when last I left you, I was 6 weeks post partum and barely discovering breastfeeding didn’t have to be painful. Let’s dive back in.
As much as I hated to admit it, I wasn’t in fact doing everything right. Aspen had a shallow latch and I didn’t really know how to get around it. Some people say, nursing just comes naturally– this is my whole hearted response to those people:
A newborn mouth is like a bear trap, that thing will snap closed if you exhale too hard when they’re rooting, and it just about takes the jaws of life to get it back open if latched incorrectly. I decided if I was ever going to make it, I needed to go all in, stop pumping, and figure out this nursing thing. I mean, I didn’t want to end up like my sister…
I’ve said it before, my big sister Vonnita is my nursing idol, but she is also my nightmare. Neither of us ever had any example of breastfeeding, I’m pretty sure she is the first person I know who ever did. For some reason, it was really important to her, and I remember hearing from her all the miracles of breast milk when I was 13 and she had her first son. The tragedy is, my sister engorged horribly and didn’t figure out a proper latch with her first. Instead, she spent an entire year pumping.
Let me repeat: AN ENTIRE YEAR PUMPING!
If you have ever pumped, you know it is twice as much work and twice as time consuming as breastfeeding or formula. There are so many tiny intricate parts to clean every time baby needs fed, from the pump to bottles and nipples, then there is packing everything up whenever you go somewhere, waiting to finish pumping before you can feed your screaming child, sitting in rooms alone with a vacuum hooked up to your chest etc. There is no romanticizing it, pumping sucks and honestly, I’m much too lazy for that.
Then Vonnita had her second baby, a daughter, and unfortunately engorgement, cabbage leaves, and breast pump all ensued again. Let’s up that to TWO ENTIRE YEARS OF PUMPING!!! This woman is insane and genius. Don’t ever tell me or any of my sisters we can’t do something, that’s all I have to say about that.
Sweet baby number three and my sister was finally tired of pumping. She decided this was her last shot and she was going to figure this nursing thing out once and for all. With a lot of time and patience, and of course help and support from her husband, she was able to nurse her newborn son instead of pumping for the first year.
So, I have this major advocate, who wants so much better for her baby sister than she had for herself, offering me advice, supporting me, coming over to show me how things work and being my biggest cheerleader. I remember going to my sister’s house and her pushing me into a chair, surrounding me with 50 pillows to lay Aspen on and rest myself on, and then giving me the 2 extra hands I needed to get that bear trap latched on the right parts. Guess what we did next? Unlatch and repeat, as long as Aspen was content and not getting frustrated. Oh and you know how to unlatch your baby in two seconds without hurting anyone? Insert your pinky into his or her mouth at the corner, and while pressing between the gums, twist your finger at the same time. That easy.
I went home with a shred more confidence, but still needed some practice. I had family in town for the next two weeks, and honestly, pumping was easier during that time since it took so much attention to latch properly and typically 3-6 unlatches. I wasn’t about to show my dad my mammary glands, so I continued to pump with the promise that as soon as everyone went home, I wouldn’t pump again (unless completely away from my baby). That was December 10th, Aspen was 7 weeks old, and although it took a good 2-3 more weeks to perfect our skill, we never went back.
And it was so worth it.
[if you read this far, comment to tell me and I will send the first commenter a gift certificate for a soft cover book from Artifact Uprising]