Monday, January 27, 2014

Breastfeeding

I've been putting off my post about breastfeeding for a while now. This was a hard post to write. I want to be a strong and positive advocate for breastfeeding to any fellow friends or readers out there who are considering breastfeeding in the future. I don't want to strictly highlight the positives without being realistic in stating some of the "difficulties" that can come with breastfeeding (notice I didn't state these as negatives), but I would never want stating these difficulties to be the reason someone decides not to breastfeed.

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.
Not succeeding at breastfeeding wasn't an option for me...we were going to figure it out no matter what, unless of course, it came down to a matter of Natalie's health or well-being. It is a huge commitment, more of a commitment than I thought it would be or was prepared for. But even when it got hard, or stressful, or painful, I never once thought "Hmmm, maybe I won't do this." I think the fact that my body will produce every ounce of food my baby needs for the next 6 months, and continue to supplement beyond that is truly remarkable. I can't imagine not feeding my baby the way nature intended.

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.
For the most part, it did. I had a nurse help me with my first feeding and Natalie seemed to take to it right away. I did a feeding and then that first night, we slept 6 straight hours in the hospital. The nurse suggested that we just sleep after the long day of delivery and take up with breastfeeding the next day. (Babies can go the first 24 hours after being born without being fed at all!). The next day I was diligent about feeding her every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, by the end of the day Saturday, I noticed that she was really struggling latching onto the left side. I asked to have a lactation consultant stop by to give me some pointers and tips. When she did stop by, I wanted to do a feeding in front of her, but she said that any of the nurses were trained to help me with breastfeeding and she would just talk me through what to do.

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.
By day 4 I started to panic. We took Natalie to her first pediatrician appointment and I ended up bursting into tears talking to the doctor about it. Natalie's weight was down from 7 pounds 7 ounces, to 6 pounds 12 ounces, which is normal even for a healthily fed baby. There was no concern there, but she did need to start putting her weight back on, and I was so afraid that I wasn't going to be able to do that if she continued to only feed from one side. The doctor gave us some suggestions and the phone number for a lactation consultant.

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!

But then...by the third week my left side started to hurt really badly. Feedings became really uncomfortable and painful. Every time she fed on that side it was like knives were shooting through my nipple. For a day, I was convinced that I had thrush, but I really wasn't showing any signs of it, other than the pain. My mother-in-law sent her friend, who works in maternity and has helped countless women breastfeed, over to my house to help me out. She was extremely helpful. She assured me that I did not have thrush, and that I was doing a fantastic job: Natalie was feeding well, and she showed me a few techniques to help get her properly latched. I felt fantastic after she left and was sure that Natalie and I were on the road to being the perfect breastfeeding companions.

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:

The pros:
  • 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)

The "Difficulties":
  • 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.
I've finally gotten to a place with Natalie where I feel confident in saying "I love breastfeeding." I think I was waiting to post on this particular topic until I was able to say it...because for the first few weeks, this probably would have been a very differently written post. Sometimes I am amazed by how fast 2 hours goes by, and sometimes I feel bad for taking her away for a feeding from yet another person who has come by to see her. But I am lucky that everyone is 100% understanding about what I need to do, and I won't feel guilty for it. By now, I have probably googled every single question there is to ask about breastfeeding and feel that I have become quite versed on the subject. I still need to calm down if we go longer than 3 hours, and I still need to realize that I won't "dry up" if we had one day where she didn't eat at much. Sites like La Leche League International and Kellymom.com have become invaluable to me. If anyone out there is breastfeeding, or thinking of breastfeeding and they have questions, I do hope you'll ask me. Breastfeeding is a real gift, and I hope that everyone can at least give it a try.

littlemomentsbigmoments@gmail.com


What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?

16 comments:

  1. What a well written post! Your commitment to your child is commendable. Breastfeeding is a miraculous gift indeed and I am so proud of you for recognizing the power of your own natural, God given ability to provide for your baby and for encouraging other women to do the same.

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  2. I never once thought about not breastfeeding unless it absolutely didn't work out after everything we did. Thankfully we're almost 3 months in and going strong! I'm so thankful I can breastfeed but I wouldn't say I love it every day. It's hard having all feedings besides one be up to me. With that said, I'm still thankful I'm able to because I know it's better for him. I still have a very strong let down reflex that's noticeable (and slightly painful) every time. I haven't nursed in public yet and I seriously doubt that I will if I can avoid it. It's a personal preference for me. James is a FUSSY eater and it's so much easier to deal with a bottle in public than to wrestle with him. Thankfully if we're out I'm able to work around our nursing schedule so I don't miss feedings except by 30 minutes! So happy that it's worked out for you!

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    1. I agree Rebekah. I love that I am able to breastfeed with no problems and that it has worked out for us, and usually I love that time with her. But there are times where I wish I could just get an extra hour or so before her next feeding, but like clockwork...she's hungry every 2 hours. You seem to have a fantastic schedule down with your feeding and running errands and whatnot. I'm so glad it's worked for you. Painful let down reflex? that is so interesting!

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  3. I'm so happy you've been able to breast feed and it's working out for you now. Like you I never could understand why a mother wouldn't at least try it and if it didn't work or whatever fine but to not even try just baffles me when you know it's what's best for your baby. I got really lucky with Hunter, he was a natural at it and never had any issues going from breast to bottle, milk to formula etc. He just liked to eat. I loved breast feeding and did it for a year (while also supplementing with formula and pumping at work). I do wish I could have done it exclusively and not needed to use formula but oh well. I also think that it really did help with his immune system since he was a winter baby in daycare.

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    1. You did a great job with Hunter and he certainly will benefit from his year of breastfeeding! Thanks for sharing your positive experience with breastfeeding!

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  4. Thanks for this honest and detailed post, Laura! I have given some thought to the question of breastfeeding, and reading the honest opinions of moms who both have and haven't done so helps me understand the benefits and challenges. I think I would definitely at least give it a try in the beginning, especially given the health benefits for the child, which as a mom, would of course be my top concern.

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    1. I'm happy to hear that you'd at least give it a try in the beginning when the day comes. I think you'll find that it's a very rewarding and worthwhile experience..and if there are any challenges, of course, I will be here to help in any way that I can!

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  5. This is great! I have been breastfeeding Noelle since she was born almost four months ago and I feel the same way as you. I actually have a really fast let down, which caused some issues, but like you we figured out how to make it work and now it's no big deal. There are so many benefits to it and I'm glad to see more and more women are not even thinking twice about it.

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    1. I'm so glad that you've had a similar positive experience with breastfeeding! I, too, am glad that women are still choosing to breastfeed and I hope it only continues to increase in numbers! Good to know I have you to come to if I have any BF questions or issues!

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  6. Hi Laura, great post. I have been working on a breastfeeding post as well and have really enjoyed reading yours. Your experience is little different than mine. I am sorry you had a rough start but your a great mommy sticking to it. Your not alone as I had some hard times especially at the beginning. I agree with you about breastfeeding and I was set on doing it from the beginning as well. Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. I look forward to reading your breastfeeding post! It seems evvveryone has a completely different experience with breastfeeding so that doesn't surprise me. I'm happy to meet a fellow pro-breastfeeder who didn't think twice about it...and I hope everything is going splendidly for you, despite the difficulties you had in the beginning!

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  7. I had a hard time with latching in the first 24 hours and ended up having to supplement with formula that first day at 3am because she needed to eat something. I was devastated and cried for what seemed like hours with guilt. The next day, the lactation consultant and one of the best nurses I had during my stay were helping me and decided that my nipples would not come out far enough for the baby. We used a nipple shield for a few days to help with the latching and eventually I didn't need it at all! I also started learning how to use the pump at the hospital and was able to give her some bottles when she was extremely fussy and didn't want to latch at all.

    I love breastfeeding and can't imagine not having that bond with my child. I love the quiet moments that we spend together in her nursery during feedings. I've been pretty consistent in this first week with feeding about every 3 hours. She did want to cluster feed the day my milk came in and that was hard, but we got over it quickly.

    Thank you for sharing your story! It was an AWESOME read!

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    1. Congratulations!!!! Ive been wondering how you were doing!! .i wanna see more pics of that beautiful baby!!

      Im so glad that breastfeeding is going well for you! Please let me know if you have any questions these first weeks!

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  8. I'm so glad that breastfeeding is going so well for you and your adorable little girl.I can't even begin to imagine what the last few weeks have been like for you!

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  9. Good on you for writing this Laura! Like you, I never gave a thought to *not* breastfeed...despite all our struggles! I plan to write a post soon but I'm waiting for a milestone to pass first

    I'm so glad to hear you are enjoying this special relationship with your baby girl xxx

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