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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lactivism

I breastfeed Lauren. But much as I am quietly a vegetarian, it's one of those things I try not to foist upon others. I'd rather lead by example, in both cases they are choices I made based upon my own beliefs about what is best for me (and Lauren). I would not presume to start a conversation with someone wherein I preach the wonders of either "lifestyle". And besides, for breastfeeding, some people can't do it, so imagine how bad they'd feel if people judged them for not doing it. But if asked, I'd tell you all about my experiences. So I'll pretend you asked.

I figured "why not try?" with breastfeeding. Not to mention, formula is so expensive! So a few minutes after Lauren was born, she latched on and started eating. And eating. And eating. She was a natural. No problems with her not gaining weight. The contrary, she is a nursing expert.
In fact, she nursed so much the first few days that she sucked a blister on one side of me, which started to bleed and caused me a lot of pain. I didn't know then that there is something called a nipple shield, which fits over your areola much like a bottle nipple, and protects from some of the pain. You have to visit a lactation consultant, who measures your areola and gives you the correct size. Evidently these used to be widely available at drugstores, but now require a healthcare provider's prescription.

I share this info with you because when I found out about them, I had a midnight journey around Los Angeles, visiting Sav-On, Rite-Aid, Albertsons, Vons, and finally Kaiser pharmacy, and then the labor & delivery section of Kaiser hospital (I had Lauren at UCLA but was also a Kaiser member), where I was by then in tears and in a lot of pain, bleeding through my bra, in vain search of this nipple shield. I was finally told that I needed to come back during 9-5 business hours and make an appointment with the lactation consultant. Anyway, once I got it the next day and used it for about a week, the blister healed and it was no big deal. No pain ever again. And no, even though Lauren has 8 teeth, she doesn't bite me. It's physiologically impossible for a baby to extract milk while simultaneously biting. She gets right down to business when she's given a chance to eat.

Anyway, she breastfed while I was on maternity leave, and then I bought a Medela Pump in Style pump on Craig's list to use at work. If you tell the nurses at the hospital that you're planning to nurse, they'll give you a set of hoses and attachments for a pump, for free. Then you can buy any used pump and put your own brand new, clean, sanitary attachments on. You're pretty much buying the motor and case. They're about $150 used or $300 new, iirc, and worth every penny.

When I was back at work, I pumped 3 times a day at first, then 2. Ryan was on paternity leave for the month of June, and then her grandmothers came up to babysit for the rest of the summer. They fed her the pumped milk in bottles. It's important to get the baby used to a bottle when they're...I forgot the exact age but it's in baby books...3 weeks, maybe? Before then, they'll get "nipple confusion" and after then, they will reject bottles and go on a hunger strike for the breast. Anyway, Lauren did just fine but I was a little TOO successful at pumping, and would come home every day with say, 30 ounces, and she'd eat only 15 or 20. (Am I making these numbers up? I can't remember specifics). I started freezing the rest in Medella bags. Lauren was gaining lots of weight, extremely healthy, and thriving. Meanwhile, I had a co-worker whose baby (a few weeks older than Lauren) was underweight and needed to have supplemental formula. We have the same pediatrician, so when I offered, the friend asked our doctor if her son could take my extra milk. The pediatrician thought it was a great idea, and the baby started gaining weight.

Eventually, though, I had too much milk even for both babies, so I found milkshare. Through this group on yahoo, I found someone with an adopted baby in Arizona, and donated some milk to them.

Brief rants: #1 It is a shame that in this country, breasts have become so sexualized that people freak out when they see them doing their natural purpose, with a baby attached and nursing. In most cases when you see a baby nursing in public, you see much less of a breast than you would, say, looking at a photo of Britney Spears in the tabloids on line at the grocery store.

#2 It is almost criminal how much milk banks charge for milk ($3 an ounce! An OUNCE!) and yet they get mothers to donate their milk for free, so someone is making a big profit out of people's altruism. So much better to directly find someone who wants your milk and just give it directly to them.

Okay, I could go on about this more but it's getting too long.

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