LACTATION CONSULTANT #1: Congratulations on your new baby! I’m Courtney Sax, one of Beth Israel’s ten lactation consultants, and I’m here to answer any questions you might have about the breast-feeding process. Just know: this is a very stressful time and there is no right or wrong way to go about nourishing your child.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Oh good. We know this is silly, but last night she wouldn’t take the breast, and we were really tired, so we gave her formula, and now we’re feeling a little guilty.
(Lactation Consultant #1 gets very quiet, punches the wall, and then slowly backs out of the room.)
LACTATION CONSULTANT #2: Hi! My name is Lauren, one of Beth Israel’s nine lactation consultants. So what can I help you with today?
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: We were just hoping for some hints about getting our baby to latch a little better than she does. She puts her mouth on the nipple and then just kind of hangs out there.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #2: Positioning is the key. It’s simple! Imagine that your breast is a Cartesian Plane, and the baby’s spine is the hypotenuse of a right triangle. The vertex formed by the baby’s head and the top of the areole should form a 60 degree angle, and if you don’t have a protractor handy, just think about it like this: the sine of theta should be root three over two and if you were to integrate to find the area of the baby subtending your nipple, you should get a result of 7.3 pi.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Any advice for a couple of sleep-deprived parents who don’t remember trig or calculus?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #2: I pity you and your kind.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Nothing against Lauren, but her approach seemed to involve a lot of complicated math. Do you have a simpler method?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #3: How about a simile? Babies are like gummy bears. They’re really sticky.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #4: Here’s what it comes down to—just don’t give your baby chocolate. It will kill her.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Are you sure you’re not thinking of dogs?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #4: Dogs might kill her too. Depends on the breed and temperament of the animal. And whether your kid was being a dick to it.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #5: Just so you know, if you don’t pump enough, your baby might get rickets and die.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #6: If you pump too much, your baby will almost certainly get diabetes and die.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #7: Breastfeeding is the ideal metaphor for the parent-child relationship. The child sucks the nutrient-dense life force from the mother until the mother is thoroughly depleted, at which point the ungrateful child howls at the mother for having had the gall to run out of what the child wants, leaving both resentful and bitter.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: How is this helpful?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #7: It’s not supposed to be helpful. I’m brainstorming ideas for a suicide note that will make my kids feel terrible.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: I see you’re using a nipple shield. (Jots down a note to herself and shakes her head.)
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Is that bad?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: (Muttering) Only if you want her to live.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Our pediatrician recommended we use one. She said it would cut down on irritation.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: (Muttering) You are to babies what Pol Pot was to Cambodians.
Exhausted, Confused Parents: Sorry?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: You two are so cute! (To mother) You look like a young Christie Brinkley. (To father) And you look like Stephen Jay Gould, if Stephen Jay Gould had been in some sort of terrible accident. Anyhoo, how often are you pumping?
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED MOTHER: I was pumping eight times a day, but then we were scared of giving her diabetes, so now I do it four or five times.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: (Muttering) Why don’t you just throw her into a vat of boiling lava?
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: What?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: Have you guys seen Orange is the New Black? On the surface, it’s about the prison system, but really, it’s about America.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #9: She told you not to use a nipple shield?! Uh, no. You have to use a nipple shield. Your nipples are too sharp. How can I explain this? Imagine trying to swallow a thousand flaming broad swords, but you have strep throat, and your esophagus is made of broken beer bottles. That’s how your baby feels when you feed her.
(Exhausted, Confused Parents hold each other and cry. Their baby looks on stoically.)
LACTATION CONSULTANT #10: You two look overwhelmed.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: We’re getting so much contradictory advice, and we’re so tired. We’re afraid we’re bad parents.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #10: Relax. Take a breath. Different consultants have different opinions. You need to do what’s best for you and your family. If that means a little trial and error, so be it. And if that means not always taking our advice, that’s fine too. If the nipple shield works for you, use it. If pumping four times a day rather than eight times a day feels right, then pump four times a day.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: That’s the most sensible thing we’ve heard yet. Thank you! Are you a mom yourself?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #10: I was, but my kids all died of rickets. Good luck!