when we were pregnant with ruth, we took a breastfeeding class and that was only three years ago. “why are we taking this class, again? aren’t you like a pro at this?” although often the intellectual, secure in his gender identity partner, greg can sometimes switch into high school guy locker room mode when you least expect it. the truth is, i am somewhat of a breastfeeding guru. that is to say, i breastfed ruth for a really freakin’ long time, much longer than i am willing to admit on this blog and, for a while, i even dabbled in breast milk donation. that said, breast feeding a toddler is much different than a baby, and especially a newborn, and even though after about a solid six months, ruth and i were working like clockwork, i remember struggling a lot at first. actually, i remember myself being consumed by it for a long time, where it seemed to take over my life when she was real small. i have a very vivid mental image of me, up in the middle of the night with a hungry and frantic ruth, trying to get her to latch on and being really unsuccessful and almost giving up. i can’t exactly remember what all the fuss was about, all the struggling, but i expect a lot of static this time around as well. so, i thought we should take a refresher course on what nursing a newborn is all about.
first of all, the entire philosophy seems to have shifted. whereas, three years ago, we were taught the different holds to try and how important breastfeeding is for this and that reason, now, the first hour to two hours of skin to skin contact is really emphasized. actually, it is emphasized more than ever in our child-birthing class as well as the breastfeeding class. it’s all about the skin to skin and that first bit of time outside the womb. now, they are saying, forget the holds, put your newborn on your chest between your breasts and let him/her find their own way to your breast and initiate breastfeeding. i guess the success rate is so much better if it is baby-led. before, we were taught to squish our breast into a “breast sandwich” and basically put it into their mouth. now, they are telling us to just lay back, place the baby tummy down on our chests and let them find the nipple on their own. i guess once they are there, we can modify the hold, because they still talked about the football hold and different holds and stuff.
the lady who taught it this time, happened to be a young mom herself who was very blunt and not shy and stood up in front of the class with a very realistic-looking fake boob and showed us all how to self-milk if we are ever stranded without relief. this is good! last time, it was an elderly lactation consultant, who was very knowledgeable, but didn’t come at the whole breastfeeding issue with as much gusto as this lady. i mean, she even took a break and pumped in front of the class for her nine month old! (she was wearing a cover). but still! one of the biggest problems for breastfeeding moms is that it’s so publicly frowned upon as indecent and weird. and, when your kid is like ruth and constantly falls off the breast or lifts up the cover, flashing everyone your boobies, it is really difficult to breastfeed in public places.
in any case, my enthusiasm for breastfeeding was restored by this lady as she went over all of the benefits of breastfeeding to babies (their brains), moms (their bodies and mental states), society (healthier babies, therefore, lower health care costs), and the planet (no waste from bottles and formula containers), and i feel like i was taken back to those early days and weeks with ruth in my mind. i am remembering what a newborn is and what life with one is all about for the first while. establishing breast feeding, basically. always being naked, skin to skin, holding them, being near them, reading their cues, basically mimicking life in the womb: warm, comfortable, food readily available ( this is why i rarely left the house right after she was born. i was always topless). don’t let that stop you, however, from dropping by for a visit. i promise to put a shirt on. see how special you are? i would do that for you.
the only other thing i noticed that was a bit different was the sleepers they now give you to wrap them with in the hospital. when ruth was born, it was the sleep sack, which looked like a fleece tank top on top and a roomy bag for the feet. now, they give you a modified version with two flaps that you can wrap around their shoulders and arms to calm them, or around their torsos for extra security. interesting how fast things change.
“i’m really glad we went to that,” greg said in the car on our way home, looking a bit dazed himself, remembering what newborns are like, i think, and how intense breastfeeding can be. both of us realize our potential mistakes with ruth, first of all, having a medicated birth, not having her skin to skin for any length of time right away, and trying to initiate feeding instead of letting her do it. this time, hopefully, things will start off more smoothly. and hopefully joel won’t be as angry a baby as ruth was, or as stubborn. i don’t have high hopes for this, having greg and i as parents and being another taurus sign birthday. but, you never know who it is coming down the pike. we’ll have to wait and see.