Before Beatrice was born, I had already made a few key decisions about how her development would unfold. I had worked with enough new parents and babies to know my preferences, which were as follows:
1. My baby would take a sloooowww and steady approach to solid food, meaning she would be a cuddly breastfeeding baby forever.
2. My baby would not crawl until at least eight or nine months. Preferably later. See reasoning in #1 above.
3. My baby would be a late teether, with the first tooth making its grand appearance somewhere around 14 months. Again, see #1.
My sense of control here was perhaps ill-advised, but I have always been determined. I figured I could make it happen.
I should have known better. Beatrice came into the outside world one week ahead of schedule with her own plan. No peaceful, relaxing, stress-free water birth for her, thankyouverymuch. Her hilarious brand of slapstick comedy makes me laugh every day, but she is only cuddly if I trick her into it by letting her chew on the drawstrings of my sweatshirt.
1. She took to solid food like I take to cupcakes and now inhales everything I place in front of her. And then bangs the table for more.
2. She’s been a quick little army-crawling worm since the week she turned seven months.
3. She has four (FOUR!) teeth, and she is not yet eight months old.
And breastfeeding initially was one of the biggest challenges of my entire life.
I’ll eventually write a more in-depth post on our breastfeeding obstacles, but Beatrice (aptly nicknamed “Bear-Clamp Beatrice” by one of my friends) came out with jaws of steel, determined to get her milk the hard way. After tongue- and lip-tie revisions, we still needed another few weeks of excruciating practice before we could call breastfeeding tolerable. There was an entire week early on when I could not wear a shirt. People (ok, my mom and my sister) came to visit, and I had to greet them topless.
I’m not trying to scare anyone away from breastfeeding, since it is mostly wonderful and the majority of babies do not come equipped with this clamping reflex. Mine is special. Obviously.
Anyway, we were smoothish sailing breastfeeding-wise from months three through seven. I could nurse her anytime and anywhere, so I did. Cars, bars, planes, stores, restaurants, trains, standing, sitting, at the table, lying down, on the floor, in the carrier, out of the carrier, and the list goes on. I’ve known all along that she was still using quite a bit of gum while nursing and, as a lactation counselor, I’ve known that this less-than-perfect latch could cause trouble down the road. However, since my baby was not going to get any teeth until 14 months, I chose not to worry about it.
Beatrice’s two bottom teeth arrived at just under six months, and now her two top teeth are making their presence known. Her bite was painful enough when she had no teeth; there are no words to describe that bite with two perfect pairs of razor blades attached to it.
To Beatrice’s credit, she does not actually bite me. She tried it once when she had just the two bottom teeth. I yelped, she cried, I cried, and that was that. I thought we were in the clear.
These top teeth are something else. Her tongue provides a buffer for the bottom teeth, but there is no hiding from the teeth on top. I have to brace myself before feeding her on the left side (but thank goodness for little mercies, as the right side was the one traumatized when she was a newborn, and it probably could not withstand this new form of abuse), and my tension surely contributes to her favorite new maneuver of sucking really really hard while rearing her head back and grabbing two big handfuls of my skin with her fingernails. After finding this article, I have gone back to manually opening her jaw wider while she is nursing and alternating positions at each feeding in order to distribute the blistering more evenly. I am so glad I am able to provide all of the nutrition my baby needs, but owwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Bottom line: I have milk, and Beatrice needs it, so I know we’ll get through this hurdle and live to tell the tale. Again. In a few weeks, I won’t even remember the pain, right?
For new moms and moms-to-be
I thought I would mention some breastfeeding lifesavers that have allowed me to function as a nursing mother in daily life. I did not give very much thought to such things before Beatrice was born because breastfeeding is supposed to be free. I bought the cheap versions of all of this stuff while I was pregnant and spent the first two months of Beatrice’s life regretting it until I took the advice of another mom and just went for the products that I knew would work. It was an investment, but since I’ll be breastfeeding 10,000 times a day for as long as Beatrice allows it, the investment will pay off (and has already).
I wish I had known about these products before giving birth, so I hope that some mom-to-be out there will benefit from this list! There are no five products I have ever used more in my entire life. Except for toothpaste.
1. Bravado Seamless Nursing Bras — I love these because they are like regular bras (in fact, they are better) in terms of comfort, support, and fit. I am not kidding when I say that they single-handedly made me feel confident leaving the house; before them, I just worried about offending the general public with the circus that was my chest and would only go out if I was wearing Beatrice in the Tula.
2. Undercover Mama Nursing Tank — This shirt attaches to any nursing bra to turn it into a nursing tank so that you don’t expose your belly to the world every time you feed your baby. These shirts solved a huge problem for me because the regular nursing tanks with built-in shelf bras were absolutely useless, and trying to wear one of them over a real nursing bra was overkill and super complicated.
3. Bamboobies Nursing Pads — I somehow had no idea what an issue leakage would be. I thought I would be past it after a few weeks, but I was SO wrong! The reusable cotton nursing pads I had purchased while I was pregnant were shifty, leaky, and worst of all, they would stick to me. Bad bad bad bad bad. You don’t want nursing pads to stick to you during the early days of breastfeeding. Or ever! I ended up using disposable nursing pads for the first two months and then started to feel like I was completely defeating the purpose of cloth diapering. I am so glad I finally caved and bought the Bamboobies. They are super thin, milk-proof, and not sticky. And they are cute. I ordered a two-pack from amazon, and they arrived with a coupon for a free pair in exchange for an honest product review. I wrote my review and received my free pair, along with a $5 off coupon code for another purchase. I used the discount to purchase a sample pack from the Bamboobies website. I got another free pair through their Black Friday promotion, and my third free pair is on its way for their Valentine’s Day promotion, which is running right now. Definitely worth the $2.95 shipping! I use the regular heart-shaped pads as well as the overnight pads and love them all.
4. Lansinoh Ultra Soft Nursing Pads — Before I started using the Bamboobies, I used these and went through about ten boxes during the first 2.5 months. I do not think the Bamboobies could have withstood those early months of milk let-down. These got me through the worst of it.
5. Gilligan & O’Malley Nursing Sleep Bras — This is the one Target nursing purchase that I have been able to use. I wear these every night … and on days when I don’t need to leave the house :-).
Some of the above are affiliate links, meaning that, if you click one and end up buying anything at all from Amazon, I might earn 10 cents and be able to hold off putting Beatrice in daycare for five more seconds. (Thank you!) I found that Amazon had better prices for these items (free shipping!), but I’d also recommend joining the mailing lists for each company because they’re always emailing coupon codes and discounts. And if you have any input about what worked/did not work for you or any insight about surviving teething with breastfeeding still intact, please comment below!