Over the last six weeks, it has become clear that whoever coined the phase “Don’t cry over spilled milk” wasn’t a breastfeeding mother. I can tell you firsthand that if you spill the milk it took you 20 minutes to pump out of your sore nipples, you’ll not only cry but curse and scream as well.
I remember one of my crazy family members telling me that I looked like a cow when I was pregnant. Maybe he was on to something because these days I surely feel like one.
My days revolve around milk.
My breast swell with milk when my month-old baby cries. If I’m not nursing, I’m pumping. If I’m not washing my milk-stained bras and shirts. I’m boiling bottles. Or cleaning them. The top drawer of my nightstand overflows with nipple pads and nipple guards. Even my fingertips are scented with the sweet smell of nipple cream that I have to apply to prevent them from cracking.
Three weeks ago, I came down with mastitis. For those who don’t know, mastitis is a nasty infection of the breast tissue that caused chills and fever. Guess what causes it? Yep, breastfeeding. At the time, my little one wasn’t latching properly and the milk wasn’t completely draining, so I made an appointment with a nursing expert, Ms. Gwen, also a lactation specialist.
“You wouldn’t guess that you had two kids before, Mom.” my oldest daughter said snarkily.
But it’s been seven years since my last one was this age, and I couldn’t recall the nuances of breastfeeding. Ms. Gwen and I went over the latch and positions. And when she emphasized, in her rhythmic Jamaican accent, “You have to feed the baby for 20 to 30 minutes every two hours,” I crankily replied, “Man, this is really a full-time job. I guess I’ll have to endure it.”
Ms. Gwen’s eyes widened. She looked as if she would send poisonous darts out of them and kill me right there on the spot.
“I mean…I will do it and enjoy it,” I said unprompted.
“Yes, you will. It is a blessing, gurrl.”
I knew she was right. Your attitude really makes a difference.
When I returned home, I tried to use the moments of breastfeeding to caress my newborn’s fingers and toes. I started treasuring the moments when she wraps her little hand around my pinkie. I began capturing the beauty of these moments with quick sketches instead of drawing myself as a cow.
And when a friend hipped me to the hands-free pumping bra, I cheered because now I have the freedom to get some work done.
I really don’t know how long I will breastfeed. I understand it’s each woman’s personal choice. But I will try to enjoy this short phase in my baby’s development, and I am happy to say, “MOOO.”