from contributing writer Letty Muse Tomlinson
I have fond memories of joining my mother in my little brother’s nursery as she breastfed him, after work. It was time for his “papita,” as she called it – an affectionate Mexican-Spanish slang term for mealtime. In my recollection, these were family-bonding times. She held her baby close to her breast as he nursed, and her preschool daughter sat at her knee and kept her company. Isn’t this what breastfeeding is all about?
Thirty years later, it was my turn to re-enact this beatific tableau (sans preschooler). Only, it didn’t happen. My daughter, born 6 weeks premature, spent her first two weeks on Earth in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). While I would nurse her, some, on visits to the NICU, most of my early breast-milk extraction experience was with a machine rented from the hospital. While recovering at the hospital, I followed the nurses’ and lactation consultants’ advice to look at a picture of my daughter and keep a blanket she’d slept in near my face. In lieu of having the actual child against my body and on my breast, these tokens would have to substitute to stimulate my milk production. But then I went home. And at some point, staring at a picture of a kid who was several miles away, in an incubator, feeding and growing and just waiting to join us at home, became as boring as it was bumming. If I was going to be plugged into a milking machine for 30 minutes to an hour, like some kind of bovine, I had to keep myself entertained.
Enter Sports Night, the entire series on DVD. I burned through the series in two weeks. (To be fair, Sports Night only ran for two seasons.) In those two weeks, I’d like to think Aaron Sorkin’s whip smart dialogue fortified my breast milk like some sort of mega-vitamin. Then the baby came home. And then all was bliss. And then it was boredom again. And then it was Buffy-time. For the next few months, my nursing and feeding routine involved plopping myself in front of the TV to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seasons 3 – 7. When Buffy ran out, I turned to The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, which I don’t really recommend, as it’s pretty corny. However, you do get to see some of today’s stars in their unknown years: Elizabeth Hurley with thicker eyebrows, Daniel Craig as a Nazi, Anne Heche as a bohemian, etc. But I digress. The point is I watched a lot of TV while I nursed. Though I initially felt guilty about it, I came to feel like I’d discovered something great: using captivity as a means to catch up on television series I’d always meant to watch.
But much like Columbus “discovering” America, I wasn’t the first one in this territory. In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey writes that she pumped to Entourage. A friend recently posted on Facebook that she had so far nursed through 84 episodes of 30 Rock. The slew of comments that followed was filled with titles of series that other parents had fed their children to during those early months.
With just days to go until the arrival of our next child, my mind is turning to preparing for the rituals and routines that a newborn brings. (Or the shuffling of rituals and routines, too.) Sterilizing bottles. Pumping. Nursing. Working out who gets which feeding shift. And with a toddler in the mix: how do we keep her on schedule, too? But the ritual I’m most looking forward to is finding a TV series to watch while I nurse and pump. I had low milk supply with my daughter, a phenomenon not altogether uncommon, especially among firstborns and preemies, as I gather from other mothers. This time around, I’m hoping my breast milk production keeps up with my child’s demand. In addition to the usual supply boosters – oatmeal, lactation milk and gallons of water – I’ve decided I need to add laughter to the line-up. I have absolutely zero scientific evidence that laughter increases milk supply, but I have a hunch and a hope. Besides, according to one study done in Japan, laughter in breastfeeding mothers increased melatonin and reduced allergic reactions in their breastfeeding infants. Who knows what other magical properties laughter endows one’s milk ducts?
On this hunch (and a single study done in Japan), I really want my next nursing show to be a truly reliable comedy. Ricky Gervais’ Extras has always pulled guffaws from me. 30 Rock never fails me. But this time around, I’d like to discover, or even rediscover, a series completely new to me, and one that I can watch in the occasional presence of my toddler without fear that she’ll repeat or replicate behavior that might be funny in a TV show, but is completely inappropriate in real life. I’ve been browsing through Netflix streaming, lately. The Cosby Show holds up, better than Family Ties, so that’s a contender. Plus, as a long running series, I won’t run out of episodes too fast.
So, I implore the good readers of WoahBaby: What else is out there? Are there any comedy series any of you swear by? What was your favorite feeding show, the one that kept you alert at 2AM or even 2PM? I’m open to all suggestions. Moreover, did you feel like the quality of your breastfeeding or pumping was improved by laughter? Or am I just crazy? (That last question was rhetorical, of course!)