Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chronicle 34: Say What?! Wednesday: Breastfeeding

For my first edition of Say What?! Wednesday, I want to put forth my version of a DISCLAIMER. This is not a warning label, or Interwebz caution tape. It is merely a "before you read/keep in mind while you read" type...thing. So. Disclaimer: I do not endorse/prefer/judge those who do or do not use said method. I am writing solely from my own personal experience. So please, no snide comments or debates necessary, mamas. Thank you for reading the disclaimer. Please, read on!
When I found out I was pregnant (or, as I fondly referred to it, "knocked up"), I did a lot of research. I spent countless hours hunched over my ancient Apple laptop and poring through a worn copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting, charting every second of my pregnancy and what to do once the baby was actually born.

It wasn't until I was weeks away from delivering that I received a shock. Nursing, as it turns out, is NOT an easy thing to do. In fact, once I stumbled onto this tidbit, it became a train wreck topic (you know, can't look away...). First time moms were terrified, experienced ones assured us that it was hard, but it could be done. With lots of help. The La Leche League website became one of my most visited sites, until I finally added it to my bookmark bar.
Why was I so utterly shocked? Udderly? Ha. Because! I literally thought that you just popped the baby on. And they drank. And then they were full and you patted their little backs until they let out an adorable "urp!" Maybe you got to breathe in their little milky breaths while you were at it. And my nipples? What about 'um? I did not give them a second thought. Even though I became terrified that I would fail at such a "natural process of mothering", I was so glad that I was prepared. Glad that I took the time to really find out what it was all about. That is why I want to help prepare YOU, so that when faced with this decision, no matter what it is, I can somehow make it easier for you.

There is a lot of information in this post, so bookmark and "read as you need" or take it in a few times so you are not overwhelmed.

After Delivery:
1. The hospital where I delivered G made it a priority for mothers to nurse their newborns as soon as possible after birth. Not only does this start the bonding process, but it gives you a snapshot of what nursing will be about for the first few months.

2. My son had a hard time latching, so my room nurse had the lactation consultant visit our room. She helped by correctly positioning my son in my arms & also provided a nipple shield. This helps the baby latch on and stay on. It also protects the nipple a bit more.

3. It hurts. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, because if you're prepared for a bit of pain, then it is easier to deal with. You may experience chapped, raw, bleeding or cracked nipples. It's not pretty, but it is for a relatively short period of time. Then they toughen up and you can't feel a thing. It's a bit odd.

4. I made sure to make another appt with the lactation consultant before we left hospital. There is so much to deal with at the hospital, and all the information comes fast and furious. It is ALWAYS a good idea to get the information again. Make sure to leave with a pamphlet that details local nursing groups and hotline numbers for urgent questions.
At home:
1. I drank ALOT of water from the huge bottle given to me at hospital. I relaxed on the couch and my man refilled it (what a sweetie!). This jug holds up to 30 ounces, which I downed every few hours. It helps with milk production, and keeps you from becoming dehydrated.

2. I became constantly hungry, which was not a problem as nursing can burn an 500 extra calories a day. I just tried to snack on healthier options like crackers & cheese, fruit, veggies & dip, etc. Some days I had chips and candy. Balance is key.

3. There are several different ways to hold your baby as you nurse. I liked and stuck with the traditional cradle hold, which is probably what you think of first. It was easiest for me to prop little man on the Boppy pillow (a U-Shaped pillow that fits around your waist and supports your arm while nursing). Different holds include the cradle, crossover, reclining, and football, to name a few. This article outlines them all, and provides helpful tips.

4. When your milk comes in, you may become engorged which is extremely uncomfortable. Your breast tissue will swell and become inflamed and your supply will not be regulated. The baby can't drink enough at one time to relieve you, so you may need to pump. Word of caution: only pump until your breasts are soft again. Any more and you will encourage the production of even more milk! Don't let the milk go to waste, bag and freeze it for when you introduce the bottle.

5. Burping, spit up, and gassiness...oh, my! For the first three months feeding, sleeping, and pooping are going to be top priority in your life. Anything that disturbs those will be the bane of your existence. Enter burping that elicits spit up, and a hold that allows air to get into your baby's tummy which brings on gassiness. There are a few things you can do to help your baby get through these disruptions, but they are inevitable. There are Mylicon drops, which basically binds gas bubbles, making them easier to exit the body (either way). These can be found at drugstores and are harmless enough that you can give them multiple times a day. I always gave a bit before and a bit after feeding. This seemed to help the most.
5. NIPPLES. Again, with the nipples! Lanolin is your new best friend. Use it after you nurse. Yep, every time. If you can find them, get petal gel pads. They are cool and soothe aches and pains. Also, putting a few drops of breast milk on them and letting them air dry after nursing works wonders. Get used to always having your boobs out. Once you're on a schedule, it gets better. I promise!
6. You will leak. Invest in some washable nursing pads to wear in your bra when you go out in public. There is nothing more embarrassing than leaking through your shirt. I would also recommend having a change of clothes with you at all times. Between leaking and baby spit up/poop/etc, you never know when you might need an extra shirt!

Schedule/After 3-4 months:
1. When you're out and about, be sure to wear an accessible shirt or dress. There's nothing worse than realizing you have to get completely undressed to nurse. I purchased a few nursing bras, but after awhile I realized wireless bras can just be pulled up, AND they cost LESS!

2. Breast feeding in public is tricky. I do not like to do it, although I did get a nursing shawl. I tried it once and it was just too much for me. People were staring, I was trying not to show the goods, and my son just wriggled around and pulled everything out of place. I usually try to find a restroom with a chair or countertop to sit on. Some places actually have nursing rooms, which is a huge bonus!

3. Take a lunch box with ice pack for a bottle of pre-mixed formula or breast milk during longer car rides or outings. If there is not a place to nurse or you are unable, it helps to have a pre-made bottle.

4. I DO supplement with formula for the above reason. Also, if someone is watching my son and they run out of frozen breast milk, it is nice if your child can accept formula from a bottle as well. That has worked well for our family.
When older:
1. Teething prompts the return of sore/bleeding nipples. Reacquaint yourself with Lanolin cream, gel pads, bottles, and soft bras. Nurse from the "healthier" nipple until the other has healed a bit.

2. When your little one starts solids you will be nursing less. Your supply may decrease or even dwindle, or your kiddo may not be interested in nursing anymore. This decrease in supply may herald the return of your period, so be prepared! I wasn't and my husband had to make a midnight run while on vacation.

3. If you missed those lovely little adult beverages, now is the time to fit them back in your life. Make sure you pump or have formula available. One drink is metabolized in one hour, which means it is not stored in your breast milk. Better safe than sorry, mamas. Go with your gut on this one. And be prepared to be tipsy after less than one drink!
After much research and consideration, I decided that nursing was best for me and my family, but that does not mean it was at all easy. It was a huge sacrifice, one that I decided to make because of the positive effects for my baby and myself. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

The Hot Mama


  1. Anonymous5/19/2012

    I struggled with my first with nursing. In the beginning I had nights I was watching the clock and gritting my teeth through it. I finally started to supplement which helped. By the second child I learned more and realized some things I had done wrong with the first. Third baby was the charm. I joked "A girl knows how to eat" ;) she learned quick. I agree though Jen, it was very hard at times, also very convenient at times and rewarding. I always allowed myself to supplement with formula because I hated having to pump and just needed a break at times. laura mayer

    1. There are times when I watch the clock, as well! Nursing is a bonding experience, but not always the mushy goo-goo eyes type that it is portrayed to be. I think bonding occurs by merely spending time with one another.

      We are only human! We need breaks and we need time to ourselves, and to feel that our bodies are still our own! Supplementing is a lifesaver :)

  2. This is great advice, Jenn! Fitting that I read this right before our breastfeeding class at the hospital. :) This helped me think of questions that I wanted to ask one of the lactation consultants.

    1. I'm so glad it was helpful! I know it was a lot of information at once, but there is just so much to mention. How was the class?


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