there was plenty about nursing I didn’t remember, including:

Nursing causes painful contractions. Wish I had remembered that one, because I’d have definitely beefed up the Motrin intake those first few days. Being on a Pitocin drip for 24 hours after labor didn’t help, but it’s a fact that nursing in those initial days will cause the contractions to continue as your uterus starts to shrink back down to size. A couple of my girlfriends have said they consider the post-partum nursing contractions to be worse than the labor ones. Ouch, indeed.

There’s nothing like a cold Soothie. I’d forgotten how good a Soothie feels right out of the freezer, immediately after a nursing, in those early weeks. God bless them.

The feeling of your milk letting down. It’s a feeling that, once it comes back, you can’t believe you ever forgot what it felt like.

Having a whole different set of food concerns. At first there’s the initial elation – Hello, brie! But then there’s the realization that your meals are going to affect your baby in an entirely new way. Bye bye, fuss foods like broccoli and sodas (and for some poor mommies, chocolate). And whereas it might have been fun during pregnancy to eat a piece of dark chocolate after dinner and feel the baby dance around when you get into bed, it’s not so fun to eat now when you know it’s just going to keep Pumpkin up even later at night.

Milk ducts are subject to gravity. Remember how long it takes to get your boobs “trained” – to figure out how much milk to produce at what time of the day? And how, in those early weeks, the boobs would overestimate and you’d be walking around rock solid? And remember how, at night, you’d go to sleep on your side and wake up with the under side of your breast a solid mass as all the milk settled into gravity? Good times.

That pre-clogged-duct feeling. Ah, yes. The point at which you’re wandering around absentmindedly massaging your underarm and breast in public in an effort to get those ducts moving again.

Lactating breasts need pressure. I call it the “race after the shower to get your bra on before your milk lets down from lack of pressure” dance. I don’t let down often in the shower, but step out of the water and start drying off and it’s like clockwork.

Trying to figure out what to wear every day. More on this later as I re-examine nursing in public, but for now, I’m once again enjoying that time when you stand in front of your closet and try to find something that affords easy access to nursing, is long enough to cover the post-partum belly, is wide enough to cover the post-partum belly, is generous enough to cover the milk boobs without popping a button, and oh yes, looks good with spit-up on it.

The vertical hold. I learned the vertical nursing hold when we discovered Madeleine had reflux. I do it now with Cora, fearing she has it as well, but I’d do it even if she didn’t – it’s such a great position. What other position does the baby burp herself in mid-feed??

Using the boppy for your own selfish ends
. Ok, I admit – I’ve figured out how to prop my kid up with the boppy and sling my arm around the back of her head, leaving my hands free to read a book while she eats. Sue me.

Finding the golden sleep point while nursing. All those middle-of-the-night feedings will kill you, especially if you can’t get right back to sleep. That’s when you have to learn to find your “doze balance”: the place where you can close your eyes and stay sleepy- maybe even doze- and hold on to your grogginess so you might plunge right back to dreamland, but not go so far that you actually go into a deep sleep and drop the baby. Harder than it sounds.

The nursing log book is your life. I will sit down, note the time and what side I’m supposed to start nursing on, put the book down, and not remember which side I’m supposed to start nursing on. I don’t know what I’d do without a log book. (See earlier blog for a place to buy one!)

Nursing is a great excuse to put your feet up. A simple, smug “Time to feed the baby,” and you’re off for a few minutes of peace and quiet. Unless, of course, you’ve got toddler duty as well, and that’s a whole different story.

Babies are very weird about their meals. I can’t be the only one whose kids “play” with their food. When my milk would let down, Maddie would start playing in it like a sprinkler, a sort of Flashdance with the water scene. Then there’s the whole “puppy wrestling with the shoe” thing that both girls do/did with the nipple, and the way Cora pounces on it like a baby tiger practicing capturing prey. Tell me I’m not the only one.

Nursing is one of the coolest things you’ll ever do. Call me hormonal, but there are times I really love it. The bonding time is priceless, and I feel like Superwoman for being able to do this amazing thing. You know exactly what I’m talking about.


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