Saturday, August 4, 2012

10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Breastfeeding

Hey!  Did you know that it's World Breastfeeding Week?  Clearly, you don't follow the World Health Organization on Twitter.  Loser.

No, no.  In all seriousness, I only know about it because there was a big to-do in New York about Mayor Bloomberg's Latch On NYC Initiative, which was actually launched in May, but bloggers decided to get hysterical about it now and scream that hospitals were locking up formula and throwing away the key.

Ugh, look at the thigh chub on that baby.  So yummy.

While I'm not going to get into the particulars of the public policy debate here, I thought I would celebrate (?) this week by posting about some of the things I wish I had known about breastfeeding.  

If you're just here for the makeup and shoes, feel free to click away. I won't be offended.

1.  It's HARD.  I had a really, I mean really, rough start to nursing.  Reese was pretty tiny when she was born, despite being 5 days past due, and while she latched on, it hurt.  Like, a lot.  Like, more than a lot. Add that to being woken up every two to three hours, plus the pain of having given birth, plus hormones like WHOA, and that's pretty much a cocktail for awful.

2. Everyone is different. Lots of people have pain on nursing for a few days, or maybe a week or two. For me, it hurt to nurse for two months.  My lactation consultant kept telling me that it would go away in a day or two, but I had basically resigned myself to never feeling normal again when all of a sudden, it did.  Plenty of people had challenges that I didn't have, like low supply.  There are probably about 2% of people who are fine from the start and a lot of people who are lying.

3.  Support is everything.  I was very lucky that both my mother and my mother-in-law had nursed and knew how important it was to me.  I called my mother constantly in tears during those few couple of months, and having her tell me that it was worth it was invaluable.  Also, I can't say enough good things about my husband who kept encouraging me and telling me that it was the right thing to do.  He also offered to go get me formula at 3 in the morning if it was what I really wanted.  If you don't have family who are supportive, I would recommend finding friends who have been through it and can offer words of encouragement when you need it.  Hell, email me and I'll help.

4.  Know when to quit.  I am extremely pro-breastfeeding.  I think everyone should give it a real shot.  But I also don't think it's worth making you, your baby, or anyone else sick and miserable in the process.  Sometimes I look back and think that it wouldn't have been so bad if I had stopped and used formula.  Maybe we all would have been happier in those early days if I had.

5.  Pick your pediatrician.  I had an amazing pediatrician in Pittsburgh who was also very pro-nursing and knew that it was very important to me as well.  It was one of the main reasons we chose her after our pre-natal appointment.  Every time we went in for a visit and I told her that I was having trouble, she would encourage me to keep at it and offer any advice she could.  However, I think that, had Reese not been gaining weight, she would not have hesitated to tell me to supplement and not flog myself.

6. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty.  Seriously.  Formula is not poison, despite what some mommy bloggers would have you believe.  I have a friend who is a physician and had a baby.  She nursed for six weeks and quit.  She said she just wasn't cut out for it, she was going back to work, etc.  She knows the literature and the benefits better than anyone, but it just wasn't for her.  She tried her best and it didn't work out and she shouldn't feel bad about that.


7.  Bottle service.  OMG. So, when our fabulous pediatrician told us that we should introduce a bottle at six weeks and keep giving bottles so that Reese wouldn't reject them after that, we promptly went home, gave her a bottle, celebrated, and then ignored the rest of her advice.  Yeah, Reese refused a bottle for the next TEN FRICKING MONTHS.  Don't do this.  Keep giving them bottles.  Even though pumping is a pain and it takes less time to just nurse, UGH.  Listening to her scream while my husband tried to get the stupid piece of rubber in her mouth? Torture. Don't even get me started on the number of different bottles we bought that take up a bin in our house.

8.  Treat yo'self.  Yay!  You've made it!  You're nursing!  Now, go and buy yourself something pretty.  There are actually pretty nursing bras out there, like those from Cake Lingerie, HOTmilk, and Elle MacPherson.  ASOS actually has an awesome selection and free shipping/returns.  Also, there are cute nursing clothes!  Check out Pregnant Fashionista, Milk-Friendly, and Ain't No Mom Jeans for some pretty comprehensive nursing friendly fashion advice and don't forget that Target actually has a great nursing selection.

9.  Gear only gets you so far.  Before I gave birth, I was convinced that I would need a Boppy pillow and tons of nursing shirts.  First of all, I hated the Boppy.  HATED IT.  Something about the height and my short waisted-ness, I don't know.  I ended up just using a bed pillow most of the time.  Also, with the breast pump.  I only had a handheld (yeah, you read that right) but I'm glad that I didn't spring for the big one since Reese thought the bottle was evil.  Next time (when the baby will take a bottle, oh yes) I think I would look for a reusable one like the Hygeia EnJoye which can be safely passed to a friend when you're done.

10.  TRY.  You can't fail.  Doesn't that sound super Yoda-esque?  The only way you can fail is by beating yourself up for anything.  This is about you and your baby and no one else.  I mean, I would encourage everyone to try really hard, but if it doesn't work out, hey...at least you nursed for that time.

Bonus!  Here's my plug for trying.  I will tell you this, there are a lot of myths out there about breastfeeding.  First of all, it's not weird or gross or indecent.  Second, damn, does it help you drop the lbs.  Third, it won't necessarily mean that you'll be up all night, Reese started sleeping through the night at 8 weeks.  Fourth, you don't have to breastfeed until the kid is in college, despite what that stupid Time Magazine cover said.  Five, it's a great way to get your husband/partner to do everything else because you're nursing.

Anyone else been there, done that and want to share?

4 comments:

  1. I really appreciate this post. All week it's been all about how great breastfeeding is, and if you don't you're not "trying" hard enough, blah, blah, blah. You're so right. It's hard. Very hard. And for some of us, no matter how hard we tried, it just didn't happen. My daughter never latched properly. Like ever. I pumped for three months. Pretty much around the clock. And bottle fed her breast milk. I longed to nurse. But it didn't work, and seeing everything out there and having people say how "easy" it is, just opens old wounds for me. I pumped. I bottle fed. And supplemented with formula (she was over 10 lbs. when she was born - I just couldn't keep up the whole time). I stopped pumping at 3-1/2 months. So thank you for the encouraging words to mamas about knowing when to stop - and it's different for everyone. So apologies for the long comment (and the mini-rant), but as someone who has struggled, I appreciate a breastfeeding mama who understands those struggles and doesn't judge others for their decisions!

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  2. Thanks for this post! My son is 9 months old & we're still breastfeeding. Honestly, aside from a week-long nursing strike and a bit of pain for a few days, we've had a brilliant experience with it, but I still love seeing someone who will tell you that it isn't all sunshine and roses. I know that my experience with breastfeeding isn't the norm and it's good to see people acknowledge that without being depressing. My sister-in-law & nephew stopped when he was 7 months, and he had always needed supplements of formula anyway, but that definitely wasn't "giving up": it was just doing what was right for the two of them. Thanks for the proof that being pro-breastfeeding doesn't have to mean being anti-formula.

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  3. Breastfeeding is hard. I still struggle with it and we are at 9 months and counting! I'm determined to make it through the year for him. I absolutely loathe the pump and have brought it with me everyday to work for the past 6 months. Thanks for this post, many do not realize that while the rewards are high, it is very very hard to do.

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  4. I'm so so glad you all liked the post. I think what I most want people to know is exactly what you all said, that it can be really hard, that it is worth it if you can do it, but it's not everything. I agree with a lot of the outreach and awareness campaigns to educate people about the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage everyone to really try. I found that it was worth the struggle for us, but, whoa. It was hard.

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