Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Breast Milk: Does a Stay-At-Home Dad good.

The first time I saw a woman breastfeeding her baby was on the Staten Island Ferry. I was a teenager, so of course I was a stupid idiot who pointed it out to my friends: "Oh my God, BOOOOOOOBIES!" But now it's 26 years later, and it's my wife's boobies bopping around in public, nursing our precious little Bean on a park bench, and I can't help but to think everybody is watching. After all, I was. I just want to jump up and yell to all those wandering eyes, "They're just breasts people!" I'll never forget the Bean’s first feeding. It was just amazing watching my slimy little daughter take to Brooke's breasts so naturally, so instinctively. Bean's mouth clasping onto Brooke's nipple was some sort of mammal magnetism. The baby just knew where to go eat. She had taken a long journey to get here. And now that she was here, she was starving, and she knew the only place in town to get served right away. Ma Ma. Open 24 hours. I remember climbing into the hospital bed and lying next to my wife and brand new daughter. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. But as close as I got, the tighter I hugged my arms around my wife and child, I would never know what it felt like to have that kind of spiritual and biological connection with somebody. God, Brooke sure looked beautiful nursing the Bean. But how she looked had nothing to do with how it felt. "Ouch, ouch" she bit me!" she would occasionally scream. Okay, she wasn’t biting her yet. It was all about her sucking power. I give Brooke so much credit for breastfeeding an Electrolux. Because from where I was sitting on the sidelines, man, that must've hurt. Two times. Aside for the fact that breastfeeding was supposed to be best for a baby, I just don’t know how she did it. I don’t know if I would’ve been strong enough. Or any pair of man boobs for that manner. Between the sucking and the leaking and the nipple pads and the nipple clamps, (just kidding) and the gels, I don't know why we didn’t just switch to formula. Such torture she was putting herself through. But then one day when I caught her looking at the Bean and the Bean was looking back at her, I knew why. It wasn’t just for health. It was for love. That connection only mother and child could share. And the love of my life, my wife, wasn’t about to give that up. I give Brooke a lot of credit for sticking it out. Especially with the never-ending mouth-to-nipple gnawing, and the other titty technical difficulties. Fortunately, with the help of some lactation classes (wow, they have classes for everything.) she eventually made it past the first three months. And everything fell into place. Or should I say mouth to boob. It was a mini-milking milestone. Most women didn’t make it to that point. Hurray! No offense ladies. I know, easy for me (with my private parts in tact) to say. But she still had a way to go. One year was the goal.

My major part in Boobieland began when Brooke went back to work. When she started pumping. And that's when I’d learn the most valuable lesson in life: DON'T SPILL A DROP.  Man, it was a whole process. Just the idea of a pump. How unladylike. How natural does that sound? What is she a bicycle tire? Or a basketball? Two basketballs. Who created this thing? A futuristic cow. Believe me, Brooke wasn't psyched either. But I wasn't working and she carried the milky, magical elixir in her mammary glands so Hi- Ho, Hi-Ho, it's off to pump she goes. She packed up her black backpack with all of the cones, and the motor and the hoses and the other breast accessories. Then, after she kissed me and the Bean, she went to show the fashion industry just how fashionable one could be when lactating every two hours.  Talk about working nine to five. I could only imagine Brooke pumping at work in the middle of some big lingerie client meeting. Everybody having their bagels and coffee talking about the next wave of crotchless panties and then my wife pulls out this crazy contraption, attaches these cones to her bosom and says, "Oh don't mind me, please, please, do continue." It was so tough for Brooke to pump, she said. Physically and emotionally. And the fact that she had to feel like she was doing something wrong was very wrong. Like she was doing something illegal. She actually had to duck away into unused conference rooms. Coatrooms at showrooms. Closets. Bathroom stalls. And her office. Brooke might as well of put a big note on her door. DO NOT CROSS. PUMPING IN PROCESS. And when she went back to work, and I was left at home feeding the Bean, I might as well have put a sign up on my head that read: I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I AM DOING. MOMMY HELP ME.

God, it was nuts. The bottles and the temperatures and the other bottles and the nipples and liners. Why couldn't I just twist off a cap of chocolate Yoo-hoo and call it a day? Oh, I know why. Because the goal for a stay-at-home dad, the only goal, was to keep the baby alive until mommy comes home. Brooke used to leave me as many plastic bottles of milk in the fridge as she pumped. Some days were better than others. Most of the time there was just enough milk to fit the Bean's daily nutritional requirements. So God help me, if I spilled any. I remember the process like it was yesterday. First, I had to take the cold bottle of milk out of the square Tupperware in the fridge. Then I had to pour the exact amount of required ounces into another plastic bottle after I inserted a plastic liner. Then I had to attach a new nipple onto another yellow ring and then twist it tight around this second bottle. And then, I had to place it in a pot of hot water. Not too hot. I didn't want to burn the Bean's little mouth. And then when it was ready, breakfast was served. Or lunch. Or whenever. 

I thought the best way to feed the Bean was to get into the mommy breastfeeding mindset. I positioned the Bean on my lap on a boppy and held the bottle in my breast area to make it as natural as possible. Then I slowly tilted her head back on an angle. Well she didn't take to my bottle as nicely as she took to Brooke's breasts, but hey at least she drank some. But then she spit-up more than some. Just about every time I put her on my shoulder to burp her, she spit-up. And considering many of those times I was too lazy to use a burp cloth, all of my black t-shirts looked like I was attacked my a flock of birds who had Montezuma’s revenge. But bottle-feeding got easier over time.  Except when it was time to take my booby show on the road. Where the hell was I going to feed her? And where was I going to be able to heat up a bottle? I improvised. I used to stroll her into the corner deli and ask them to give me a plastic cup and fill it with hot water. I'd tell them half way, so I didn't burn the hell out of my fingers. Because when you put the bottle in it knocked out half of the water. Now if I thought walking a cute puppy in New York got attention. Try sitting in the highly-trafficked median across the street from the Flatiron building with a cute baby on your lap, feeding her a bottle, blocking the sun from her eyes. People come running over, making the worst type of small talk—baby talk. Goo-goo. Gah-gah. God, and why did I sit next to the guy talking to himself? Well, when I sat down, and finally got the Bean to settle down and chug down the breast milk, he wasn't talking to himself anymore. He was talking to me. "So what's his name?" he grunted. "He's a she?" I said. "Well she sure looks like a boy." Well, you smell like you need a bath. Leave us alone please. And like all things in life, having to do with breasts, they got smoother over time. I started bringing the Bean and my bottles to this awesome kiddie bookstore called “Books of Wonder,” which was attached to this kickass “Cupcake CafĂ©.” I used to order up my coffee, a cupcake and a cup of hot water. But not just any cup. A cup for soup. A wider rim for the bottle to fit in. It was perfect for heating the milk. I used to go there all the time. They knew our names and they knew our drinks and they had free Wi-Fi for me to Facebook and write my never-ending screenplay when Bean went to sleep. It was a stay-at-home dad’s paradise. But then, just when everything was going good with my baby bottling business, one day I had to go and spoil it by spilling some. Okay, more than some. A whole bottle. Four friggin’ ounces.  I thought I was going to die as it dribbled off the counter onto the floor. “Oh shit, I forgot to put a liner in there.” I felt so horrible about what had happened and not just because Brooke was going to flip out. But because I know how hard it was to pump that much out. Brooke was great about it. She didn’t kill me. She just said, “Don’t do it again. We’re running out of the reserve in the freezer." I’m telling you, it was worth more than gold.

Well, when the weather started getting nicer, I started meeting Brooke in Madison Square Park with the Bean for lunch. Brooke's lunch and the Bean's lunch. Instead of the bottle, Bean would get the real thing. Straight from the source. We would find a seat in the back of the playground. Where no rainbow chalk-drawing kids and nosy-body nannies could see what we were doing. But that wasn't always so easy with the Bean squirming like a crazed guinea pig under Brooke’s shirt. It took a while for Brooke to get the hang of it, and for me to not really care if people's eyes were wandering in our direction. And by the time Brooke really got the hang of it, the year was up. She did it! She did it! Mommy breastfed for one year. Yay Bean! It was now time for Bean to start sipping cow milk from a cup.  But most of all, I was so excited to have my wife’s boobs back all to myself. -- Or should I say, BOOOOOOOOBIES!!!


  1. Good for you guys! Stay at home dads have that very obvious defect. No boobs! Ah, but alas, modern technology is great and has allowed us to be greater parts of our young kids lives. Never the less though there really isn't anything like the real thing. My wife pumped at work too. I've been at home for 5 years with my boys, it's still something I look back on and laugh at. :-)

  2. I'm crying my eyes out, I didn't know a man could capture these struggles so accurately. I started supplementing at 4 months and nursed while I was at home b/c as a nurse on a busy medical floor, I could never "sneak" away to my empty closet to pump. I would work 14 hrs in misery just needing to pump. Thank you for your story and daddy insight. It's beautiful.

  3. This is amazing -- My soon to be hubby will have to read this as we are expecing in June! Thank you for sharing, and being pregnant I cried lol.

  4. Way to go Brooke, Bruce and Bean!! It is soooo hard to BF and work and have someone else feed the baby a bottle. Bruce, you are a very lucky man that Brooke didn't slug you when you spilled that "liquid gold"!! :) <3