Sunday, January 25, 2009

How moving helped us breastfeed

This year my husband Quinn and I packed in enough change to turn our lives completely upside down. He finished his PhD and got a job in New Mexico, so we were in the throes of an incredibly disorganized move across the country when our son Calvin was born. A week and a half before Quinn was supposed to start his job we had yet to buy plane tickets, choose a mover, or even pack. We were getting used to life with a newborn, and it wasn’t going smoothly.

At his one week checkup we realized that he had lost over two pounds! I had been breastfeeding him, so it was impossible not to take it personally when the pediatrician pinched his skin where baby fat should have been and said he looked terrible. She told us to give him as much formula as he would take for the next twenty four hours, and not to breastfeed. “Pump if you want,” she said, as if my breastfeeding was already a failed enterprise, “but he needs calories right now.”

My confidence was shattered when I saw how grateful he was for the bottle. Worse, when I tried to pump I only got a few measly drops. No wonder he was dehydrated and starving. How were we going to fly him to Houston and then drive across the desert if I couldn’t even keep him fed when we were at home?

People I knew said things like “It’s OK if it doesn’t work out,” but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. We called a lactation consultant who said that I could increase my supply by pumping for five minutes every waking hour for the next day. During that time I could also breastfeed Calvin, but I would have to give him a bottle of formula or pumped milk afterward to make sure that he got enough.

It was exhausting. Between feeding him, pumping my breasts, preparing and washing bottles, then burping him, I was feeding him around the clock. But I could tell it was working. He was gaining weight and each time I pumped I got more milk.

When our flight was only two days away I was convinced that I was producing enough milk that I could stop supplementing and just feed him, but Quinn didn’t want to take any chances. It scared him when Calvin lost two pounds, and he didn’t want to let it happen again. He insisted that I keep giving him extra milk and formula after each feeding. Reluctantly, I agreed.

Our move was so ill-planned that we still hadn’t packed, so we frantically started throwing our belongings into boxes that we pilfered from the corner grocery store. Who would have thought that we had so much stuff jammed into our Manhattan studio apartment? We started in the morning, stayed up all night and into the next day. As the time came closer for the movers to arrive we started throwing away our things and I was constantly tripping over bottles and breast pump accessories. I realized what a terrible job we had done packing when we were at the JFK airport, tired, sore, and surrounded by ten suitcases. Our flight was cancelled because of snow. We had already handed in our apartment keys so we had to get all this stuff and a baby to a hotel.

Feeling miserable, I sat on the linoleum floor while Quinn stood in line to get us on a new flight, and put Calvin to my breast. As he ate I realized something – I hadn’t given him a bottle in over twelve hours. Without even realizing it, in the chaos of moving I had transitioned to exclusively breastfeeding my baby and he seemed perfectly content. Even though our move to New Mexico was stressful and awkward, breastfeeding was simple and elegant. I could do it anywhere, didn’t need any equipment, and gave me a chance to sit still and relax with my baby.


  1. oh man,i remember the chaos that surrounded your move. i am glad everything (eventually) got smoothed out!

  2. Wow!!!! What a wonderful story, Mandy. I love it.