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.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What's It Gonna Be? Wire or Fur?

Yesterday I was telling a friend about Harry Harlow's famous (or infamous, if you're an animal rights activist) research on primate development. I explained to her that Harlow was intrigued with love. He started the Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison at a time when behaviorism was in its heyday. The behaviorists maintained that there was no such thing as love, that "love" was actually conditioning: We love Mother because she gives us food. What appeared to be some transcendent state of mind and heart was, according to the behaviorists, merely attachment motivated by base physical drives such as hunger, thirst, and the need for warmth.

Harlow believed that love was something more than conditioning. He set up experiments to test the effects of removing baby monkeys from their mothers (cruel, I know). He constructed surrogate mothers of wire and fur. The wire mothers had milk; the fur mothers did not. If "love" were merely instrumental, the babies should have spent most of their time feeding at the wire monkey. Instead, they spent almost all of their time with the fur monkey, even when they were hungry. Only when the hunger became extreme did they move to the wire monkey, and then only long enough to feed. When the fur monkey had food, they never visited the wire monkey.

As I was describing this research I had something of an epiphany. I realized that this crazy treadmill I'm on -- feed, pump, pump, take herbs to boost milk supply, pump, feed, fret about not producing enough breast milk, leave the baby in the swingy chair to pump some more -- is causing me to shed my fur. People keep telling me to leave behind the pump and just nurse around the clock for a week to boost my supply, but I have a history of depression, and sleeplessness has kept me skating on the surface of it since my daughter's birth. I'm afraid to cut back on what little sleep I'm getting for fear it'll plunge me into the depths of a deep, black emptiness. And what if I have to keep nursing like that to keep up my supply? In short, I fear that going to the extremes necessary for me to give my daughter an all-milk diet will turn me into that catatonic wire monkey: The milk's there, but the love isn't.

I told my friend this and she said that's why she gave up pumping altogether. By three months she found it absurd that she was nursing her child and then setting him down to go pump when she could have been holding and loving him. My friend said to hell with it, tossed the pump, nursed until she was empty and then supplemented with formula until her child was content. A few weeks later she transitioned to formula exclusively and hasn't looked back. She knew what was needed to save her sanity and to maximize her opportunity to build a close, loving relationship with her child.

I think I'm going to have to make a choice soon. When that time comes, I know what I have to do. I choose to be the fur monkey.

9 Comments:

Blogger NowSmellThis said...

K, sending hugs to you, and some very trite advice: the best thing you can do for your baby is to be as happy and well rested and relaxed as is possible. Whatever you have to do to get there, do.

And LOL -- you know I didn't take that advice when I was the mother of a newborn. Who can think straight when they're so freaking tired?

9:25 AM, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous jonniker said...

People tell you that you "should" do this, or "should" do that, and frankly, I'd like to give them all a good, swift kick right in the ass. Now, I'm not a mother, and I don't know shit about feeling the breastfeeding pressure, but I'm downright bullshit at the people who are giving you the "shoulds" and demanding that you see more lactation specialists, and do more and more work around the whole shebang when really, it's not working for you, and so what?

You are the most loving fur monkey ever, and I swear, by all that I believe is right, I can't believe that much more than that matters. That having a happy, loving mom isn't more important than anything. Do you have any idea how many people I know who I have this same conversation with? You are *so* not alone.

Be the fur monkey, man. Or you could be winnew, which is my word verification. It sounds like something Very Important that holds things together, doesn't it?

10:30 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Many thanks, R and J. Funny, the lactation consultant I saw yesterday was telling me the same thing, that it's NOT about how much milk is going down your kid's gullet but about feeding your kid as well as you can while maintaining your well-being and enjoying your time with her.

J -- love your observation about "winnew." My word is "acjumea." I think of it as a cousin to chutzpah. I need to have the acjumea to be the winnew in my daughter's life. Or, as you said, "Be the fur monkey, man."
:-)

p.s. Feeling lucid these days?

12:50 PM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Bela said...

*just nodding* :-)

2:01 PM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Parisjasmal said...

Oh K,

You are so wise. Please take all precautions with the depression thing. It is so cruel, and your hormones are all askew.
I echo what the other wise women have said.
Be kind to yourself.

My word is gbeavfu....I am assuming what Wally would have loved to yelled at the Beaver when he was being a self righteous little tattle tale--G Beav, F.U.!

xo
Jen

7:14 AM, April 12, 2006  
Blogger PFG said...

Glad you're thinking fur monkey!

10:17 PM, April 12, 2006  
Anonymous Sue said...

From one "fur monkey" to another, here's my advice. Transition to formula when you're ready, and don't waste time feeling guilty about it. You're not producing enough milk, and the attempts at production are leaving you exhausted/depressed/drained. Formula is meant for mothers like you (and me, who didn't even have so much of a production issue -- I just hated breastfeeding, which is not something a new mom is supposed to admit).

Doing the breastfeeding/pumping thing round-the-clock left me nearly insane from sleep deprivation and an awful tired, drained, headachey feeling I'd get while nursing or pumping. I'd had depression issues in the past as well, and I felt I was on the verge of going down that slippery slope once again, this time aided by hormonal swings. I finally just said "screw it!" and gradually tapered off the breastfeeding. Ahh, the bliss of being able to hand off baby to anyone capable of holding a bottle! The freedom of having hubby do the 3 a.m. feeding. The delight of being able to go braless while sleeping, and not having to worry about leakage. The blessed relief of finally getting a full night's sleep. It was the right decision for me. Maybe not for every mom, but for me, it was right. And it was nobody else's business but mine.

Most of the women (and men, for that matter) in our generation were bottle fed, not breast fed, and we turned out OK. Formula is not poison, it's a nutritionally balanced diet for an infant. My two thrived on it -- and they also slept through the night sooner than most exclusively breastfed infants I knew.

Please stop guilting yourself, hon. You are a GREAT mom. Good parenting means taking care of yourself, as well as the little one.

5:53 PM, April 15, 2006  
Blogger Lulu said...

I agree with Sue. Like most of my friends of my age, I was breastfed for 3 weeks and then was switched to formula (a typical 60s baby). I am still big and bouncing (!), sufficiently intelligent without being genius level, and have had no major diseases despite my mum being in her late 30s when she had me. My mum says she was told at the time that the first couple of weeks of breast milk were the main thing.

12:33 PM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

^^^^what they said!!

here ends the public service announcement by the drop the guilt branch of motherhood :)


UC

4:45 PM, April 20, 2006  

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