This Is What Exclusive Breastfeeding *Really* Looks Like
Congratulations! After months or years of trying, you are finally expecting a little baby that will have your sister's nose but your husband's eyebrows. You’ve spent months debating on a name, a nursery theme and have picked out a ~layette~. Joking, no one buys layettes anymore. You went to H&M and stocked up on cute basics and are now putting your feet up watching re-runs while you dive in on the real debate of bottle versus breast. Your best friend, cousin, neighbor and the lady who threads your eyebrows are all telling you that breastfeeding is the answer. But what does it mean to actually be an exclusive breastfeeder, or "EBF" if you fancy, and are lucky enough to be able?
After I was done nursing, I did the calculations and came up with 1,825 days that I had fed my children 'off the fat of the land,' so to speak. That’s five years of breastfeeding.
Not too long ago I weaned my fourth child. I was filled with all sorts of emotions that ran the gamut of sadness, excitement, guilt, and even dread. But when I’m completely honest with myself I was mostly excited to no longer being tied to my nursing pillow and rocking chair. After I was done nursing I did the calculations and came up with 1,825 days that I had fed my children "off the fat of the land," so to speak. That’s five years of breastfeeding, if you can’t do that math. I had nursed during two pregnancies, done the tandem-nursing thing, and nursed well past toddlerhood with one of my children. I had spent over 20,000 hours of my life being an EBF, so I feel uniquely qualified to give you the low-down on what your life will look like, should you choose to accept the challenge. Thankfully I’ve kept all my nursing logs, because maybe my kids will want to see these someday or something. Here is a day in the life of me with a four-month old, one-year-old, three-year-old, and seven-year-old.
5:24 a.m.: This is usually our first feeding of the day. The sun isn’t quite up and everyone else is still sound asleep. After dragging myself out of bed and into the nursing chair for every other feed before this, I decided to just whip my boob out and hope that I can catch another 45 minutes before my toddler wakes up.
6 a.m.: I’m being stirred awake by my husband, who says he is going on a run and, in the process, disturbs all the sleeping children and me. So now we are awake and nursing again.
7 a.m.: In the last hour, I’ve been able to stumble out of bed and pull together clean and presentable clothes for my oldest to go to school. The baby has thankfully fallen back to sleep, so I can focus on yelling for people to find shoes and backpacks.
8:37 a.m.: The big kids are at school, my husband is out at meetings, and The TODAY Show is on in the background. After a quick diaper change, I do the swaddle thing and start nursing again.
8:57 a.m.: The baby has finally fallen asleep for her hopefully hour-and-a-half morning nap, so I start the shower.
9:07 a.m.: I jump out of the shower because I think I hear the baby crying. She’s not, so I get back in and continue shaving my legs, but only up to my knees. I mean it’s not my anniversary or anything.
9:11 a.m.: That was the baby crying, so I quickly throw on my daytime outfit — which will transition great in a few hours to my nighttime pajamas — and pull my boob out.
9:31 a.m.: She’s back to sleep and lets me lay her down, so I dash to the kitchen and start trying to clean up from today’s breakfast and add vinegar to the washing machine because wet clothes have been sitting in there since yesterday morning. I restart the dryer just in case.
My toddler is asking for another snack. I find a handful of raisins on my nightstand and hand him that.
9:45 a.m.: My toddler is now asking for a snack or a whole bowl of Cheetos. I hand him whatever is closest because I still really need the baby to sleep for an hour and don’t want her to wake up because of his not-so-silent protest.
9:55 a.m.: Judging by the orange marks on the wall, I think I handed him Cheetos.
10:05 a.m.: The baby is awake again. I plop in my nursing chair and put my feet up in just enough time to watch The View and debate with the girls while I pretend that I’m at some fancy grown-up party talking about taxes and Iran.
10:07 a.m.: My toddler is asking for another snack. I find a handful of raisins on my nightstand and hand him that.
10:27 a.m.: The baby is pretty much done nursing, so I plop her in the overpriced swing while I run and switch the laundry. It’s imperative that I get to the laundry today because I’m wearing a too-small bathing suit bottom as underwear.
10:37 a.m.: I rummage through the freezer to see what’s inside for dinner. I luck out when I find the last of my freezer stash meals and pull that out so it can start to defrost.
10:42 a.m.: Toddler is now asking when it’s lunchtime.
10:45 a.m.: The baby is still content in her swing and I'm wondering who switched my baby in the middle of the night. I take advantage of this and start making my grocery list for today or tomorrow or who knows when.
10:55 a.m.: My iPhone alarm is buzzing, alerting me that it’s been almost 90 minutes since the baby woke up so I should start our sleep routine now.
11 a.m.: I change the baby into a cute romper and start swaddling her again and she begins to “root” for my nipple.
11:25 a.m.: Like clockwork, baby is asleep and I place her back in her crib hoping I’ll get a two-hour nap from her buuuut knowing it’s not likely, I make myself and the toddler lunch, settle him in front of a movie on his iPad, and make a mental note to download more learning games. I start a Housewives episode, shove food in my face and furiously start folding laundry.
1:00 p.m.: Just when I think it’s safe to maybe take a cat nap, baby wakes back up so I grab her and do another laundry switch and start nursing again.
3 p.m.: In the last two hours I’ve had one more nursing session and was able to get another 20-minute cat nap from the baby and banged out a second basket of laundry which means there will be clean underwear tomorrow. The big kids are home from school now and now it’s homework time, straightening up time, yelling to stop hitting your brother time and dinner starting time.
4:15 p.m.: Casserole of some sort goes in the oven and I do another 20-minute nursing session.
5:00 p.m.: Dinner still isn’t ready because this thing was still frozen solid. I start the oven timer again and settle in to answer emails I never got to this morning.
Primetime show nearing its end so I pick the baby up and start my 'dream feed' in hopes that she will sleep longer tonight, but we both know this is a farce.
5:00 p.m.: My emails aren’t complete but my husband is bringing me the baby again because someone woke her up and she’s screaming bloody murder. HIM: I think she’s hungry.
ME: I just fed her. She’s sleepy.
HIM: OK, I’ll try to put her back to sleep.
5:05 p.m.: Husband pacing in front of me while bouncing the screaming baby.
HIM: I really think she’s hungry.
ME: I JUST FED HER!!!!!!!!
5:08 p.m.: Pushing my chair back violently I gently take the baby from his hands and storm out of the room
HIM: I don’t mind holding her…
5:11 p.m.: Baby hungrily sucking at my nipple.
ME: Damn, maybe she was hungry.
Big Kids: When’s dinner?
5:25 p.m.: Baby is finally asleep again. Dinner smells burnt or ready.
7:00 p.m.: It’s finally bath time and onto the 45-minute battle of convincing kids they are sleepy. It’s also cluster-feeding time which means Dad heads all of this up while I just sit and nurse until 8:30 p.m. or beyond.
8:45 p.m.: Baby is asleep, but of course not down for the night.
9:45 p.m.: Primetime show nearing its end so I pick the baby up and start my “dream feed” in hopes that she will sleep longer tonight, but we both know this is a farce.
10 p.m.: Baby down for the night.
10:45 p.m: SIKE
11:30 p.m.: Again?
12:55 a.m.: WHAT THE HELL?
1:45 a.m.: This is a joke right? Am I on a hidden camera show?
3:15 a.m.: Well at least I got almost two hours that time.
5:30 a.m.: All things considered, I guess it could have been worse…
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