Sunday, January 17, 2010

Let Down and Hanging Around

Breastfeeding is kind of great. I mean, what's better than sustaining another human solely from your own body? It's free, and it means I can eat 2600 calories a day. Breastfeeding is pretty awesome.

Except for when it isn't.

Some things they don't tell you about breastfeeding:
  • Your nipples will go from being fun playthings (pre-baby) to supersensitive, cracked and bleeding (early after delivery) to more-or-less purely functional devices.
  • When your milk lets down it feels like your tits suddenly filled up with hard water balloons studded with prickly needles. The only relief from this sensation is to feed or pump.
  • Speaking of pumping, your nipples look like sea cucumbers when they're being mechanically sucked by a plastic funnel. They sure as hell don't tell you that.
  • If you forget what side you nursed on last, or your baby has a tendency to fall asleep on the breast, or you produce so much milk that your newborn can't possibly empty a breast in one sitting, or even if you just don't periodically switch the way you hold your baby when you nurse, you can develop a fun inflammation of your milk ducts: mastitis.
This happened to me on Friday. I guess my milk has just been hanging around too long, since I backed off on pumping after every feeding (I've been a bit lazy about it lately and I've been interested in finding other ways to spend my time, frankly). I spent a rough Thursday night waking to feed Zephyr every couple of hours (my right breast was starting to get sore at this point), and at the second feeding or so, around 2:00 or 3:00am, I felt kinda crappy. I was really hot and sweaty, and pretty hungry. I got up after feeding him and went downstairs to get a glass of milk, and when I came back to bed I just could not warm back up, even though I had been so hot only a moment earlier. It took me about an hour to warm back up enough to go back to sleep.

When I woke the next day, I felt kind of tired and crummy, but chalked it up to a lousy night's sleep (plus my back and shoulders have been kind of achy from wearing Zeph everywhere). I think an hour or two passed where I just sat on the couch with Zephyr passed out at my breast, sitting in front of the television without actually watching it, staring helplessly at the glass of water on the table that, at 3 feet away, was impossibly out of reach. I felt powerless to reach for the water that beckoned to me to drink it. I was freezing cold and swaddled myself and Zephyr in a soft blanket.

It must've been 1:00 in the afternoon before I realized that I hadn't eaten anything and didn't feel like doing so. I got up to change Zephyr and crank up the heater, and try to rustle up some grub and my face felt flushed. I had a hunch to check my temperature and panicked when I saw that it was 101.1°F. For a second, I was terrified that I had the flu and that I'd get the baby sick (and tearily called Scott to come home), but then I calmed down and put two and two together. My tender right breast was the culprit. The tenderness, shooting pain during nursing, the firm lump near my sternum (it had only just appeared that day and hadn't been there during a breast exam only three days prior).

Anyways, long story short: I had mastitis. I treated it successfully without antibiotics by using a combination of hot compresses (the disposable heating pads made for wrists and necks work great), Tylenol, rest and fluids, coupled with keeping that breast completely empty. It was easier and less painful to pump that side and let Zephyr nurse on the left, but the pain subsided over the weekend and by Sunday night I felt completely fine. But I am back to pumping at least a couple times a day, and I figured out that I can empty different ducts by moving the pump to different parts of my nipple. I know it's working because I can always get another half ounce or so even after it seems like there's nothing left, simply by adjusting the position of the pump.

Over the past week or so, Zephyr has been attitude-challenged and is acting like a little Mr. Fussypants lately. He will quickly go from this:

To this:
We remembered from our newborn care class that fussiness is supposed to ramp up until around 8 weeks or so, then things mellow out a bit. I sure as hell hope so because I am TIRED. Zephyr evidently won't nap anymore except for when I'm wearing him while walking (hard on the back), or unless I just leave my boob out for him to use as a pacifier (another thing to avoid if you want to prevent mastitis). Today I'm cheating and gave him a (non-boob) pacifier so he can suck on something besides my breast, and it's actually keeping him pretty quiet (as I type this, I think he's just fallen asleep with it - win!).

He actually doesn't really cry much, but instead makes this kind of struggly, panting "heeheeheehee ENH!" sound, complete with pouty lower lip protrusion and kicky legs. When he's swaddled he likes to throw in the dramatic, back-and-forth thrashing head like a mini Houdini who, for his next trick, is attempting to escape from a baby straightjacket.

Eventually he succumbs to sleepiness, but not without protest.

Then when he wakes up, even if it's only been an hour, he's in an awesome mood and is an absolute joy to be around. That's when I get out the camera.

Last night I actually had to move him to the cosleeper because I could tell that Scott wasn't going to get any sleep with all of Zephyr's griping and moshing. I felt terrible to "punish" him by moving him out of our bed, but I have to admit it was nice to have our bed back, and I moved him back to cuddle after Scott got up to go to work.

New tricks: Zephyr figured that mirrors are a Thing this weekend. If he catches his reflection pouting or frowning, he's like a Siamese fighting fish and gets all pissed off like, "who the fuck are YOU looking at?" and it's a sudden downward mood-spiral. But if he's in a good mood, there's no stopping his flirting with himself. He actually makes the 4chan Awesome For Real face. For real.

Oh, and today he experienced his first fart in the bathtub. Laissez les bon temps roulez!


  1. If you put him in a baby lineup without telling me his gender, I would totally say "Oh, that's a boy." Very manly. Farting in the tub, and all.

  2. That last photo screams, "get that camera out of my face, and go make me a sandwich".

  3. Ok I cannot stand it, he is SO ADORABLE!!!!!

    Also, mastitis, i just had this for the first time also, though I have had my share of clogged ducts. I was shocked at how sick i got from it. So glad to be over it, i hope you are over it quickly as well!

    Also, I purchased my most favorite baby carrier to date, it's called an angel pack, perfect for the 6 month mark, and I am in love!

  4. I'm glad you got past the mastitis (and without antibiotics too, I'm impressed!). Sorry about the sea cucumber thing. To be fair, they don't tell *us* about it either.
    I think we need to see that Awesome for Real face :)

  5. Such a fun story about all of his antics - not so fun about the mastitis - glad you are feeling better though!


Yay! Thanks for saying nice stuff about my baby.