Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Tips from a wanabe expert
August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and to kick it off I thought I'd share my own words of wisdom. You know, since I'm such an expert and all...
Ok, the truth is that the first time around I only breastfed Anna for 3 months, and the last half of that time is when I was introducing formula. What can I say--- she was born in September, and once the holiday season kicked into full swing, I was stressed and I didn't make breastfeeding a priority. I was overly concerned with making Anna's first Christmas amazing that I over exerted myself and it took time away from keeping a good breastfeeding schedule. And for some weird reason, I had a crazy urge to bake a million cookies that Christmas to give out as gifts. Seriously? I baked so many cookies. Dave bought me a Kitchenaid standing mixer and everything. My cookie baking behavior was just bizarre.
Also, I don't come from a family of breastfeeders, and that impacted my success. It's not that my family members weren't supportive- it's just that the subject was not even on our radar. I had never really been exposed to nursing mothers so my understanding was that the majority of women chose bottles over boobies. To be honest, I never thought I would even attempt breastfeeding. When Dave and I would talk about building a family in the early years of our relationship, he was the breastfeeding advocate. I told him on more than one occasion that it was simply not my thing.
But then a funny thing happened- my younger sister got pregnant and registered for a breast pump. She has a degree in nutrition, so she schooled me in the benefits of breastfeeding. She paved the way with her first child, and her confidence only became stronger with her second child. So when I was pregnant with Anna, I decided to give it a try (plus, she already had the pump--- Score!).
So anyway, as I was saying, after Anna's first holiday season, I was all but dried up. I cut my losses and she became a full time formula fed baby. But when I became pregnant with Ryan, I was determined to get back in the nursing game for 3 main reasons:
1. I'm lazy. Mixing formula and washing all those bottles is for the birds.
2. I'm cheap. I can't deny the fact that it really does save us a crapload of money.
3. I like to travel light. I hated having to pack an extra bag filled with bottle and formula supplies- all I need now is a nursing cover.
Oh and duh, there's a fourth reason... of course...
4. The many health benefits for both me and the baby. We've all read the reports, so I'm not going to belabor the point here.
Now if I'm being completely honest, I think it's only fair to tell you that I have used formula 3 times with Ryan. I'm just starting to be able to build up enough milk to pump to save for later and feed him now, but in the early weeks I had events that I didn't have time to prepare for. Now that I'm making more milk, I hope to not be in that situation again. However, I don't think that formula is poison, and I don't have a problem if people formula feed! My personal goal is to breastfeed him for his entire first year, but if something should happen to prevent me from doing so, I won't feel like a failure. As long as you aren't feeding your child from a Bud Light bottle, I don't care how they eat. That's your business. I'm pro-choice, so I think it would be contradictory for me to come out against a women's right to choose formula over breastmilk for her child, yes?
I'm happy to say that I have been successful so far. Although we are only 3 months in, my friend told me that someone once told her that when it comes to nursing, you just gotta get through those first 6 weeks before it gets alot easier. In my book, that's the best piece of advice on breastfeeding. I honestly felt a shift in how easy it became right around that point. So here are my tips on getting through the first 6 weeks!
Give fair warning
I embarrass easily. I do not like to be the center of attention (unless I'm telling a funny story and making people laugh). When it comes to my boobies--- yea yea, I get that they were made for nursing and rah rah Go Women, but still--- I like to keep the ladies under wraps. I knew that if I wanted to start off my second venture into breastfeeding on the right foot, I needed to set some ground rules. So in the weeks before I delivered Ryan, I let anyone and everyone who might visit me in the hospital know that I would be breastfeeding. I even sent out an email to some people a few days before I went into the hospital. That way, if I had a visitor who was warned ahead of time, and the baby got fussy, they took the cue and would offer to leave the room to give me my privacy. It worked like a dream and it gave me the space I needed!
Have no shame
Keep reminding yourself that the nurses have truly seen it all. If you are having trouble getting your baby to latch on, don't be shy about letting a nurse grab your boob and make it happen for you! Since I had a repeat C-section, I really had no choice but to let the nurses handle my lady parts for that first feeding because I was completely numb from the chest down. In the days that followed, if I had any trouble, I'd throw up my hands and let them show me how it should be done. Those ladies are a wealth of knowledge and happy to help!
Settle in for the long haul
Newborn babies typically go through a series of growth spurts around 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and 9 months. They will cluster feed, which basically means if you're breastfeeding, your ass will be planted on the couch for several days in a row. When you read about cluster feeding, you get the general description, but I was not at all prepared for it when I had Anna! Dave would come home from work and find me topless, surrounded by pillows and receiving blankets, weeping because I had not moved all day. Cluster feeding means your baby becomes a hungry, angry (hangry) shark who feeds all. day. long. It was a nightmare. I had never had it explained to me in terms that translated to what was really going to happen. This time around, however, I was prepared for it. I set up several series recordings on my DVR and I settled in and gave myself permission to let everything else go to the wayside, and it made all the difference. Don't get me wrong- it's still not a pleasant experience feeling like you're trapped inside your house- plus this time around I have a bored almost 3 year old yelling at me all day. But still, just giving myself the permission to let it all go made me feel like I wasn't a huge failure with a messy house.
Take all advice with a grain of salt
You know that saying "Opinions are like assholes- everyone has one and they all stink"? I think whoever made up that quote was talking to breastfeeding moms. You will hear it all- from "Are you sure you're making enough milk?" to "Maybe your milk isn't thick enough" to "I don't think it's normal for her to be eating all day like that" and "You're not supplementing with formula, are you?" to "You can't use a binky- he'll get nipple confusion" to "You should start pumping right away when you get home from the hospital every day to build up your milk supply." Start practicing your smile and nod while you zone out. Create for yourself a fantasy land to escape to in your head when people start dropping their opinions to you--- perhaps one that involves Zac Efron and a beach or LL Cool J and nightclub. Mine involves both Zac and LL in a nightclub on the beach, but hey, whatever works for you, it's your fantasy.
Don't get cocky
This tip isn't really one to help you be a successful breastfeeder as much as it is to help you be a compassionate human being. I meant what I said up there about not caring how every woman feeds their babies--- it is their individual choice. We don't know what has gone on in someone's lifetime to lead them to choose formula over breastmilk and vice versa, so don't assume you know what's best for their child. My sister (the trailblazer who registered for the breast pump) shared with me a thought that has become my second best piece of advice for breastfeeding- a nurse once said to her "At the end of the day, a happy mommy makes for a happy baby." There are tons of emotional and physical and mental reasons why a mom can't breastfeed- and none of them are reasons that we have a right to judge. As a successful breastfeeder(ok, just three months, but still!), I feel humbled to be in this position, and I'm thankful for each day that I'm able to do it. And I know alot of great moms out there who are all doing what they need to do to be happy moms to make for happy babies.
All week, I'll be sharing articles on my facebook page about breastfeeding- I hope you'll LIKE my facebook page HERE and be inspired! You can also follow me on Twitter HERE and Pinterest HERE! Plus, you can receive my posts straight to your inbox by entering your email address above in the top right hand side of my blog. Happy World Breastfeeding Week!