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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Let's Panic

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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« Hey, dawn? I got a rosy finger for you RIGHT HERE. | Main | Also, I have no iridescent plumage. »
Tuesday
Jun292004

And now, some words about my boobs.

When I was pregnant, I was all about the attachment parenting. I thought Dr. Sears was neat-o. Yes! I will sleep with my child until he’s 23! No, I will never let him cry alone in a cold, dark room! I will wear him in a sling, also until he’s 23! (23 will be a hard year for him, but hopefully his career will provide a distraction.) I will Nurse Him Down and Night-time Parent and we will be so attached, our skin will fuse together and we’ll be conjoined and then we’ll need surgery. And I will nurse, oh how I will nurse! Yes, attachment parenting—yes I said yes I will yes.

The various tenets of Attachment Parenting were kicked to the curb by the time Henry was a few months old. The sling caused searing neck and back pain. Pain wasn’t mentioned in the Attachment Parenting rulebook. We stopped sleeping with Henry after I rolled over when he was asleep on my chest, causing him to slide off me and plummet to the floor. (Luckily, we were at my parents’ house, where they were wise enough to carpet their rooms in a deep, plush pile.) We began letting him cry it out (no angry emails, please! I’m sensitive!) because after a few months, he would not fall asleep if we were in the room. Would not. We tried and tried. We rocked and joggled him. He glared at us. We crooned lullabies. He found them hilarious—and stimulating. So we put him in his crib, or “prison,” as Dr. Sears put it somewhere or another, and he cried for a bit, then he fell asleep. Maybe he was more comfortable feeling like a convict.

But then, the nursing. How I wanted to nurse. I could laugh off most of Dr. Sears’ pronouncements, but not the chapters on nursing. When I was pregnant, I read book after book on the subject. Scott and I attended a breastfeeding class (where we watched a Nordic filmstrip featuring—I would never joke about such things—beautiful Scandinavians tweaking and massaging their nipples, all in the name of milk production). We practiced with foam boobs and rubber dolls. I had it down. I had a midwife who happened to be, and this is fact, Paulina Porizkova’s mother, and since she was hot, I figured my first post-birth nursing would be just like we saw in the movie—a gorgeous blond goddess helping me guide my engorged teat into the baby’s waiting lips, the milk flowing like the Hardanger Fjord.

As it turned out, after delivery my midwife was engaged in all kinds of postnatal unpleasantries. So when Henry was ready for his first snack, the nurse was the one who helped us out. And although I had done all the reading there was to do, although I had watched the soft-core breastfeeding film and practiced with the foamy boob, I laid there quietly while I watched this nurse twist my nip into some crazy point and shove Henry on in the wrong way, at the wrong angle; everything about it was all wrong. But I had just given birth and I was as helpless and weak as a newborn kitten, and Henry was getting something, so I said nothing. Then he was whisked away for warming and measuring, and I got an eyeful of my poor, poor nipple. And it was bleeding. Hey, nurse! Thanks! You suck!

Thus began four months of such pathetic, painful breastfeeding that even Dr. Sears would have reached out a fuzzy-parenting paw and handed me a bottle. First there was the bleeding, and the pain, dear God, the blinding pain. Then there was jaundice, which lasted and lasted, which caused Henry to sleep the days away and barely eat. So my milk supply dwindled, despite all the pumping. Then I was told he had a weak suck, and we did all kinds of insane mouth exercises. Then I was told he had a high palate. And he wasn’t gaining enough, so I had to supplement and pump more. Then, adding even more pain to the pain, I developed a YEAST INFECTION in my MILK DUCTS—which, unlike the yeast infections in the ol’ down below, causes searing, shooting hot daggers of pain, causing you to CRY OUT and CLUTCH YOUR BOOBS, often in public. And Henry had ideas about where to suck! And it was never anywhere near my nipple! I’d have to wrench his head in the right direction, and I learned that infants are strong little buggers. I would be sweating and cursing and crying and trying to just get him on the damn nipple, THAT’S WHERE THE FOOD IS, and he’d be all, “You’re not listening! It’s over there, by the armpit, I just know it!”

Throughout it all, my milk supply remained somewhere below a trickle. I pumped, I drank Mother’s Milk tea until I wanted to throw up, I took herbs that tasted a little worse than ass, I pumped more, and still, Henry would have a few halfhearted sucks, and then pull off to look up at me like, “Okay, this is cute, but seriously, where’s lunch?” Everyone thought I should stop nursing--everyone but Sexy Midwife, who was so hot that I figured her opinion meant more, right? I was convinced giving up would brand me a Failure as a Mother. Dr. Sear’s Baby Book told me that formula would make my son a bumbling half-wit (I may be exaggerating), and I cried and cried. I live in Park Slope, where the ratio of Women Nursing to Everyone Else is, at any given moment, 3:1. I would be shunned. Rocks would be thrown. Henry would grow up to learn how I had failed him, and he would struggle to forgive me. I had become a little nuts.

Then his four-month doctor’s appointment came, and I learned that he was only 11 pounds and hadn’t gained an ounce all month, and BAM, just like that, I gave it all up. I packed away the boobs, I set the pump on fire, I bought the formula. I wiped away my tears. And in the months that followed, I watched Henry change from a gaunt skritchy infant with visible cheekbones to a plump-cheeked, laughing baby who, miracle of miracles, no longer cried for hours every night. And I wasn’t even the least bit shunned. Although, while he was still using bottles, I made it a point to avoid Norway.

Reader Comments (50)

My boobs understand... I tried for 5 months. My son could snack, but never get enough. He really didn't care either, he just isn't a boob man. If there is a child 2.0 in my future I'm sure I will try again, but if it doesn't work I refuse to beat up on myself. I guess our boobs aren't made for milking.
June 30, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterJess
The pathetic thing is that I wanted to breastfeed partly because we can barely afford diapers let alone formula. So I'm glad the thingies worked. It was hellish though and in my super sentimental mode following recent birth I am horrified by the thought of baby suffering. Breastfeeding shows me that lots of babies might not make it without formula. Babies should be fat and happy.

I still wonder how humans made it at all since we are pretty much a sitting ducks as prey for wild animals when breastfeeding.

I'm still at it and have discovered that the fact I occasionally pass out from breastfeeding can come in handy when I have insomnia.

And since we come from the hordes of overeducated poor of the greater eastern seabord (i.e., good at school, not at work) and so have a one bedroom apartment, attachment parenting is pretty much all we can do. I'd like to pat myself on the back for it but there isn't enough room in our bed for movement.

Yes, there is a breastfeeding conspiracy. Or just a motherhood conspiracy altogether that makes us bad mothers somehow no matter what we do.
July 1, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterMiel
I relayed your last comment to my spouse and now, no amount of information to the contrary will convince him that Paulina herself didn't touch your hoo-ha.

He's still thinking about it now.

So predictable.
July 1, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa S
I haven't had the pleasure of breastfeeding yet, but my mom loves to tell complete strangers that I bit off part of her nipple while breastfeeding. And she always follows that story by turning to me and warning me that I need to "rough them up" (my nipples) if I ever decide to give her grandchildren. How the hell do you "rough them up"! I haven't worked up the nerve to ask her yet.
July 1, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterWindyLou
Hoo-ha? Isn't that a chocolately drink? You let Paulina Porizkova's mom touch your chocolately drink? You can get germs that way, you know.
July 1, 2004 | Unregistered Commentersac
Yes, I touched Alice's chocolately drink. Is that what they're calling it now?
July 1, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterSexy Midwife
I, too, grew to despise Dr. Sears. Not because I couldn't breastfeed--I could, actually, and did, actually--but because he's a judgemental pig who preaches about acceptance and bonding and sweetness and light, and then lays down iron-clad rules about what makes you OK as a mom. Bah.

Iron-clad rules are stupid. People who define whether or not you're a good parent based on one aspect of your life--be it whether you work or how you feed or where your child is schooled--are stupid. And there are a lot of stupid people out there.

Breastfeeding can be an amazing thing. My second child breastfed until he was almost two-and-a-half, and would have continued indefinitely if I hadn't needed to take some medications I'd rather him not ingest. But does that make me a better mother than you? No freaking way. It's not about comparisons. It's about what's best for both of you. What you do is your business, not mine.

I'll make you all a deal. You all don't gawk at me disapprovingly the next time I (metaphorically, of course, since I'm no longer in the baby-making game) put a child to my breast in a public place, and I'll smile at you warmly when you take a bottle out of your diaper bag. Because, really, we're both just doing what we need to do, right?
July 1, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterTiny Coconut
yeast in the ducts (thrush) feels like ground glass inside your boobs, squeezing its way out. that's the only way i can describe it. fucking terrible.i'm so sorry that you had to suffer for so long. its funny, now that my kids are older, its a lot easier to make mommy friends. no more debates about circumsision, cloth vs. disposible, breast vs. bottle, etc. all that stuff that just fades into the background and the kids are their own people and not just experiments in parenting.but...then your son moons somebody's daughter and then you get all of your supposed morals and values evaluated for you all over again. crap.

July 1, 2004 | Unregistered Commenteraurora
We spend so much of our hormone-addled youth ogling and pursuing and objectifying your lovely jubblies, and then we marry and procreate and see how they nurture life, often beset by plugged ducts and mastitis and yeast infections (?!) and such, and we see an old friend rebounding from a prophylactic double mastectomy she got in her mid-30s, and we feel like such a dick.

That said, a hot Paulina nursing at her hot mama must have made for some hot girl-on-girl action.
July 1, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
sac, i totally agree.

i had a helluva time getting past that fact. let's just say i discovered the only joy of puberty to many, many posters and pictures of paulina.

and for the record, i am terribly thankful that nobody is ever gonna feed off my nipples.



July 1, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mighty Jimbo
God, the sad thing is that giving birth is so wildly unsexy that even if Paulina was the patient and Claudia Schiffer the midwife it would just not be hot. Britney and Beyonce could not make it hot. Hoo-ha touching in childbirth is just a whole 'nother kind of hoo ha touching.

But I do remember my husband staring in fascination as the super hot young nurse squeezed my nipples as she was teaching me to breastfeed. (Hundreds of strange and occasionally babelike women touched my tatas that week.) I wanted to ridicule him but I was too tired.
July 2, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterMiel
Y'all, I'm jumping in late here, but it is obvious to me that the reason so many of you have trouble feeding is ANNE STOLE ALL THE MILK.

Dang. Three years? Really?

(our kids - adopted, and my wife didn't have the, ahem, pleasure of breastfeeding.)

Oh, and on the Paulina thing? Way cool. You're like two degrees from one of the hottest women on the planet.
July 2, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterben
Just littering up your comments somemore to applaud Tiny Coconut! Here, here!!
July 2, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterJae
Thank you Jae, and ditto tiny coconut!

I too went in the opposite direction--I turned into an attachment parenting fool, but not because I thought that was the way to go until my extreme laziness pointed up the convenience. No way was I going to walk all over the damn house to find my kids at mealtimes. And with round-the-clock medication for the middle child... yeah, right, he's staying right here, thanks.

As it turned out, I breastfed all three children into toddlerhood, but I believe that it was partly a function of having extremely cooperative anatomy. My breasts got with the program, and it only got easier with each baby. In fact, my last two were nursed almost exclusively on one side because the other was so stingy. I nursed even though I had numerous yeast infections and three or four rounds of mastitis, and no, I am not a crazy person. My second son nearly died of a heart infection, so I was all over nursing him for as long as he'd have it, but that was an easy decision because breastfeeding was easy for me. You absolutely made the right decision, and I would NEVER insinuate that formula is second rate. A happy, thriving baby is the goal here, not moral superiority.

Once I got past the first ten hellish weeks with the oldest, nursing became my favorite way to hang out with my babies. My family speculated that I must put out chocolate milk because my kids never wanted to wean, but now I think it must be crack. My daughter actually begs for it. "Mommy, don't say no, I neeeeeed mama!" She is now two and a half, and she has never had a bottle. Ever. And not because I'm some kind of La Leche fanatic, noooooo. It's because she is the most stubborn little freak on the planet, and she would wait ten hours for me to come home from work every day rather than let silicone pass her lips. Sure, I haven't slept through the night in six years, and my poor nipples are three times their original size, but... where was I going with this?

*wanders off to bed*
July 2, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterMindy
Can't believe I'm chiming in for a second comment here, but I'd have to say: strange as it may seem, even though I nursed for 3 years 4 months, I was never interested in LLL either, because (and I don't want to overgeneralize and damn everyone who associates with the group) my feeling is that they had some judgmental dogma going on there and I wanted no part of it. Anyone who makes life harder for mamas is not down with my crew. And I feel the same way about the Sears clan with their hygienic, angelic swarm of charming children that they're forever telling sweet AP anecdotes about. There's some sexist shit going down there, and I feel that we did, and do, attachment-parent, too. If having a child in your bed is gonna make you crazy suicidal from sleep deprivation, or if it doesn't suit your child's sleeping style, then no one should be giving you a hard time about keeping them in their own bed. But a 'modified' family bed works for us, and I do it because it really is my choice and preference, and because it suits my child's temperament--not because it's the only way.
July 3, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterjilbur
I think I had something marginally relevant to add here, but now I am laughing too hard from Mindy's comment....

Also? I had mastitis SEVEN TIMES while nursing my second... and because it had gone so easily with nursing my first, I just charged along, figuring it was no biggie and we'd work it out. Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick, why didn't anyone slap me upside the head with a can of formula and bring me to my senses?? There are all kinds of post-partum mothering stupidity out there. None of us should suffer so over what we think we "should" do. I'm with Jilbur, anything that isn't all about mothers supporting each other and getting whatever kind of support they need is just useless and ohsowrong.
July 3, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterMir
And I actually found breastfeeding a lot of fun. And did it a lot. Every 2 hours when she was 3 months old. Because her tummy was a disaster area, and she was bleeding into her nappy and in pain.

After quite a few investigations, it turned out she was allergic to breasmilk...

They don't mention this is possible, do they?
July 4, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterIzabela
Yeesh! Allergic to breast milk!I have not had a chance to try breast feeding yet, and in my callow youth I had an opinion about it (I will do it because it is RIGHT), but now approaching 34 and praying that I don't have to start an infertility blog, I'm much more mellow.

What about ye olde wetnurse? Isn't that the role of formula? I know that there were women who wet nursed their children out, but I imagine there were also women who found breastfeeding as difficult as we do in the current era. As far as attachemnt goes, I'm way more in favor of the bottle than a wet nurse who lives in a filty hovel and keeps your kid for 3 years.

Sarah
July 5, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I type this with one hand since my boy is in my other arm latched on to my boob feeding.

I too, have a love/hate relationship with Dr. Sears; at first I thought he was so wise and where it was at -- but after having my kid all I could think was, "Yeah, right Sears!"

I've only been breast feeding for 3 weeks and I have to tell you, I hate it. My nipples feels as though they are going to fall off, I have a painful overactive milk let-down reflex which basically means whenever my hind milk comes in, it feels like pins and needles in my breast and my poor kid gags and chokes with so much milk.

It took me a while to realize that a lot of my difficulties stemmed from my milk let-down. It wasn't until I stumbled across an iVillage article that I realized what was going on.

No one really tells you these things, or truly warns you of the pain -- not LLL that's for sure. They are so damned one-sided, I felt that if I tried talking to them, their only advice would be to keep nursing NO MATTER WHAT.

Me:"Hi, my boobs are falling off and oozing blood..."

LLL:"Oh, that's normal. Just keep breast feeding!"

There is really a need for a non-judgemental agency/resource that can help mothers with breast feeding issues. Someone who will offer more advice than just sticking it out.
July 5, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterAlex
Just wanted to point out, I've never met a LLL person who was that evil... honest! Only met one though, so maybe the rest are evil.

We all fear judgement so much that we have trouble asking for help. I lucked in. After telling the public health nurse/lactation consultant that "everything was fine" at the home visit (they send one around a few days after the birth here in Ontario), I called her back to admit that No, everything was NOT fine, and could she please come back?

She did. She was wonderful. I stuck it out and things got easier (although far from perfect).

There is a medication they can give you to help if you don't produce enough milk... and seriously, how do you measure this? They don't come with gauges! Only after three months of a fussy, miserable baby do you realize that it's "not enough milk".

The medication is called domperidone and while it's actally a stomach medicine, the side effect is an increased milk supply. It helped me make it through to the 6 month mark (well short of what I thought I should breast feed, and well past what I could have done without assistance).

Seriously though... there ought to be a gauge on either the baby or the boobs. This "by guess and by gosh" sh*t is for the birds.
July 5, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterwookie
OMG your post struck a chord. I had pain in bf'ing for the first few weeks, but it subsided. My problem was supply. I nursed EVERY HOUR pretty much. I was on Domperidone. Everyone (LLL and BFing Nazis) said 'if you want it bad enough, it wil happen' 'just keep feeding, your body will produce what she needs'. I held off supplementing, I didn't want to use formula based on Dr. Sears and all those other know-it-alls. At her 3 month mark, she had gained 0 ounces since her 2 month appointment. I felt sick. I started supplementing, and at four months, she's gained almost 5lbs. She's healthier and happier and chunkier (no more ribs poking out - poor thing). Supplementing was the best thing I could have done but I felt SO guilty about it in the beginning. What's with that? Would Dr. Sears prefer my baby starve? 'Some babies are slow gainers' - I'm sorry, no gain in a month is not right. And I can't believe I fell for all that mumbo jumbo.

So amidst all this rambling, I'm just saying I'm with ya!
July 10, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
While I understand it was not funny at the time, I laughed so hard at this post! Having nursed two children and achieved reasonable success (better with the first than the second, believe it or not), you managed to accurately describe the breastfeeding experience that most of us have! I applaud you for your decision! I am by no means an earth mother and I nursed my second daughter for 16 months, but do you think I was pumping milk to send to daycare? NO SIREE! You gettin' formula!
July 14, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

aw man, i know this entry is 7 years old (literally...) but i am reading your whole blog from beginning to current and I HEAR YA - i was 100% breastfeeding gung-ho but a series of events (emergency c-section, baby in NICU, on meds for days, SLOW ASS MILK FLOW and minimal production) also thrust me into the world of formula feeding, where i was scorned for months and continue to feel extreme guilt about while being creepily envious and enthralled by all mothers wo exclusively breastfeed. i love that you wrote this. i love everyone who echoed your thoughts and opinions. and have you seen that recent commercial where the mother is talking about how beautiful nursing is, and all she has to do is "think about her baby and the milk just flows" and that's why she's a "great mom." dear great mom: fuck off.

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaloke

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November 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhow to get rid of man boobs

Ouch! That kinda hurts, girl! Bleeding nipples are scary. I cannot imagine myself in that situation. :| Good thing you're okay now. I hope you cope with the breastfeeding process.

-Katelyn Betterton

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatelyn Betterton

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