Before I had kids, the Blissed-Out Organization of Breastfeeders led me to believe a few things that aren’t necessarily true for everyone: Nursing is easy. Nursing is painless. The baby will always cooperate. Every woman everywhere will be able to nurse sitting down, standing up, while cooking a meal and reprimanding a toddler and typing a blog entry with one hand, and also while executing a perfect somersault.
Admittedly, I’m now a proud member of BOOB, but breastfeeding isn’t always painless, and it certainly isn’t always easy. In fact, our current nighttime routine is not exactly what I wanted it to be.
When you’re nursing, there’s no bottle to prepare, no liquid to warm up, no need to trudge down to the kitchen at 3 a.m. So I thought I might be able to pull off middle-of-the-night nursing as if I were in a “How to Feed Your Baby” promo: Wake up with perfectly tousled waves and fresh lip gloss. Smile sleepily at my baby, who is cooing for some warm milk. Reach over and lift him effortlessly from his bassinet. Nurse, oh so daintily and quietly, while I remain cozy in bed. And then—once he has drifted off to Baby Dreamland—place him back in his bassinet, pat his fuzzy little head, and fall right back to sleep because I have never left the comfort of my own mattress.
This is not my reality.
If I just described your life, you keep doing your thing, sister, because I want to be you when I grow up. But our second baby has a reflux issue, and things are not quite so commercial-worthy around here. Luckily, I’ve developed a 21-step nighttime nursing routine that you are free to follow.
1. Awaken to the sound of cooing grunting. Take care to leap out of bed before the grunting transforms into wailing and then to a shrill, panicked war cry.
2. Stumble to the rocking chair in the dark, as any semblance of light may fully rouse the baby. Affix Boppy pillow to your midsection. Be sure that an assortment of burp cloths, towels and wipes are within arm’s reach.
3. Beg Spouse to retrieve a glass of water, because nursing makes you thirstier than that time you woke up after 13 hours of binge drinking, or that other time you were crawling through the Sahara on your hands and knees inhaling sand.
4. Bring baby to breast.
5. Baby will nurse comfortably for a few minutes before becoming agitated. Carefully study his back-arching, hyperventilation-esque behavior. Now it is up to you to decipher the code: Is he still hungry? Did he consume so much milk and/or air that his tiny, defenseless stomach has expanded beyond its means? Is he rooting? He’s rooting, right? Yes. He’s obviously rooting. He must still be hungry.
6. Bring baby back to breast.
7. WRONG. When baby unexpectedly ejects three ounces of freshly consumed fluid all over your nipple and into your nursing bra, realize that he is an active volcano who actually needs to be burped. Frantically attempt to sit him upright while milk spurts from his nose and floods into your lap. This is uncomfortable and will likely result in some crying, so grab one of those burp cloths and wipe away your tears. Oh, and his.
8. Pound baby’s back ceaselessly until at least one of your shoulders is soaked through to the skin with spit-up. Assume you have rectified the problem.
9. Still in the dark, lurch across the room to the changing table because his pajamas are now drenched with your rejected milk. Unsnap those and notice that his diaper has become a balloon of piss.
10. Remove pee dipe. As you slide a clean one underneath, wonder what in fresh hell is spraying you in the face.
Pee. More pee.
11. Turn on the light.
12. Quickly secure his diaper tabs so you can turn your attention to the surrounding area. Give anything that is even vaguely wet a cursory cleanse with a baby wipe.
13. Wrestle baby into dry pajamas.
14. Place him back into his bassinet, but because you are the idiot who turned on the light, understand that baby is now awake and ready for the day.
15. Ignore that fact, just for 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes, dammit, so you can try to get some mother-effing sleep. Is that too much to ask?! Crawl, defeated and smelling of curdled milk, into your own bed.
16. Listen for sputtering. When you hear it, panic because baby is once again choking on his own vomit. Swipe desperately at his cheeks and ears and mop up the juices that are pooling beneath his neck.
17. Lie back down.
18. For 15 minutes. Awaken to grunting. By now, so much time has passed since his last meal that he has once again worked up an appetite.
19. Bring baby to breast. Repeat steps in any order.
20. Ultimately decide to let baby sleep in a saggy diaper with dried milk crusted on his face.
21. Convince yourself that it’s OK, because it’s just for tonight. Tomorrow at 3 a.m., you will wake up with perfectly tousled waves and a glossy smile.