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LJ Idol 8: Week 9: Nursing on a Prayer

This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week's topic is "Counterintuitive."

Tiny Hands
I hold my infant niece's hand

Visiting my sister and my 1-1/2-week-old niece this past weekend, I was reminded about the early days of infant-rearing (hate that word: it reminds me of farm animals). So many people tell you to "trust your instincts," but so many things fail to come naturally.

As I held that tiny sweetie with her rounded cheeks, small bright eyes, and soft blonde mop-top, I remembered the heartbreak of trying to nurse my own Kung Fu Panda once my milk came in. My breasts were swollen, and his little mouth bounced off like a turtle trying to nom on a balloon. I wailed to my husband, The Gryphon, "My breasts are too big to feed my baby!" Fortunately, I had the phone number of a lactation consultant and had taken a breast-feeding class (a class no doubt taken by all ancient mothers). I took a hand pump and pumped enough to relieve the swelling so he could latch on.

Is mothering ever instinctive, or does each new batch of mothers need guidance from the experienced moms and wise women who came before (these days, including doulas and lactation consultants)? My sincere advice to new moms: stay away from the Internet. Opt instead for trusted sources: family, friends, and doctors. Don't believe me? Just Google "infant gas pains" and you'll discover the baffling array of advice and fear-mongering we encountered when our KFP suffered that in his first week of life. Turns out it was just the growing pains of his digestion system coming online. And, being sensitive, he was probably swallowing a lot of air from crying.

By contrast, my new niece is mild-mannered. She mews like a wee kitten when she wants something, is easy to soothe. I told my sister how lucky she is -- my wee niece even likes being strapped into her car seat! But then, the afternoon we left, I had to knock on the nursery door to say good-bye. "I hope she's done soon," my sister sighed, as the demanding little one fed. It had been an hour.

I suggested stroking her hair to wake her in case she was dozing off. "Eat, eat, eat," I used to urge KFP. My sister said she was already doing so. In that moment, I knew that, whether she and her husband do everything "by the book" or not, they'll do fine. As they'll soon discover, their instincts will catch up.

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( 47 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 10th, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
I loved your description of early breastfeeding. I can relate all too well. :\
Jan. 10th, 2012 02:28 am (UTC)
Many mothers can. For something that's natural, it can be surprisingly hard to get started with it.
Jan. 10th, 2012 03:02 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, we all catch up to our instincts sooner or later. It's so funny that I was afraid of breast feeding in the beginning and after three babies, it's all old hat now. I'll be sad when Owen is all weaned, since he may be my last one.
Jan. 10th, 2012 03:46 am (UTC)
You know, I wasn't looking forward to weaning KFP, because I was certain that it would be emotionally difficult. Imagine my surprise when, one day, he just refused. He even acted somewhat agitated that I would even offer! I have to admit, I felt a little rejected at first, but I was glad that it went so smoothly.
(no subject) - lawchicky - Jan. 10th, 2012 04:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Jan. 10th, 2012 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lawchicky - Jan. 10th, 2012 04:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Jan. 10th, 2012 05:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - n3m3sis42 - Jan. 11th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Jan. 11th, 2012 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Nice approach to the topic. It seems like a kazillion years ago when I was a new mother. We didn't even HAVE the internet then! OMG, I'm old.
Jan. 10th, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
*giggle* I feel that way all the time, too. I'm an older mom, not having my baby until I was 39 (he's now almost 19 months), so you and I might not be so far apart in age.
(no subject) - n3m3sis42 - Jan. 11th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Jan. 11th, 2012 01:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kehlen - Jan. 11th, 2012 02:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Jan. 11th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
I think it is a mix of both. Listen to the advise of all then follow your instincts.

Well done.
Jan. 10th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
Exactly. That's what worked for me. I'm actually grateful for Facebook, because so many of my friends already had children and would respond to my queries with personal stories of what worked for them. I could take it or leave it, of course, but the fact that I knew the person who was giving the advice was helpful for me.
Jan. 11th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
Our son had gas pains the first week, too, and I remember sobbing because I thought my milk was hurting him. Funny how natural does not always mean easy, isn't it?
Jan. 11th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Oh, it was terrible! I was still so awash in hormones, and I was crying to my husband and saying, "He doesn't know anything but eating, sleeping and pain!" Fortunately, it didn't take long for his system to work its way out.
Jan. 11th, 2012 02:16 pm (UTC)
Very sweet :-)
Jan. 11th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I probably could have gone further with it, but it was a busy weekend, visiting my sister and her baby, and I honestly only came up with the idea on our trip home Sunday night. Then we got sidetracked because my little Kung Fu Panda threw up on himself in the car seat. We spent the next couple hours cleaning him, the chair, and ourselves up!
Jan. 11th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
Very interesting entry, I always enjoy reading your stuff.
Jan. 11th, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm actually lucky the deadline was Monday, though. Our whole household is now sick with the stomach flu, and I would have had to take a bye.
Jan. 11th, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
I had my kids before the internet was born. I think nurturing came natural. We just figured it out as we went.
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Ultimately, that's what everyone does. You take or leave the advice you're given and make your own way.
(no subject) - myrna_bird - Jan. 12th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
This is so sweet. I love living vicariously through other mom's since it's not something I am likely to experience. Te internet really can be a scary place though, I learned that googling even ailments for my dog usually brings up doomsday advice. I can't imagine what it's like for a baby!

Great advice.
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Of course, in those first weeks when you're recuperating with little outside contact, it's tempting to look things up on the Internet. I was shocked to learn how hard it was to find a definitive answer on just about everything I wanted to look up.
Jan. 12th, 2012 06:23 am (UTC)
When one of my best friends called to tell me that he and his wife were expecting, I remember him saying to me, "You'd think this sort of stuff would come with an instruction manual, but I guess we're just going to have to wing it." I assured him that his parents had "winged it" with him, and he turned out just fine. :)
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
Isn't that the truth! My mom likes to joke that, being the first born, they experimented with me.
Jan. 12th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
So sweet and lovely - The description of your niece makes me almost want to like babies :) I've heard from a lot of moms how surprised they are at needing so much guidance - it really does take shared wisdom!
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
I suppose anyone who grows up in a big family gets more experience out of it, but nowadays, such opportunities are more rare. Thanks for reading!
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
Very heart-warming.
Jan. 12th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
Jan. 12th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you wrote about how some aspects of parenting are NOT intuitive. So many people go into it thinking everything will just come to them. In my experience, a lot does, but there are still situations in which we go "WTF?" and have to do our best. I like the descriptions in here and the calm, even tone.
Jan. 12th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I probably could have gotten more detailed with it, but I didn't want to make the mistake of overwriting. Now that I'm on the other side of "baby bootcamp," I am much calmer than I was in those early days!
Jan. 12th, 2012 10:26 pm (UTC)
How sweet.
Jan. 12th, 2012 11:17 pm (UTC)
Jan. 12th, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
Jan. 12th, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
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