I want to preface this by saying that I realize there are a million reasons out there that some people either chose not to or simply cannot breastfeed. With that said, I am extremely passionate about breastfeeding. In this day and age with all that we know about breastfeeding, I can't understand someone not wanting to at least give breastfeeding a try in the beginning, even if it's for a few days, before coming to a conclusive decision after that as to whether or not to continue.
With that said, breastfeeding is hard-work, and after two months, we are just now getting into a comfortable routine together. Surprisingly, I didn't do a ton of research or reading on breastfeeding before I had Natalie. I had two books on hold at the library for my entire pregnancy, but I was hold #452 or something crazy like that and I never got them in time to read. I do wish I had read some more books prior to her arrival, but I also think it was material that I wouldn't really grasp or be able to wrap my head around until I was fully "in the game." My general feeling was that breastfeeding wasn't something I wanted to overthink or overprepare for...I felt it was something that should come naturally and instinctually to us.
Big annoying mistake. I really wish I had been more adamant about her and all of the nurses helping me. The next two nurses I had were NOT helpful. When I asked one of the nurses if Natalie's diaper output was what it should be, she literally said "Um...let's see, is it 8 diapers a day or 8 feedings a day...I always get confused....Yea, I think you're fine." I'm not joking, exaggerating, or changing these words for emphasis. That was literally her response...verbatim. I could have googled for the answer myself, I just figured a nurse working in post-partum maternity at a hospital would know such things off the top of her head. Un-freaking-believable.
By the time she was 3 days old, Natalie was feeding like a champ off the right side, but I still couldn't get her feeding properly on the left. I thought for sure I was either all dried up on the left, or if I wasn't already, I would be soon.
I called the lactation consultant as soon as I got home, but she didn't have any availability until the following Monday!! Um...my baby could die of starvation by then!! Panic and tears set in even more. I called La Leche League International and got the phone-numbers for 8 local La Leche League representatives who could help me. I called and left tearful messages for most of them, before I finally got Danielle on the phone. I cried to her and explained my situation. She said that I probably had a slow let-down on the left side that was frustrating Natalie and causing her to prefer the right side.
"What is a let-down," you ask? When a baby starts a feeding, the sucking starts a reaction and the milk will literally rush down to start the feeding process. For the first two weeks, I could very intensely feel this let-down feeling...it's like a big rush, a natural high really, and very calming. I'm used to the feeling now and only recognize it once in awhile when I'm not distracted by anything else.
The let down on my left side was definitely slower than on my right, so what she suggested I do was start Natalie on the right side until I felt the let-down reflex, then quickly switch her to the left so she would realize she could get milk there too. I tried it, and it worked!! For the next two weeks, I had to literally start her on the right side every time I wanted her to feed from the left. It was annoying, but it was working and that's all that mattered. Danielle is my HERO, because I never would have thought to do that on my own.
Eventually, either my body started reacting more quickly, or Natalie got the hang of it, but she now goes onto the left side without me having to trick her into it, so we definitely overcame that hurdle!
We still struggled with latch for the next few days, and my left nipple continued to hurt for the next 5 weeks. Read anything and you'll see: Breastfeeding isn't supposed to hurt. If it's being done correctly, you should not be in pain. When she fed on the right side, I practically didn't feel a thing, but I dreaded every time I had to move her over to the left.
As long as she was eating and gaining weight, that was the most important thing. I knew that she was getting what she needed and she was gaining beautifully, so if we were going to have a problem, I was glad it was something that I just had to deal with and not something that was affecting her health or well-being.
The pain had pretty much subsided by around 6 weeks, and now, I am completely pain free on both sides. I just have a little dryness that I'm using motherlove nipple cream to fix.
What I wasn't mentally prepared for at all was the frequency in feedings - the first 2 weeks I was feeding every 2 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night. Natalie is still pretty much on a 2 hour schedule for about 25-30 minutes each feeding. I've gotten good about getting things done during these feedings on my phone, ipad, and sometimes at the computer. Other times, I like to just sit down with her, with nothing else: no tv, no ipad, no computer - and just enjoy the time together, or sing to her.
The every two hours, or sometimes every hour in the evenings, can be very taxing, and time consuming. I'd be lying if I said I haven't complained here or there about it, or had a rough day, but still, my commitment to it remains unwavering. I'm also starting to realize that sometimes, especially at night, she's not even really feeding - she's just soothing herself on me. AKA: using me as a human pacifier. So I'm trying other tactics to keep that from becoming a habit. So here is my breakdown on the "yays" and "nays" of breastfeeding:
- You can read about all the health benefits of breastfeeding here. There are many, many health benefits.
Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.
That's one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). And scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding is good for your health, too.
- Never have to heat up a bottle, or pack up food and supplies. My "supplies" are always ready and always with me. I don't have to turn on lights or heat anything up in the middle of the night.
- Breastfeeding is a guaranteed cure-all for the crying baby. We have not had a night (since the first week) where we were up all night with a crying baby. If she gets to a point where we can't get her to stop crying, I just start feeding her. Breastfed babies can't be overfed, they will take what they need. It's nice to know that when all else fails, there is a sure-fire way to get her to stop crying.
She typically wakes up once during the night for a feeding. We've also gotten so good that I can feed her in bed while lying down. Then I put her back to bed - or, if she has an early morning feeding like at 4 or 5 a.m., I usually just let her stay in bed with us until we get up around 7 a.m.
- Pumping. I've gotten much better with pumping and have figured out way to maximize my time and what-not. Many people think that since I can feed my child pumped milk it totally frees me up. But...that's not really the case because in order to keep my supply up, I have to pump at each missed feeding. So if I feed her a bottle out at the mall, I technically should pump at that time or close to that time. Well then, I might as well just feed her directly! If I want to store up a freezer supply, it also means pumping in between feedings at home - That means feeding, pumping, and feeding again right after another. I only pump about once a day in the mornings to add to my freezer stash, and then again if Chris gives her a bottle in the evenings. Pumping has been great for Chris to par-take in feeding her a few times a week, too. Pumping also goes quicker than a feeding session, which is a huge plus!
- Instant bond and every day bonding time.
- Contracts your uterus back down to normal size and no period! (at least for me so far)
- It is a HUGE time commitment - but having a CHILD is a huge time commitment. If you think breastfeeding isn't right for you because it's too much of a commitment...are you really ready for a child in the first place?
- Breastfeeding in public. I have a lovely breastfeeding cover that has been a life-saver when company is over or we go places. I haven't had the need to use it in any restaurants, shopping malls, or other public places yet, but I will get there, and am prepared to do that one day. I will never breastfeed in public without the cover. I believe in breastfeeding in public, but I also believe in having some discretion while doing so. If I'm not comfortable to breastfeed in front of my dad or father-in-law, I'm not comfortable to do so in front of strangers.
- Pain for a few weeks - Again, if you're afraid of pain, are you sure you're ready to have a child? Did you think this would be painless?? I swear it goes away after awhile!
Of course, I could also say that breastfeeding is cheaper than using formula, but truth be told, even if breastfeeding was more expensive than formula feeding, I would still breastfeed.
What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?