Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding

Breastmilk — With a Side of Laughter

We all know “breast is best,” but what we don’t often know — particularly the first time out — is how challenging and demanding breastfeeding can be, or how driven we’ll be to do it anyway. In those moments, humor can be a true lifeline, which is why editor Rachel Epp Buller gathered this collection of funny tales from women writers called Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding, out now from Demeter Press.

I contributed a piece, “Undignified Positions,” about one of my bouts of mastitis (yes, “one of” — there were several!).

Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m not entirely sure what’s happening that first time, when I wake up with two hot, swollen, red-streaked breasts and a fever like I imagine comes with some exotic jungle disease. But exotic jungle diseases come with exotic jungle vacations, right? And hospital beds with soft, cool sheets, and nurses sponging you down with cold water while murmuring soothing phrases to you in their native language as you drift in and out of consciousness. This fever – with a hungry, crying three-week-old baby rooting at my incandescent boobs – isn’t like that at all.

So we – my partner, daughter and I – schlep to UC San Francisco’s Labor & Delivery unit. A stern New Yorker midwife enters the curtain surrounding my bed, opens my gown, and places her cool hands on my breasts. “Oh, my,” she says, reacting to my unlucky bosom. “How old is your baby?”

“Three weeks,” I say.

“Yep, right on schedule,” she says. “Most moms who develop mastitis do it right around the three-week mark.”

She runs hot water over a pair of hospital towels and presses them to my chest, but they cool quickly, dribbling cold water into my lap. I’m going to look like I’ve peed myself, but a number of nurses have come and gone from my room, so the idea of dignity seems very remote just now. Meanwhile, the midwife disappears and returns with a long tube capped with a cotton swab. “I’m so sorry,” she says.

“Sorry for – Ow!”

Before I can ask why she’s apologizing, she wraps her fingers around my blazing areola and squeezes, coaxing milk out of the nipple. She swabs the milk into the tube, hoping that if they test it, they can identify which bacteria, precisely, has come to visit.”

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Beth Winegarner is a journalist, author, blogger and mom living in San Francisco. To find out more about her work, visit: www.bethwinegarner.com.

You can order her book here from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Have-Milk-Travel-Adventures-Breastfeeding/dp/1927335213

Here’s her book at her publisher’s site: http://www.demeterpress.org/HaveMilkWillTravel.html