When I was a young girl, I always knew I wanted to breastfeed when I had children. My mom breastfed me and I grew up hearing about all of the benefits breastfeeding gave to babies and nursing moms, plus it just seemed the natural thing to do.
So far, I have been lucky and have enjoyed breastfeeding my baby girl for the past 9 months. Everything has gone well, minus a few breast infections and clogged ducts in the early days. But since she was a newborn, I haven't had any complications thankfully and things have been going smoothly, but when my longtime new mom friend called the other night asking me about breastfeeding, I quickly remembered all of the little hard details that go into it. And I can understand how hard it can be for new moms. I was right there with you a few months ago!
My friend has been a new mom for about 10 days now, and it was only a few months ago when I had a newborn, but sometimes it can be a distant memory. All of the things that go into it breastfeeding in the beginning weeks came flooding back when she started asking about demand feedings and latching! I realized that if it wasn't for my birth class instructors and the La Leche meetings back then in the early days, I wouldn't have known what the heck I was doing and would not have had any support.
I knew how important it was to have a breastfeeding support system and quickly gave my new mom friend the ins and outs of what to do, and not to do:
-Not to give a Paci or bottle the first 3 weeks because it will cause your milk production to diminish, and cause nipple confusion for the newborn; and babies will prefer the bottle because it's easier to get milk from
-Proper latching is key, but it can be so hard. The best advice I received on how to get them to latch well, was to angle your nipple almost up into the baby's nose; and if you need to re-latch, slide your finger in their mouth to release suction and try again (and remember to make sure your breast is not pushed into their nose so they can breathe).
-To remember it's only painful the first couple of days- that a new mom's nursing face looks like she is scrunching and giving birth all over again, but that the nipple pain will go away in a few days- don't give up! The pain does not last forever.
-And speaking of pain, make sure they are not just sucking on your nipple as your supply won't be stimulated and it will feel like pinpricks!
-How often to feed? On demand, every 30 minutes to every hour or 2
-And don't get me started on pumping- making sure you have the right size nipple shields, the hard work, organizing the supply, cleaning the parts, etc. It's something you eventually get the hang of, but is not easy
-Do you do one breast or the other or wait? Usually you switch and then start next time on the last one you left off with. Sometimes they nurse 10 minutes to 30 minutes on one side, and if they fall asleep, try to wake them up to finish eating
-To try supplements if you have a low supply
-But I also told her to keep in mind the OTHER GREAT PERK! Losing the baby weight :)
-And lastly, AND the most important, that unfortunately you can't have someone (your husband, mother, mother in law) give your baby pumped milk at night so you can get some sleep. Sigh. Why? Because your milk supply will go down. You want to get some sleep, but if you go a full 8 hours without feeding or pumping, your body produces less milk, aka low supply.
If you want to supplement with formula, then a low milk supply is not a bad thing. But I tried really hard to avoid the whole formula route and made sure to give my baby sufficient feedings to keep up my supply. And it worked, because so far I have not had to give any formula to my baby. Not that there's anything wrong with formula, but I am just one of those neurotic people that reads every ingredient on a food label and have a hard time eating processed and chemically laced foods.
My friend seemed overwhelmed, but to calm her nerves, I honestly told her it can be hard in the beginning, but then it will all of a sudden click and become super easy. And that is so true. Now, I barely blink and she is latched and ready to go.
But I also remembered all of the criticism you hear as a new mom, whether to formula feed or breastfeed. And I STILL get it at times.
Those putting their babies on formula feel judged and criticized at times by their family, friends and strangers such as, "why are you not breastfeeding?" or "why didn't you try harder?" and then breastfeeding moms get criticized as well such as, "how long are you going to keep it up, a year?? Wow!" Like it's a bad thing to do what pediatricians recommend.
My mom told me that when she was pregnant with me back in the day, most women gave formula to their babies and that she got a lot of slack from people. She had a hard time finding a supportive doctor and finally found one of the only pediatricians in Dallas that was pro-breast feeding. Strange how times have changed and how each generation is different. Even my grandmother's generation only gave formula and breastfeeding was just something moms did not do back then.
But back to the, "wow, you're going to breastfeed a whole year?" comment. I hear a lot of moms ask me how I lasted so long breastfeeding and how hard it must be.
For me it is so easy to be anywhere and be able to quickly just sit down and breastfeed my baby. Well, I put on a cover up if I am out in public at a restaurant. But there is no packing of bottles in the diaper bag, CLEANING up bottles, warming up bottles, and the waiting for the bottle to be ready as my baby is crying. No climbing out of bed in the middle of the night and getting a bottle made when you are half asleep-I just picked up my baby, nursed and quickly went back to bed. No quick trips to the store to buy more formula when we run out. Plus the cost of formula is a huge savings for me and makes my life easier.
Every mother has their own reason for sticking with breastfeeding or giving them formula. For some out there, I have heard breastfeeding was too much for them, they could not do it due to medical reasons, or it did not fit their lifestyle while working full time. And then there are those with twins and triplets where it was just not possible to keep up, can you blame them?
I think the only hard part of breastfeeding is the time when we can't be there to feed our little ones. I rarely am away from my child but when I have to be somewhere and she takes a bottle instead, I feel like I have missed out. I know, call me crazy.
Sometimes it is the strangest feeling to be away from your baby for too long as you have this innate need to get back home and feed her. Like she is going to be upset her mom was not there to feed her or something- completely untrue but I think it's just this mom instinct thing.
I know what you're thinking, that's what pumps, her dad and babysitters are for. Maybe it's some sort of caveman days biological mother instinct thing, you feel like your child's sole source of food and if you aren't there for her, then you aren't providing for her. Some sort of Lady Madonna picture. But I do pump and I do have others give her a bottle here and there, for her to get used to other caregivers and to give me a little break :)
To me breastfeeding is such a sweet bonding experience and as a mother I am so glad I have been able to breastfeed and did not have any complications. I always thought I would stop when she turns one (as the pediatricians recommend) but now I am getting teary eyed thinking of one day weaning her and our special nurturing time together. Babies grow up so fast and I am not looking forward to the day when she no longer wants hugs and kisses :( Our last breastfeeding session will definitely be filled with tears.