On breastfeeding “support”

March 23, 2009

So baby had been home with mom almost a week, and all was going well except one thing…the breastfeeding. Now, luckily, I was totally prepared for this to be crazy-difficult, due to all my friends having gone ahead and had babies before I did. Their stories left me with no illusions of putting baby to boob and immediately having a magical, painless latch. I was not prepared, however, for the fact that if there IS a problem with the latch or the suck or what-have-you, it can get VERY dire VERY fast, as baby needs to be fed every time you turn around. So if it’s painful or stressful or traumatizing or all-of-the-above, it’s all of those things on a near-constant basis. And let’s not forget that you’re still completely physically and emotionally drained and exhausted from the birth anyway. Sweet.

When I realized that there was a problem with the process (despite my BEST efforts to match the latch in the books and videos, my kid was clicking when she sucked and leaving me with an unevenly smashed, “lipstick” nipple), I immediately called the lactation lady at the birth center where I gave birth. She recommended that I come to her breastfeeding support group, where she could check my latch and get me on track. GREAT, I thought. This is gonna be resolved in no time!

At this point, I was envisioning a calm, almost meditative-type atmosphere, much like my birth-experience, where a kind, angelic woman floats from mom to mom, gently guiding and coaxing each newborn to an effortlessly perfect, painless latch.

What I got was the floor of a dingy, fluorescent-lit conference room surrounded by no fewer than 14 other moms, most of whom brought their 3 month olds and began happily nursing away as soon as they arrived. Um, wait a minute, what are a bunch of women who already know the ropes doing at a breastfeeding support group? But I tried to keep an open mind, thinking that the more proficient moms in attendance, the more time could be spent getting the help I needed!

When the leader finally arrived and plopped herself down at the front of the room, she began going around the room clockwise, encouraging each individual mother to take the floor to “talk” about “what’s going on.” And apparently what was “going on” with all these moms is that they had been stuck at home with infants, bored out of their minds for the past two weeks, and were desperate for other adults to listen to them talk. Non-stop. About anything. Without any discernable regard for the other people in the room. Many of the topics were tangentially related to breastfeeding, but NOT ONE of the other women brought up anything having to do with the mechanics of a proper latch.

So there I was, exhausted, hunched on the floor, my 6-day post-partum butt killing me, and my poor tiny child sucking on my finger for dear life because she was starving and I was determined to wait to feed her until the consultant could come and watch my latch. Meanwhile, I’m not kidding you, the leader never left her comfy spot at the head of the room and each woman’s “sharing” time was a full ten minutes of shooting the breeze about anything that popped into her head. (“What kind of toys are developmentally appropriate for this age?” At that point, I really, REALLY just wanted to scream “WHATEVER THE HELL ENTERTAINS THE KID AND WON’T CHOKE HIM, YOU MORON!”) And even though when my turn came I said I needed help with my latch and very considerately took up only 30 seconds of the group’s time, all she could offer me was a patronizing demonstration of a proper latch using her hands, telling me to make sure the baby was getting the entire areola in her mouth. OH REALLY?! I HAD NO IDEA.

I grew more and more upset as I realized that despite her promise on the phone, she had completely forsaken me (or just plain forgotten about me amidst the exciting debate about the merits of various diaper cream brands) and the only way I would get any individual help would be to interrupt someone’s story of personal growth as a consequence of her child’s morning gassiness and demand she come over and watch my latch, which I just couldn’t do because then I would have 14 women all turning their attention to me, the inept mother who hadn’t learned how to breastfeed yet, while she was doing this.

But it gets better! The whole thing was so distressing and disappointing, AND I was still so hormonal that of course I had to go and make it all worse by starting to cry silently as I thought about what a waste of time it had been and how I wanted nothing more than to get up and leave but I was all the way across the room from the door which had about 12 strollers and two mommy/baby pairs blocking it completely. So I just had to endure the last 20 minutes or so by not looking around at anyone and not-so-subtly wiping away tears and snot from my face with my daughter’s blanket.

I’m sure every mom in that joint thought I was a crazy postpartum depression case and would be heading straight home to drown my baby in the bathtub. Which makes it even better that not one person stopped her yammering about the benefits of Baby Einstein videos (HA! I guess you didn’t read about how those things actually make your child stupider. HA HA!) to like, check on me or something. God. One woman ACTUALLY asked the leader if her baby’s polyester pj’s were less breathable than his cotton pj’s, because it seemed like they were. Even amidst my uncontrollable blubbering, I had to physically restrain a smirk.

The Lesson: Immediately upon arriving home with your first little bundle of joy, schedule a personal home visit with a lactation consultant (your insurance will most likely reimburse you). If it turns out you have no troubles, you can always call and cancel, but you definitely don’t want to have to wait even a day for personal, one-on-one, RELEVANT help with the process in case there is a glitch, which there so often is.

Epilogue: It turns out my latch was fine. My baby and I were suffering from a toxic combination of a small mouth and an abnormally fast milk let-down which caused her to pull her tongue back to try to stop the deluge, which in turn caused the painful nipple smashing. I think the official diagnosis was a “disorganized suck.” Luckily, and with the help of a GREAT lactation consultant, we have been working our way diligently towards organization ever since.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: