Thursday, May 27, 2010

Things I Learned about Breastfeeding, Part 2: The Experience

Wow, what a fantastic reaction from the last post! I was touched. :-) (And yes, even by you, Mr. Deepseated-Issues on comment #3... you're a valuable example of the attitudes a breastfeeding mum has to deal with.) :-) My thanks to all the commenters, and the readers as well.

My lovely boy, modelling his breastfeeding pillow. Tyra would be proud!

Anyhoo, as promised, it's time to move on to the more personal level of my breastfeeding experience. Here is what I have learned so far:
  • Considering that it is a natural process/skill, breastfeeding sure didn't come to me very naturally! While I think myself to be a reasonably intelligent person, it took me a long while to figure out what I needed to do, and what did and did not work well. Patience with myself was invaluable during this time.
  • Having a list of available breastfeeding resources on-hand was a real lifesaver. As such, I advise expecting mothers to make a list of supports they can call upon, should they need help at some point. Excellent resources include doulas, La Leche groups, mother babe groups, and public health nurses. I continue to rely on nurses or doulas whenever I run into trouble, and it's made breastfeeding infinitely easier and more enjoyable.
  • Even with the aforementioned supports, the first two weeks of breastfeeding are AWFUL. For the first few days, baby has to suck miniscule amounts of colostrum from the breasts with the force of a vaccuum cleaner, and it took awhile for both Will and I to learn proper latching technique. During this time, I was frustrated, overwhelmed, and in a lot of pain. However, by week 3, everything clicked and has since gone amazingly well. So, to all you moms-to-be, it *really does* get better! :-)
  • While I was having nursing difficulties, Medela silicon nipple shield was the best $8 I've ever spent, since it disperses the suction over more of the breast and thereby makes nursing easier on one's tender nipples.
  • The first few days go smoother when you can liberally apply pure lanolin cream; having to ration out minuscule amounts of the hospital-issue sample packs was an extra inconvenience I did not need. Were I to do this all over again, I would pack a tube in my hospital bag.
  • Also, bring a (sports-style) nursing bra to the hospital. Those hospital gowns are scratchy. 'Nuff said.
  • It's never too soon to start building a nursing wardrobe. I recommend the Ripe brand crossover top, which has been a fashion staple of mine throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. The Bravado nursing tank is also an excellent choice, if you don't mind showing off cleavage.
  • Breastfeeding pillows are good for more than just breastfeeding; we use ours for tummy time, dad doing bottle feeding, and general cuddling or chilling out. Don't buy one, though, since they're really expensive to buy but easy to make.
  • Breastfeeding in public isn't as big a deal as I thought it would be. Granted, I've only done it a few dozen times, and I do pick my locations carefully, and I do keep a cape on-hand for emergencies. All told, though, I've not encountered any tut-tutting grannies or leering dudes, which I'd been bracing myself to face on all sides.
  • Then again, during breastfeeding, I don't really notice much, other than my lovely son. It's way more of a bonding experience than I'd anticipated, and I know I'll miss it when he's weaned. The fact that I enjoy that time is a huge surprise to me.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, the breastfeeding situation between a mother and her child is different for everyone. It is important to try to breastfeed, and to seek help and support when needed; however, if significant issues persist after all help and support has been exhausted, it's even more important to dismiss any guilt you may have and carry on with other options (like formula). What matters most is that you are feeding your baby, and if anyone has a problem with the way you're doing it, it's their own hangups manifesting. So regardless of what your feeding relationship is, keep your head held high, believe in your decision, and when necessary, feel free to tell tut-tutters to sod off. ;-)
Anyhow, I hope some of these observations are useful to some of you out there! Feel free to leave comments about your own experiences, should you wish to share.

1 comment:

Phat Girl said...

Wow! Your experience sounds exactly like mine the first time. Bleeding, tears, latching issues, etc. I got relief from nipple shields and ended up being able to breastfeed for four months with my daughter, until my supply ran low and no matter what I did, I couldn't get it back. I ended up formula feeding her after four months but what I will say is the breastfeeding resources I had contacted were all brutal and did nothing to help. They stuck too religiously to their mottos and said there was no reason I should have to stop breastfeeding. However, my daughter was dangerously underweight and even after medication, herbs, everything we couldn't make enough for her so the doctors stepped in. I would have liked to have learned then that I could do both. This time around, I am exclusively breastfeeding and can't get my son to take a bottle, which I need so my husband can feed him while I am working. Ah, it's never quite right but I am happy it worked out better this time.