In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m sharing my personal breastfeeding experiences here on the blog. I support all moms and their parenting choices, but this week is all about breastfeeding awareness. Please do not read judgement in to my words. It isn’t there. I am currently nursing my second child who is 3 months old and exclusively breastfed. I nursed my first child for 1 year, with some formula supplementation the first 2 months. You can read about my breastfeeding battle nursing my first child here. We had a hard time, and I learned a lot. Nursing is the best for your baby, and it may be a challenge for you. It is at times a truly beautiful, bonding, precious, and dare I say holy time. At other times it is uncomfortable, frustrating, and difficult. It is always worth it.
1) Breastfeeding is best for baby and natural, but not necessarily easy.
I took a class before Bear was born, but had never really seen anyone breastfeed. I had no clue what I was doing. Then I had a c-section, which makes nursing more difficult for most moms (and a big part of why I had a VBAC with my 2nd child). Formula was pushed on me by the hospital because Bear was loosing weight and wouldn’t latch correctly. Weeks later we found out it was because he had a tongue tie. Nurses, lactation consultants, and our former pediatrician all blamed me, saying I wasn’t producing enough milk and just wasn’t trying hard enough. NO one bothered to look in Bear’s mouth and see the real issue until we hired a private IBCLC to come to our house as a last ditch effort. She saw the problem immediately and explained that it wouldn’t get better until his tongue was fixed.
We saw a pediatric ENT doctor the next day and had his tongue clipped. He immediately latched on correctly and my breasts started producing more milk. Because he couldn’t latch he tore up my breasts, because he tore up my breasts I used nipple shields given by an LC, because I used nipple shields my milk production went down, because my milk production went down I was bullied into supplementing, because I supplemented I had to battle to get my production back up. It was an ordeal. But worth it. After we had his tongue fixed I worked hard to get my production back up and we were able to stop using formula at 5 weeks. He nursed exclusively til 6 months when we started solid food, and continued nursing til 12 months.
When the Pearl Girl was born three months ago, we immediately saw that she was also tongue tied. We had it fixed on the way home from the hospital by our pediatrician, but had to go back for one more clip by our pediatric ENT. In the 3 short days it took to get her tongue fixed, my breasts were already torn to shreds. If this happened to you, a tongue tie could be to blame. Since we had it fixed she has nursed well and my milk production is great.
2) If you can push through the first 8 weeks, it gets much easier and is completely worth all the hard work. It will make your life so much easier and hassle free.
You can read lots of great information about why breastfeeding is best for your baby here and here. It was also the best for me because I never have to heat anything up, mix anything, or tote any food with me. My milk is always available and always the perfect temp, and in the perfect container. I’m not able to store pumped milk because my milk contains extra lipase and goes bad when stored. This means I have to be available to feed my babe whenever she is hungry. This can be a challenge, but I make it my priority to be there for her. I did the same with Bear while working. It was a sacrifice, but totally worth it. I truly believe that breastfeeding is the reason Bear has only needed antibiotics once in his 2+ years.
3) Breastfeeding can be lonely, but you are not alone.
At the beginning, breastfeeding is a 40 hour + a week job, and it can be a bit lonely, just you and your sweet babe. You are most definitely not alone. There is a fabulous breastfeeding community online, in chat rooms, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Search for the #bfcafe hashtag to find a weekly Twitter chat, and look for your local Le Leche League’s Facebook group. Many local baby stores also host breastfeeding cafes run by IBCLCs where you can find community and get advice. If you are struggling and need help, don’t hesitate to ask. You are not a failure because you need help. Ask your friends for recommendations on lactation consultants and make sure they are internationally board certified (IBCLC), or call your Le Leche League chapter. You will be surprised by how many of your friends sought help with their nursling. A breastfeeding hotline run by a formula company is not the best resource for quality information on nursing. If you need help, check out the resources below.
Best For Babes
Info About Tongue Ties
Le Leche League
The Leaky Boob
4) Your breastfeeding relationship may look different from your mom’s or your friend’s.
Many women of our parents’ generation did not breastfeed, many because they believed the advertising campaigns that said science (formula) was better than nature or because they had to return to work quickly after the birth. My mom told me that she was kind of unique with her natural Lamaze births and breastfeeding. Your mom or mother in law may think it is weird for you to want to nurse, and other people in your life may not be supportive. Lots of folks will have advice. Your best friend may be completely happy nursing on demand 24/7 til age 4, while your other friend is doing all she can to get to 6 weeks. Both are doing what works for them and their baby. Some babies eat for 5-10 minutes every hour, while others (like mine) eat for 20-30 minutes every 2-4 hours. What I do know is this: while a structured routine may work for you, a rigid schedule will make you crazy. Babies get hungry when they get hungry, just like we do. If they are used to eating around the same time every day, they may put themselves into a routine. However, a rigid schedule run by the clock will leave you stressed and baby hungry and mad. I love a routine. But not a schedule. Our basic routine is eat, activity, sleep. I feed her, burp her, then we do some activity, then she will start to act fussy and it is time for nap. When she wakes up (at whatever time) I know she is hungry again. Every day looks a little different. This is what works for us, but what works for you may look completely different. And that’s ok. Trust your mama heart and your mama instincts.
5) Breastfeeding is not a modesty issue, it is a baby feeding issue.
When my first child was born, I just knew I would always wear a cover when nursing in public and would never be one of THOSE women. Then my first child hated to be covered. He wanted to see my face the whole time and would immediately throw off the blanket as soon as his little arms had the strength. Also, I live in Texas and have to nurse in the summer. If you believe women should have to cover up, I have an exercise for you to try. Grab your lunch and then try to eat it under a blanket. You will get really uncomfortable, really fast, even in air conditioning. My baby feels the same way. I’m not flashing my boobs all over town, but I will feed my baby whenever and wherever she is hungry, and most likely won’t use a cover. Most people probably won’t even notice. If a women feeding her baby offends you, you definitely want to stay away from the mall because those store ads show WAY more boobage than any nursing mama. The message that it is somehow wrong to use our bodies they way God designed them just makes my blood boil.
Nursing in public is part of the message of World Breastfeeding Week. When moms feel shamed and discriminated against, it can sabotage a nursing relationship. Unfortunately this still happens on a regular basis. Here in Texas the rights of nursing moms are protected, but that doesn’t stop the harassment. Check out the news story below to learn about the recent Big Latch On event and the discrimination faced by one Texas mom.
Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com
If you are a nursing mom, what is your favorite thing about your breastfeeding relationship? What is the hardest thing about nursing?
I would love to challenge everyone who reads this to encourage any nursing mamas they know with kind words and support. If you see a mama nursing in public, thank her for what she is doing. She will appreciate it.