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Got Milk?

Ronan Eating Movie
QuickTime Movie of Ronan Eating (2.2 MB)

Count How Many Times I Shove the Food In!

So the other day I was sitting around with my Dads’ Group, stay-at-home Dads that get together once a week to hang in the park and sometimes drink beer.[1] The conversation turned to feeding solid foods to our babies. Ronan has just started solid food and I wanted to see how the older kids were doing. By “solid” food I mean a pasty mush made out of rice cereal, sweet potatoes, or squash, mixed with breast milk. I find feeding Ronan, who really hates rice cereal and isn’t sure if he likes sweet potatoes, a trying experience. The other Dads are old hands at it and assured me that Ronan would figure it out and not spit out every spoonful.

It was at that moment Ronan sneezed and sweet potato came out of his nose; he’d been storing it there for two hours. He smiled; I bet he was glad to get that out of his nostrils.

Poopy diapers don’t bother me as much as “solid” food. There’s something gross about mixing breast milk with perfectly good sweet potatoes or squash that’s been run through a food mill, only to be run through the food mill that’s Ronan’s mouth. He’s figured out that he can spit out the food and he doesn’t have to eat it; better yet is to make a “raspberry” noise and spray “solid” food everywhere. He doesn’t seem to have figured out that I scrape together whatever I can off his chin, forehead, eyelids, nose, ears, high chair, me, anywhere but the floor – and shove that back into his mouth. He has a “meh” maneuver to combat my recycled food; he just opens his mouth and lets the food out. Most of the time he looks at me like he’s slightly confused with two or three fingers jammed in his mouth to prevent me from feeing him more “solid” food.

I was impressed with the Dads, because several of them could do what I absolutely cannot – taste the food to make sure it’s okay for their baby. I don’t know why, but I can’t taste the “solid” food or Terry’s breast milk. I wish it didn’t bother me, but I just can’t imagine tasting the watery mush that results from mixing rice cereal or sweet potatoes or squash with breast milk.

I remember being about eight, when my brother Ryan was born, and I was curious about my Mom breastfeeding, so she gave me a little breast milk in a juice glass. It was my first time as a sentient being that I tasted it, and it was terrible. Familiar with pasteurized, homogenized cow’s milk, I was unprepared for the thin, watery substance that is newborn breast milk. There’s something to be said for the British; their unpasteurized, heterogeneous milk may be thought of as unsafe, but it’s more like the clotted, fatty substance that Ronan owes his health and survival.

While breast-feeding is the best food for your baby, I think society should cut some slack for women who choose not to breast-feed. It’s hard work, with the blocked ducts that create open, bleeding sores, the chapped nipples, and now that Ronan’s got some, the ever-present danger of teeth biting down. It’s just not nearly as exciting as every Hollywood movie that deals with the subject makes it out to be.[2]

Even thought I don’t want to taste it, it’s magic, fascinating stuff. Men have all the equipment to lactate, except the hormones. Stress can make men lactate; some prisoners of war lactate during their incarceration. I’m exceptionally glad that I don’t lactate; I still can bond with Ronan over a bottle, or diaper changing, or many other ways. Plus, since I’m home with Ronan all the time, it’s something that Terry can do with him that’s just for the two of them. It’s quite heady stuff. Ronan’s just about doubled in weight before we started feeding him, and it’s all from breast milk. As Ronan gets older, the content of the breast milk changes so that he gets the adequate level of nutrition. Formula doesn’t do that. Formula for 0-3 months means that a newborn gets the same nutrients as a 3 month old.

In the cold of the refrigerator, the breast milk separates into fat and liquid. The fat looks like white butter; there’s also fat that looks kind of sandy. I have to remember to shake it up before serving it, because you want to give the baby the fat. Ronan is now trained to completely thrash with joy at the sound of a bottle being shaken.

It has a long shelf life; it will last for a week in refrigeration, or a month in the freezer. When it goes bad (and we’ve been lucky enough to not have that happen yet) it smells bad. According to the other Dads, frozen milk tastes different than fresh. (I can’t confirm that as I haven’t tasted it.)

Thankfully Ronan doesn’t seem to care. While he’s not sure he likes “solid” food, he doesn’t discriminate over milk, eating it from the breast, from the bottle, fresh or frozen. He also doesn’t seem to care about which plastic nipple we use, although we haven’t really tested that since he was a newborn.

I suppose someday, for reasons that aren’t at all clear, I will have to taste the “solid” food. Perhaps, when he is a little older, he will eat it if I do; or perhaps I won’t be sure the milk is fresh or something and I’ll try it. I’m not looking forward to that.

Even after that happens, I’ll still be in awe of Terry and all women who go through breastfeeding. While ultimately rewarding, it’s a hard journey that reminds me once again how much personal courage and strength Terry has to get up at all hours of the night and day and feed him when he’s hungry. Or pumping with one hand while editing video with the other at work.[3] It’s best for him, but it’s really hard on her.

[1] I hate beer, so I drink soda or pineapple juice. If Ronan weren’t with me I’d drink Rye and Ginger ale, the drink of generations of McDonalds.

[2] So, I was watching Shoot ‘Em Up and (spoiler) there’s a sex scene between Monica Bellucci, who plays a lactating hooker, and Clive Owen, who plays a Jungian archetype of a Bugs Bunny with a myriad of guns. All I could think about was how having sex was possibly going to reduce her milk production the next day, and whether she’d have enough for the baby. How strange is that?

[3] Privately behind closed doors.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 13, 2007 12:15 AM.

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