Friday, 25 January 2013

The Dangers Of Breastfeeding

I love newborn babies.

I love them so much.

I love the way the look, and the way they smell, and the way they cuddle right into the crook of your neck.

I love them so much that every once in a while I think I maybe want another one. 

And then I remember how much I like being the only person who owns my boobs.

I'm a big believer in breastfeeding. Not because it's good for the baby, or because it promotes mother-baby bonding or because it can prevent breast cancer. Forget all that. That's just noise.

What breastfeeding is really good for is SUCKING UP EXTRA CALORIES SO YOU CAN EAT YOUR WEIGHT IN BROWNIES. If I hadn't breastfed all four of my kids, I would be competing for my own bedsheet-draped-remote-interview-from-my-hospital-bed on Jerry Springer by now. I have approximately four years of breastfeeding under my belt, which means that in those four years I could eat (or so I thought) virtually everything in my path. That's not entirely true, which has led to some weight issues (See 'Body Mass and Shame'), but that's a whole different topic.

I don't know that men realize just how awful breastfeeding is. I was one of those moms who started doing it for all the wrong reasons (namely, I eat a lot of granola and have been known to cry over dead trees) and I very quickly realized just how irritating it is to not be the sole proprietor of one of your body parts.

Imagine, if you will, walking down an icy sidewalk with groceries in either hand, and suddenly having a loud, demanding, crying homeless man run up, knock the groceries to the ground, and grab your arms because it's his turn to use them. Or piloting an airplane and crashing it into the Andes because the flight attendant in jump seat 2 needed your eyes for a few minutes. Or filling up your car with gas, getting it washed, waxed, and detailed for a night out on the town, and having your next door neighbor insist on taking the car, throwing up all over it, giving it a really good dent on the way back into the driveway, and telling you to hurry back in two hours so he can do it all over again.

The bitterness you may have detected in the preceding statements is part of the reason why women pump breast milk. Because it's nice for the dads to get up every once in a while for the four a.m. feeding. Because sometimes you don't want any more spit up INSIDE your bra. And because you want to spend one evening getting a little drunk in a formal gown without having to whip out a boob in front of your co-workers and ring the dinner bell.

Although our first babies were 100% breastfed, with Squid, Jason and I had made a point of allowing (forcing) him to have a bottle of formula every day in order to keep him interested in breastfeeding, but allowing for the possibly that there were going to be some occasions where I simply couldn't feed him. Where Squid was OK with this compromise, Eva was not. She could be forced to drink out of a bottle, if said bottle wasn't being held by me, but no way in HELL was she drinking that horrible formula. (I don't blame her. Taste the stuff. It's right up there with paint thinner and dog vomit.)

As a consequence, I got very good at pumping. We do a lot of driving to and from the Crowsnest Pass, as that is where all of our kids attend camp, and counsel camp, and volunteer at camp, and attend camp reunions, so Jason and I decided to invest in a really good, portable, you-can-power-it-with-the-cigarette-lighter-in-your-car breast pump.

This thing was awesome. It pumped the equivalent of 3000 Holsteins worth of milk every nanosecond. It had super high-powered suction so that not only would it stay on while you drove, but would vacuum you to your seat without the aid of a seatbelt. It even had a fancy little attachment that allowed you to switch out bottles in the middle of pumping in case baby was REALLY hungry and couldn't wait any longer. In short, it was cool. Not 'show the neighbors' cool, but cool nonetheless.

In preparation for our camping trip that year, which was a five hour drive from the house (and as far as I was capable of travelling with a two month old, a five year old, and two teenagers), I pumped enough milk to get us through the drive, and a few extras to throw in the freezer when we got there. If I stuck one teenager next to each little kid in the van, we might not even have to actually stop. (Jason doesn't enjoy stopping. I have driven past more historic sights and roadside attractions than I can count, and Squid has learned how to pee in a water bottle).

We started Eva off with a really good feeding before we put her in her carseat, and placed a brand new bottle beside her for when she got hungry again, as the kid ate like clockwork every two hours.

With the perfect timing that is the hallmark of every infant everywhere, Eva promptly fell asleep, and chose that very day to have her first five hour long nap. About 45 minutes from our destination, she woke up, realized it had been five hours, and LOST it, demanding to be fed. To wait until she was screaming hysterically with hunger was cruel to the other campers, as we would be pulling in to our site around midnight, and pulling over on the single lane highway was not an option.

I congratulated myself on my foresight and planning, dug out the spare milk, and realized that the only actual bottle we remembered to bring was the one sitting beside Eva, currently full of warm, five hour old, probably poisonous, milk that had been sitting in direct sunlight since we left town. Although we had tons of those little freezer bags of milk, we had no delivery system.

Luckily, I hadn't completely finished my bottle of water, and we realized that all we needed to do was dump the old milk, rinse the baby bottle, refill, and our problem was solved. Liz passed the old bottle up to the front of the van, and (have I mentioned Jason did not like to stop on the way out camping?), in full view of the hot guy in the red sports car behind us, I rolled down the window, opened the bottle of milk, and poured.

At 110 kilometers an hour.

As it dawned on me what I had done, there was a scream from the backseat of the van. The breast milk, after flowing down the side of the van and coating the middle window with a opaque film of life-giving goodness, had found the path of least resistance, and (fortunately, by then much reduced in volume), REentered the van through the open back window, splattering Squid with the dregs of Eva's uneaten, curdled dinner. Luckily, by leaving the back window open, we had avoided having that extra milk coat the windshield of the hot guy in the car behind us, blinding him, and causing him to drive off the road into a ditch. I was grateful for that much, but I have to tell you, throwing bodily fluids at him didn't do a lot for the 'flirt with the 20 year old hottie in the sports car' portion of my evening.

I can only assume that it was new-mommy hormones and sleep deprivation that led to the debacle, but when the sun rose the following morning and illuminated the side of the van, revealing the sheer QUANTITY of milk I had poured out the window and left to dry in the night, I couldn't help but be impressed. That was one hell of a breast pump.

Yeah. On second thought, I don't love babies all THAT much.

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