Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I Feel Like Such a Boob

Reading all of the supportive comments in response to my breastfeeding posts, particularly the most recent one, has made me realize how lucky I am--lucky not only to have supportive friends who are able to put things into perspective when I am not, but lucky that I'm able to breastfeed as much as I am.

I've been able to reach a point where my daughter is about 75-85% breastfed, meaning that all of my pumping results in 4 oz. bottles that are either 3/4 milk and 1/4 formula or, on a good day, 100% milk. I still nurse her the old fashioned way in the morning and evening and give her part of a supplemental bottle afterward if she needs it. It's a cumbersome system with all of the pumping and storing and feeding and washing pump parts and bottles -- an occupation, really (gives a whole new meaning to the term boob job) -- but it works for now. I plan to take it one week at a time.

To gain some perspective on my situation, I contacted a good friend who had told me years ago about her problems breastfeeding her older son. It interested me only peripherally because I was drinking a glass of wine at the time and internally thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't pregnant.

It turns out our situations are almost identical, except she could only produce enough milk to comprise about 20% of her son's diet, which left me feeling like a boob for complaining. She took every desperate measure I did, plus one I refused to take: prescription Reglan. That stuff is scary. It increases prolactin, thereby decreasing dopamine, so its most common side effect is depression. It also carries a small risk, apparently, of side effects associated with antipsychotics: tics that don't go away even after discontinuation. My friend Mindy, a physician in Madison, WI, told me she knew of a boy on Reglan (for reasons other than milk production, duh) who developed tardive dyskinesia (google it). I don't mean to rip on women who've taken Reglan, but for me, avoiding it is a no-brainer. The idea that one should accept the risk of becoming a depressed mother just to produce "perfect" food is the very essence of wire-monkey thinking (see monkey post, below). When my friend had her second son and the very same supply problems immediately presented themselves, she started supplementing with formula weeks earlier and never looked back. She said her one regret was being so hard on herself and missing the chance to just enjoy her baby sooner. (Yes, I know, this is exactly what you've all been telling me.)

I also spoke to an acquaintance last week about her supply problems. She did everything I did to increase her milk supply, but get this: she was ready to throw in the towel after a few months of misery but her husband wouldn't let her. The sonofabitch was dead set on having an exclusively breastfed baby, so he put tremendous pressure on her to do/take/try whatever she could to produce more milk, including Reglan. Now, this woman is no wilting lily. She had her baby at the age of 41; she knows what she wants out of life. And she very nearly decided she wanted a divorce. Compared to her, I've got it soooo easy. My husband couldn't care less how much milk I produce; he just wants me to be happy. I could switch to formula tomorrow and he would probably be relieved. All of this crazy pressure I'm feeling is self-induced. Which, again, makes me feel like a boob.

Speaking of my husband, yesterday he made an observation that was profound in its simplicity. His father was raised on a dairy farm, so G knows more than the average guy about cows and milk. He said that milk supply in cows is genetic; the biggest producers are bred to create even bigger producers. And the variation is pretty wide; some cows don't produce enough to feed a calf, some produce just enough, and some produce way more. It's the Way Mores that are bred and re-bred to create cud-chewing milk factories. Farmers do what they can to increase the milk production of the less prolific cows, but there's only so much they can do. If milk production in mammals were just a matter of supply and demand, said G, farmers would rush to take advantage of that fact. They wouldn't be paying tens of thousands of dollars for champion milk producers. In other words, some animals are genetically wired to produce more milk than others. If that's true for cows, why not humans? Why am I being told again and again that I could produce gallons if only I'd try harder? That makes no sense. For believing every word of it, again, I feel like a boob.

Lastly, I feel like a boob for not investigating more thoroughly the research on breastfeeding versus formula feeding. I know how media representations of science are (mis)constructed. A study could show that breastfed babies have a 1% chance of developing asthma whereas formula-fed babies have a 2% chance, and the corresponding news article would shriek "Breastfeeding slashes asthma risk in half!" or "Formula feeding doubles asthma risk!" Both statements are technically true, but if we're talking 1% versus 2%, not 40% versus 80%, well, what's the big deal? From a public health perspective a single percent could make a big difference, but when it comes to Mommy and Daddy's Little N of 1, it doesn't matter much. And if taking pains to reduce that 2% risk to 1% renders Mommy borderline catatonic, she's lost sight of what really matters in parenting.

SO -- I think I get it now. Many thanks to all of you who've shown both cuddly love and tough love by telling me to go easy on myself and warning me not to miss the joy of this time by obsessing about stuff that really doesn't matter. I promise to stay away from The Breastapo and to avoid taking parenting advice from any person I wouldn't want as my own parent. (Sheesh, can you imagine how those cold, unforgiving, judgmental people treat their kids?)

Okay, I hear murmurs from the nursery, so I must run. Time to kiss the baby. :-)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you've got it! Or as G said there are Way Mores = me. I must have a family history of Milk Factory Cows in my life.Because it was just too easy , day three after giving birth I was shooting milk on everyone!LOL. The Ped weighted my son bfore feeding and after & he had drank 5 oz of milk at three days old! So I liked the Dairy Farmer point a lot! & Moo Moo.I must say I have noted that Fi is one of the neatest little babies I have ever seen! She looks polished , do you shine her ? And look at your house I have & it is tidy as well! Grr. This Champion Cow is thinking, how does Kris do that? Lots of love to you ,you are a great Mommy. Katie

4:31 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Thanks Katie, you are a sweetheart. Five ounces at 3 days old -- that's amazing! Not just that you made it but that he drank it!

Our house, I should say, is a mess. We do hire someone to come clean it once every two weeks, though, and that helps -- if only because it gets us to pick up before she arrives. :-)

6:25 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger PFG said...

I love the cow analogy. Really. It's brilliant. I am extremely happy you choose non depressive socially contrary mommy.

11:11 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger mreenymo said...

Wow, where was I with the Breastapo thing and the Boob thing (love the double entendre on the latter btw!)?? I guess I got busy and could not log on. So sorry!

Anyway, you are not a boob, bubblehead, bad mommy or whatever negative things you are calling yourself. You are a new mom and, simply put, under the best of circumstances, it's hard being a mom. Period!

Hugs and love!

2:43 PM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

The cow analogy is priceless.

Happy to hear that you are seeing the glass half full, and not half empty. (probably a poor pun too!)

9:49 AM, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous jonniker said...

Where are my comments? I am a dullard who can't use Blogger, apparently, for I can't comment properly.

Anyway, what I was going to say was that I keep trying to say something intelligent, but really, I'm too bowled over by the woman's HUSBAND who won't let her stop breastfeeding. Husband. Breastfeeding.

Not. Computing.

You are wonderful, however, and I'm happy things are turning around, in more ways than one.

7:24 PM, April 28, 2006  

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