5.14.2006

The Great Similac Conspiracy

From time to time we get a newsletter from the Love and Logic people. It makes for enjoyable reading—the articles offer generally sensible perspectives on various aspects of parenting, and they always use entertaining stories to get the point across. Nothing earth-shattering, since it’s all pretty much the same stuff as in the books. The latest one, however, sparked an epiphany, and I’ve been mulling over it for the past few weeks. In case you’re wondering why I’ve slacked off on the posting, this is why. My noggin has been way too busy. Mulling, mulling, mulling. Anyway, this article attempted to explain and remedy dental fear, and suddenly, all sorts of things started clicking into place. The woman at the learning store... the diaper bag full of glossy pamphlets... it all made sense now.

You see, pain and discomfort used to be inherent to any dental work, but the drugs and procedures have come a long way, and it simply is not as big a deal as it used to be. Still, many kids are terrified of the dentist. Jim Fay surmises that this has little to do with the child’s actual experience in the dentist’s chair, and, ironically enough, everything to do with the parent’s fervent attempts to reassure them.

Our unspoken assumptions impact our children far more powerfully than the actual words we say. They know perfectly well that we wouldn’t waste our time on reassuring them unless we thought it was scary in the first place. Fay recalls watching a little boy and his mother in the waiting room. The boy marched merrily behind the dentist, following him into the back... until his mother called out, “Don’t worry, sweetheart! It’s not going to hurt a bit.”

At which point the little boy wheeled around, ran back, and buried his face in his mother’s skirts.

Sometimes when we reassure our children, we introduce them to fears that they never would have come up with on their own.

I’m wondering if that concept might explain why formula companies find it in their best interest to send reams of breastfeeding advice to every new mom. It might also explain why the poised, confident, health-conscious, well-educated stay-at-home mom I met at the Learning Store was so utterly convinced that breastfeeding would be too difficult and complicated to fit into their lifestyle. They do a lot of traveling as a family, you see, and she just couldn’t imagine trying to nurse on the road.

I was a bit non-plussed. Truth is, breastfeeding is supremely portable, and way more convenient than formula, in my experience. No bottles to sterilize, no formula to mix... and nothing to pack except the baby. It’s totally do-able. Really.

But come to think of it, you certainly wouldn’t know it to read those pamphlets. Don’t get me wrong—the advice is all very sound and pro-breastfeeding. Exactly the sort of thing that you’d hear from a good lactation consultant if you were having a tough time of it.

If you were having a tough time of it.

A tranquil room with soft mood lighting, husband always available to rearrange your pillow formation, refill your ice water and maybe give you a foot massage... all that sounds good. Really good.

But when it comes right down to it, and you’re barreling down the freeway at 60 miles an hour, sitting in the back seat leaning over baby’s carseat... well, that’ll do, too.

There are lots of women out there who have a hard time breastfeeding, for whom it’s a constant up-hill battle, and I don’t mean to denigrate any of them. We live in a fallen world, and our bodies don’t always do exactly what they’re supposed to. Fortunately, a little mood lighting, a few comfy pillows and some TLC can fix a lot. Stress can be at the root of all sorts of trouble.

Come to think of it, all that sounds like a great way to start out, too. Pillows and soft light and lots of help can make it a whole lot easier to get comfy with this new experience. Besides, breastfeeding is the perfect excuse to get all the rest you desperately need postpartum, so you may as well milk it for all it’s worth.

But if the pillow constellations and arm-positioning diagrams start to look daunting, just relax. The bottom line is, you should make sure baby’s mouth can reach your breast.

If you can manage to keep two hands free for blogging, so much the better.

1 comment:

JMS said...

Elena, you are a genius.

I LOVE your message, especially:
"Besides, breastfeeding is the perfect excuse to get all the rest you desperately need postpartum, so you may as well milk it for all it’s worth."

HEAR HEAR!!!