Today’s guest post comes from Sophie over at Mommy Training Wheels. It tells about the lessons Sophie learned while on her breastfeeding journey with her son.
Sophie is a twenty something first time mom to Charles (aka: Little Dude). She lives in Quebec, Canada with her partner and son. She is getting ready to go back to work after a 40 week maternity leave. She has always enjoyed reading and writing and says that blogging seemed like a natural step after the birth of her son. She uses her blog as both an outlet for her and a journal she uses to record every moment she can capture of her son’s life. I strongly encourage everyone to go check out her blog. Thanks again for your contribution to this project Sophie! Enjoy!
Love, Hugs and more to come later!
Ah the idyllic scene that comes to mind when one thinks about breastfeeding: A mother, sitting in a cozy chair holding her baby seemingly effortlessly in the cradle position. Her body is completely relaxed as her baby is latched on and calmly sucking away at the breast. Except, it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, in my experience, it seldom actually works that way.
When I learned I was pregnant, I immediately knew that I wanted to try to breastfeed. Not only because breast was best, but also because it seemed less of a hassle. I mean, breastfeeding is natural, right? That is what they say after all. And when something is natural, it’s easy right, right? Turns out, I was wrong.
Let me share a few of the pearls of knowledge that I learned through my nursing experience.
1. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it definitely is not easy.
When I put my son to my breast for the first time, I struggled. Actually, “struggle” is an understatement. A nurse had to help me. She showed me how to use my son’s rooting reflex to get him to open his mouth wide enough to get a good enough latch. She showed me how to compress my breast with one hand as I brought my son’s mouth towards it so that my son could get a deep latch. She showed me to look at his lips to make sure that they were clearly visible around my breast. I fumbled quite a bit. It was awkward at first, very awkward, to be honest. But I managed, and boy did he latch!
2. Breastfeeding can be painful.
I was lucky, my son latched well and quickly. The first few days were more difficult though and with a bad latch usually comes pain. I ended up with bleeding nipples on my second day. They healed quickly (with the help of some lanolin) and, after getting the hang of things, I never had that problem again. Of course, a few months later, my son’s teeth came in and new challenges arose, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed (or healed). I also had to deal with a clogged duct on two occasions but was able to massage it away and was lucky enough for it to not turn into mastitis.
3. Your milk may not come in right away, but when it does…oh boy!
My milk came in on the fourth day. By that time, my son was starting to show signs of dehydration. All I did was nurse, nurse and nurse some more to stimulate my breasts so that they would go past the colostrum phase and bring the milk that my baby needed. In the world of breastfeeding, demand precedes supply. The more your baby nurses (or the more you pump) the more milk you create. All that to say that milk coming in = engorgement = ouchie = desperate need of nursing pads!
4. You will be hungry and thirsty.
I was never a big drinker, but breastfeeding makes one thirsty, especially in the first months when you’re nursing almost constantly. It seemed like I couldn’t get enough water or snacks to help me through the day.
5. What you eat will have an effect on your baby.
You may have to remove some things from your diet. Having alcohol and nursing tends to make your baby sleep less. Some moms do drink before (less than 1h) or even while they nurse, but my little man was always a bad sleeper so if I wanted to drink I made sure to have a bottle of expressed milk for him. Caffeine, not surprisingly, causes even less sleep in a baby. My son also had some pretty gnarly eczema from the get-go. We treated it with prescription cortisone creams and hydrating lotions, but it kept coming back. I learned, when he started solids at 6 months of age, that he was allergic to dairy. When I removed dairy from my own diet, his eczema disappeared within 2-3 weeks. Some moms have to remove even more foods and go on what is known as an allergy elimination diet.
6. Breastfeeding is hard at first, sometimes painful and mostly indescribably awesome!
The worst day to decide it’s time to stop is on a bad day. They happen. I’ve had a few myself. There were days where I felt like just popping my son off my breast and popping a bottle n his mouth and being done with nursing. These were days where I was running on too little sleep or when my son had been nursing for hours on end or when I was healing from a bite or when I was just a hormonal mess. However, if I had decided to wean on those days, I would have regretted it. I’m 9 months in now and plan to breastfeed until my son is 1. Then, I will see.
9 months! For someone who was planning on going 6 months it is awesome. But I couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for a few key factors:
Loads of help: I was always VERY appreciative when my partner, or mother, or friend would bring me a glass of water and/or a snack while I was nursing because I would almost always, inevitably forget to do so myself.
Nursing gear: My partner brought home a Boppy pillow when my son was about 2 weeks old and had it not been for the stitches and the baby attached to my breast, I could have jumped up in his arms from gratitude. I also really appreciated my lanolin and nursing pads in the first few days. I invested in a couple of very comfy nursing bras and tops for when I was out of the house. They made breastfeeding in public much easier and discrete enough for little ol’ shy me.
Support, support, support: Sometimes, I just needed to rant and was happy to have a listening ear. Other times, I was feeling discouraged and needed to be reminded that I was doing a great job, that it was OK to decide to stop breastfeeding, but to wait until I was calm and rested (or as rested as a mother can be) before making up my mind.
Honesty: Breastfeeding has worked out great for me so far and that’s why the people around me encouraged me to keep going when I was feeling down. However, if I had faced major issues and was burning myself out or headed towards depression, the people around me would have been honest and told me that though “breast is best” it isn’t best at all costs.