Did you know that this week is World Breastfeeding Week? So what does this week mean? That women across the world should breastfeed in public without covering themselves and not feel ashamed? Sure! Women should give themselves a lot of credit for breastfeeding their child and feel empowered? Of course! And maybe bring more awareness of the importance of breastfeeding babies? Heck yes.
I’m definitely an advocate for breastfeeding and think it’s important not only for the child but for the new mom too. It’s funny because I get a lot of questions regarding breastfeeding because women know that I’m an expert in bras makes me an expert in breastfeeding. I wish I could tell them that I am, but the absolute truth is that I consider myself a failure when it comes to breastfeeding. From failure I’ve learned a lot and from that I’m going to share with you some of the six breastfeeding tips I think are really crucial to success. Let me explain.
I remember before I had my first child my thoughts on breastfeeding were the following:
A. It’s like the most natural thing in the world so I would learn it really quickly and I wouldn’t experience any problems breastfeeding my child, so therefore I didn’t need to read up or take any classes on how to feed my baby.
B. That a lot of women give up and I wasn’t going to be one of those women who gave up because it was “too hard.”
C. I had a goal of breastfeeding my child for up to a year and I was going to do EVERYTHING to make sure I reached that goal.
After I had my daughter and she was in the NICU for several days, I had to wait a while to start breastfeeding because she had some health problems. Once they gave me the green light to start feeding her, I was anxious to learn and to get started. It wasn’t bad. She was doing well, and I was doing well, so I thought.
The day my milk came in was really uncomfortable. I mean I went up two cup sizes overnight. I started to feel chaffing and felt like my nipples were going to be ripped off because they were so sore and tender. I’ve never felt pain like that. It got so bad that I would cry thinking how I would have to feel that pain every two hours. This pain, discomfort, and the feeling of my nipples feeling so raw and chaffed finally stopped one day. It was like a miracle. I thought to myself, “OK, so I went through that, it’s smooth sailing from now on, right?.” Oh how naive I was.
My daughter was struggling with sleeping at night. She had her nights and days mixed up and was waking up every two hours. Feeding her took a hour, and then I would change her, and put her back to bed. I was exhausted and I could tell my no sleep deprived body was effecting my psych and my milk supply. I needed to find a way to get more sleep in the day. So my doctor suggested I feed her formula at night so that it would help her to sleep longer. I was willing to do anything at this point, so I did, I fed her formula only right before I put her down to bed and she slept like 5 hours every night! Oh my freaking heck! I loved the formula, it was my new best friend.
So I started to do this for several weeks and it was going well, until….. I noticed that when I would breastfeed her she was acting way fussy and wouldn’t nurse for very long. This started to happen every time I would try to feed her. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want my baby to starve, so I started to feed her more and more from a bottle. This went on for a week or two until she completely wouldn’t nurse from me anymore. I finally realized that she liked the bottle more than me because it was easier for her. I felt completely rejected. Kind of like the rejection you feel in high school when your boyfriend breaks up with you, but instead of a stupid teenage boy, it’s a two month old baby! I was determined to still breast feed, but knew that if I wanted to give her my milk I would have to resort to pumping.
So I started to pump. Pumping was ok but realized pumping took so much more work. I would pump for 30 minutes, and then feed her my milk , which would take another 30 minutes, store milk in the freezer, warming it up when it was time to feed her, and I would have to clean millions of bottles everyday. Then I felt like pumping was overtaking my life. If I needed to go run errands I would have to plan where I could find a private place where I could pump. This became extremely stressful to me because I felt like I was a prisoner in my own house. This continued for about a month and a half until it came to a breaking point for me.
Deep inside I knew that breastfeeding my baby was the best thing for my baby and I was to the point where that wasn’t an option for me anymore because she refused to feed from me. Pumping was the second best option but I wasn’t loving it and how I felt so tied down to it. At this point I wasn’t producing much milk anymore. I would pump for 30 minutes and be happy if I could get 3-4 ounces.
Not being able to give my baby the best made me feel like a complete failure. I felt torn because I had this feeling of guilt where I kept thinking that if I was a pioneer back in the mid 1800’s and if I couldn’t feed my baby, my baby would most likely die. So if the pioneers can do this, I freaking can do it too!
There’s so much pressure I felt from others in my neighborhood, community, and culture to breastfeed. I felt people looked down on you if you decided to stop, quit ,or not even try, and if you do you’re not a good mother. I was afraid of being criticized from others and the thought of having to fork out $100 a month on formula was so outrageous to me.
Four months after my daughter was born an emotional me decided that I couldn’t handle pumping or breastfeeding anymore because it was effecting me and how I was as a mother and it was more important to keep me sane and be a good mom to my daughter. So I stopped pumping. I seriously felt like I was letting my dog die and that I was letting go of something so precious and meaningful. I was really sad, depressed, and uncomfortable for those two days as my milk dried up. A couple days after I felt a lot better and wasn’t sad anymore.
I look back at that time and realize that I learned a lot from that experience and now I know what not to do. Here are the six things I didn’t do the first time that I’m definitely going to do the second time around:
1. Read up and take a class. I’ve heard this so helpful from many moms. I didn’t know what to expect or the basic mechanics of breastfeeding. If I knew what to expect I don’t think I would have been so hard on myself and felt more comfortable, and could have gotten a lot of questions answered. Some books I’ve heard from several mothers that are really good is Breastfeeding Made Simple and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. To find classes near you, I would Google “breastfeeding classes” and you’ll get a lot of options in your area.
2. Don’t stress about it. I had a lot of stress about breastfeeding because I knew it’s a big deal. I would stress about not feeding her enough and not being on a schedule. I know there’s a couple of different approaches you can take with breastfeeding but the one I’m going to take this next time is to feed my baby on her schedule and not mine. Only feed when the baby wants or needs to and you’ll have plenty of milk.
3. Set real expectations. This next time I’m going to have a more looser set of expectations. If I only nurse my baby for a month or if I nurse for a year, that’s great! I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m going to do my best and forget the rest.
4. Don’t get offended. You’ll hear a ton of breastfeeding stories, tips, tricks, and opinions from mothers’, family, friends’, neighbors’, sisters’, in-laws’, and grandparents’. So try to take it with a grain of salt. Remember, they mean well, and if they come across rude just try to let it roll off your shoulders.
5. Do what’s best for your baby and you. Every woman and her baby are in different circumstances when it comes to breastfeeding and it’s hard not to compare yourself to other nursing moms, I mean we are women, right? If you find pumping works better for you then breastfeeding, great! If you hate breastfeeding and want to do formula, great! If your baby isn’t latching on correctly and you need to use a nipple shield, then use one! There’s no right or wrong way. The most important thing is that baby is getting it’s nutrients from your or from other ways, and then he/she has a loving mom.
6. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to do this. This can be really difficult if you’re pretty independent or if you feel embarrassed or like a failure like I did. There’s a lot of resources out there for nursing moms. While in the hospital ask for help from nurses, lactation consultants, your mom, mother in-law, sisters, sister in-laws, and friends! The Le Leche League is a good source if you have questions. Most states have chapters in certain cities. Go to their site to find one closest to you. While at home you can call the hospital or place you delivered and talk to triage lactation nurses and ask for help. I would join a forum or a breastfeeding support group online. I found this one called Milk Matters and Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Campaign. These can be a great way to meet other breastfeeding moms, develop friendships, and gain some extra support.
Here’s an extra bonus tip. If you bottle feed your baby and still want to nurse don’t give your baby a heavy flow nipple when they’re a newborn, this is what I did because I was ignorant and had no idea what I was doing and I attribute this to the cause of my breastfeeding downward spiral. Use a slow flow nipple for the first couple months.
If you’re wanting to breastfeed and need a great guide on how to pick the correct fitting nursing bra, go here.
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