Fri 17 Nov 2006
so…i’ll shut up about New York soon, i promise. but i will mention, before i close the subject of The Very Exciting Trip, that taking a breast pump around the Big Apple wasn’t nearly as fun as one might imagine.
we’ve come a long way in the past generation, regarding feeding options for babies. in most parts of the Western world public breastfeeding is no longer repressed as an act of wantonness akin to pole-dancing, which is nice. breastfeeding in front of strangers is still a little awkward and/or discomfiting for many mamas, sure, but it’s less likely to raise vocal hackles from random passers-by than is bottle-feeding, in fact. in the swing of the pendulum that accompanies so many aspects of our knee-jerk culture, it’s socially acceptable (if persnickity) now to openly criticize a mother for not breastfeeding, whereas it’s seen as mildly Neanderthal to chide her for doing so. limited progress, methinks…but perhaps progress all the same, even if it merely shows that our modern minds can now once again handle the age-old fact that breasts’ primary purpose is suckling.
pumping, however, doesn’t quite fall under the amnesty that breastfeeding now receives. whipping out a teat in downtown Manhattan to suckle a plastic pump and thus keep the mammaries primed for baby feeding? that can getcha a citation for public nudity, a bunch of weird looks, and a brand reading “shameless hussy” burnt onto one’s forehead. or at least i think it can. except for a few brief and unproductive squeezes under my sweater and two layers of down jacket in the corner of a near-empty Korean restaurant, i was too shy to try during this last visit.
which meant i needed bathrooms. private, closed-door spaces where i wouldn’t be flashing my endowments and stretch marks at everyone in a fifteen-foot radius.
now, New Yorkers were a lot nicer than i’d expected. and the city – subways aside – was cleaner and far less Gotham-esque than pop culture had led me to expect, but the public washroom situation still left some civility to be desired. when i could find a private stall in which to sequester myself and get the milk flowing, it was usually decorated with overflowing garbage and the piquant scent of urine. if it was terribly nice and posh, i was usually rushing…or worse, occupying a single toilet while a line of New Yorkers queued outside. apparently, i should carry a little sign reading “Mom Pumping Breasts” to post on the door of such establishments: the colorful comments coming from outside the door while i held up the line were enough to shrivel my milk supply. apparently, pumping wasn’t quite what they imagined i was doing. ;)
basically, pumping is a pain in the ass…particularly when one is away for three days in the most fabulous city on the continent, and the place one is staying is an hour’s subway ride from the cafe/theatre/restaurant/boutique/park/museum/monument that one happens to be near at that moment.
and i’d never intended to pump in New York. back when the Trip was planned, i was having serious milk supply issues and no guarantee i’d even still be nursing Oscar by November. i thought, if i was, that it would be a logical time to wean.
but as the date of departure grew closer, i got cold feet. O doesn’t nurse all that often – four times a day, most days, with at least two of those feedings supplemented by formula (we never did quite work our way back to a full milk supply). but i like nursing him. i like the convenience of it, particularly in the mornings when i’m exhausted and zombie-like: having milk means i can retrieve my dear boy from his crib and crawl back in under my nice warm covers with him for another few minutes of prone stupor, and snuggling. these are precious minutes, from all perspectives. i’m not quite ready to give them up…plus i figure the extra antibodies and other unidentified goodness he’s getting from the breastmilk are worth a few minor irritations. so i pumped my way through NYC, and am teaching him to be gentle with the teeth that are cropping up, top and bottom, through his gums. we may do this awhile yet. i do not have an end date in mind.
despite all this, though, i know i’m no poster child for breastfeeding…and i don’t really want to be. i’m delighted that O and i have managed to muddle our way through it, but it hasn’t been the picture postcard of madonna and Gerber baby that i’d been led to expect. before Oscar was born, if you’d told me that formula would be a steady part of my son’s diet from the time he was seven weeks old, i would have been indignant. and i would, i think, have projected myself a failure as a mother, at least in the eyes of society. and i think that‘s sad.
i don’t think there’s enough frank conversation out there about the reality of feeding infants – the challenges, the miseries, the flexibility of options really available. sure “breast is best”, and i’m glad i’ve been able to offer much of that to my son. but like any simple maxim, “breast is best” leaves a lot of the story unspoken.
so why don’t you tell us the rest of the story? join us tomorrow morning, Saturday November 18th at 10 am EST, for a cribcast about feeding and what worked and what sucked…pun intended. :) moms who’ve breastfed, bottlefed, and run the gamut of options in between will be here to share how their stories unfolded, and why, and what kind of surprises and reactions they got along the way. if your babies were weaned twenty years ago, or were born last week, doesn’t matter. if they’ve never seen a boob, or if you’re still breastfeeding them at four, fill us in on your choices. Skype Cribchronicles to participate, or check out the chat room which will magically appear here on the site at 10 am tomorrow.