Mama Madison: Nursing champions

Just a few reasons why breastfeeding is worth it

Breastfeeding came remarkably easily for me with both my second and third children. I was fortunate my milk supply was strong -- perhaps even a bit too strong. Leaking through those useless nursing pads happened on a daily basis. Busy prints, flattering or not, became my uniform and I didn't travel anywhere without a decorative scarf capable of camouflaging whatever excess staining the pads or prints had missed.

I was also working a very part-time, flexible schedule that allowed me, for the most part, to nurse "on demand." And the fact that both my of my younger kids were born in Madison, which I have found to have a very accepting attitude toward public breastfeeding, meant I could take them anywhere without having to worry about finding a private spot or open bathroom stall when either of them got hungry.

I breastfed my younger two not just for the health and bonding benefits, but also because I found unbuttoning my shirt and letting my little person latch on to be a whole lot easier than sterilizing bottles.

Son number one, though, was born in Chicago, which, at least in the late 1990s, wasn't quite so open to the possibility that a nipple might be flashed during a coffee shop feeding. And nursing him was further complicated by the fact that he suffered from an unusual allergy to cow's milk protein. It wasn't direct contact with cows' milk that was causing the problem, but instead an issue with my milk that stemmed from milk products I was ingesting. This meant I had to go dairy-free (very challenging for a cappuccino addict) for months.

And perhaps most difficult for me, since I was worked full-time in an office during his first year, was adapting to the ritual of pumping three times daily. I found it to be messy, uncomfortable and fairly unproductive -- I could never seem to get more than two or three ounces expressed, total, at a time.

So when my oldest was around nine months old, I gave in and began to allow my babysitter to supplement during the day with bottles of soy (he couldn't drink dairy, of course) formula. It wasn't so much that I couldn't keep up the pumping...I just didn't want to. I was tired of missing meetings and having milk leak all over my dry-clean-only blouses. I was looking for an excuse to not have to work so hard to feed my precious little guy.

So when I saw last week's Isthmus article on adoptive moms who choose to breastfeed, I was astounded. Not just by the fact that it was medically possible (I never paid much attention in biology class), but also by the lengths to which these women went to guarantee their much-longed-for infant received both the health and bonding benefits of nursing.

These women use Supplemental Nursing Systems (SNS)-- a bottle with tubes that can be taped to the nipple to provide additional milk while the baby is feeding. They tape and untape at every feeding, which means, basically, every hour on the hour. Now, that's sacrifice.

And these moms try medications, like birth control pills, and experiment with herbs that are known to enhance milk supply. There is no way I could have remembered to take a medication every day in the haze of infant parenting (which is probably one contributing factor to the fact I have three children).

But most impressive to me, these mamas pump and pump -- the bane of my existence with my first-born -- religiously. And I am guessing joyfully, as well. And to think I complained about having to do the extra laundry milk-stained shirts entailed?

Even though I didn't pay attention during class in high school, adoptive moms, you've taught me something really important about biology. In this case, that it makes certain aspects of parenting much easier and not something I should have taken for granted. And, I am truly humbled, by all you do to give your babies the beauty of breastfeeding.

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