Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Inducing Lactation

This had been a really difficult post for me to sit down and write. Every time I start, I feel as though I am opening a can of worms, and it’s a can of really tangled up worms, so I can’t even take them out one and a time. But just today I think I’ve clarified things in my own mind so I’m going to try.

First, I have to say something about my complicated relationship with nursing. As Lyn said, I had a very large breast abscess when Leigh was two months old. I don’t want to say much about it because everything I try to say is horrifying and it’s really unlikely to happen to any of you, so I don’t just want to tell war stories. If you really want to know more, feel free to email me. I will also say that while I enjoyed many aspects of nursing and I’m glad that I did it, I did not absolutely love it. I was perfectly happy when Leigh stopped nursing at 14 months and I got to reclaim my body as my own.

I think nursing can be a very positive experience, both for a baby and a nursing mother, but I also think that nursing can put a huge burden on a nursing mother and exclude and sideline a non-nursing partner. Bottle-feeding, whether the bottle contains breast milk or formula, can give non-lactating parent an opportunity to feed and bond with a baby, and it can give a lactating mother a much needed break from the constant demands of a nursing infant.

Several months ago, when Lyn first brought up the idea that I might induce lactation, I gave her one of those looks that say, “You have GOT to be kidding me.” I have no desire to have cracked and bleeding nipples, to be stuck in a chair for hours with a boppy around my waist, to expose myself to the possibility of another abscess, or to get pinched and bitten by a surprisingly strong infant. Frankly, I was looking forward to having a breastfed baby without doing the breastfeeding myself. But I promised Lyn I would think about it, so I of course avoided thinking or talking about it.

But one day I asked Lyn to tell me why she wanted me to consider it, and her answer sent my thoughts in unexpected directions. There might be some good reasons for me to nurse after all. I asked myself if there was anything that I regretted about nursing Leigh. I came up with just three things:
  • I would have been more careful about my nipples before my milk came in. I got the advice to nurse as often as Leigh wanted, and that was constantly during her first week. As I remember it, she never slept, only nursed. I wish I had been a little more balanced and not gotten such injured nipples at the outset.
  • I wish I had advocated for myself better during the breast abscess. I knew that something wasn’t right, and if I could do it over again I would have insisted on seeing a breast specialist.
  • I wish that Lyn would have given Leigh more bottles, and in particular I would have pushed to do an occasional formula bottle. I wanted more breaks from the constant demands of feeding, especially at night, and wish I had gotten that need met rather than playing the martyr. (You should note for the record that Lyn gave our daughter lots and lots of breast milk bottles, most of them while I was at work, but she did sometimes do night bottles as well.)
But wait! Stop the presses!! What did I just say in that last part there? I just said that I wish that Lyn and I could have done more sharing of feeding duties. From there I’m afraid that I’m lead to the inescapable conclusion that I wish Lyn would have induced lactation. And then if I’m saying that, it seems like I should step up to the plate and try to induce lactation myself.

So, Lyn, I would seem that I’m taking you up on your suggestion. I’m going to brave the plugged ducts and cracked nipples and take another crack at cow duties. Now, to be clear, I’m considering myself to be an understudy here, not the lead actress. You patiently waited your turn to be the milky maiden and I’ve patiently waited my turn to change every poopy diaper and bring mountains of food to your boppy throne. But I’ll do my preparations (stay tuned for a post about the protocol coming to a blog near you) and once you and the little pumpkin seed get into the swing of things, I’ll see if I can pinch hit when you aren’t around or when you need to get some sleep.


N said...

This is something we're interested in, too, and it might be nice for you and J to be able to talk about it, maybe.

My one big fear, though, is that she does have some heart issues, and I know that the protocol usually includes a few things that people with heart issues are Not Supposed To Take. Ooof.

Anyway -- regardless of if you go through with it or not, if it's successful or not, I think it's a pretty amazing thing.

Lyn said...

I love it when Gail finds me convincing! I also love a new challenge. I think we can figure this out...