I meant to get this out last week, but life being what it is, it’s better late than never! This month, I’m doing posts looking back on my first year as a mother, and the things I’ve learned. I hope you take the information and use it as you see fit in your own experiences 🙂
On to breastfeeding. First off, I’ll quickly comment on the Breast is Best debate that rages throughout our society. I’m obviously pro-breastfeeding or else I wouldn’t be writing this post. Women were created with breasts to sustain children, and virtually all women can supply breast milk to their babies. However, sometimes this feat doesn’t go according to plans (i.e. our own expectations) and some women may end up needing to supplement their baby’s diet with formula. While I have a lot of personal issues with what they put into formula, I’m not going to dog on those women who choose to do this…but I will encourage every mama out there to breastfeed as much as she absolutely can!
Second, I’ll add a brief comment on the medical field and breastfeeding these days. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) say that, if possible, women should breastfeed their children until the age of two, as they receive plenty of immunity benefits from the mother in addition to other nutritional needs. Unfortunately, a lot of family doctors are not caught up on the current medical advice and still promote formula at any given chance. If you feel that you are being pressured to formula feed by any in the medical field, seek help by consulting a lacation consultant, your local La Leche League International (LLLI) group, or a more balanced opinion from another doctor. There’s nothing wrong with second opinions; however, “mom’s advice” may be outdated too–I’ve heard of numerous stories where women’s mothers have encouraged them to switch to formula very early on in a baby’s life because “it’s just not done.”
Now, about my own experience. I originally began breastfeeding right from the start with the hopes that I’d be able to go for at least six months. I wasn’t sure I’d actually make it till then because I know that each woman “dries up” at any given time, and I was one of the unlucky new moms who got her menstrual cycle back almost immediately (two months) after birth. But I didn’t give up, and I discovered soon enough that my daughter despised bottles. Poor daddy! She wailed whenever he tried to give her one because she knew that Breast was Best, or most snuggly, or whatever it is that infants hold as truth when it comes to breastfeeding. Even after we introduced solid foods at the age of six months, she still preferred breast milk for quite a while.
I’ve now been breastfeeding for 13 months, and while I’m pretty sure she’s weening, I’m really happy that I’ve been able to go this long. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had my fair share of pain and worries just like the next mother. While my experience may be my own (yours will be different), here are a couple things I think apply across the board when it comes to learning how to breastfeed and maintaining it:
- Breastfeeding takes time. I know of a lot of women who give up after four or five days, when the soreness of their nipples really grates at their nerves. Don’t give up. Your milk supply is just coming in at that point, and it takes at least two weeks (sometimes as many as four or six) to really get a newborn to latch properly. If latching proves to be difficult–and babies will be lazy from time to time, so you may have to reteach it–consult a lactation consultant for tips on how to improve your baby’s latch.
- Breastfeeding requires patience. This is a learning experience for both mom and baby. There are numerous positions you might need to try before you figure out which is best for the two of you. You might have to figure out how to sit your baby up while feeding because s/he gets gassy/colicky. You might have to figure out how to use a breast pump because your supply is large, or you might have to use one to help increase it. (Amount of milk pumped is NO indication of your actual supply, so for those who hardly get anything out, don’t fret. You’re making what your baby needs.) Some days, your baby will be a permanent attachment, others they won’t want much at all. When you get frustrated, take a deep breath and keep at it. Persistence is key and patience is mandatory.
- Breastfeeding is beautiful. The bond between mother and child is a very special one. Breastfeeding gives you time to look at tiny fingers and toes, to watch your baby develop, and to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the little gift God has given you. Even now, when my daughter’s feedings are growing fewer in number, I’m astonished at how wonderful my child is, how wonderfully she was created.
I’ve also come up with a list of what I’d consider essentials to help you breastfeed:
- A boppy pillow: seriously, the one “non-essential essential” I recommend every mother has at her disposal. This has saved my back as well as helped me position my daughter right since day one.
- A breast pump: there are quite a few affordable ones out there, but the likelihood is that you’ll need one. Whether your supply is large or small, pumping helps regulate it. If you are a career woman who is determined to breastfeed her baby while working full time, look into the laws in your state. I believe that businesses are mandated to have a room for mothers to pump in and store the milk, but it might vary for each state.
- A breast milk storage system: again, there are many ways of doing this, but the newest one I’ve found interesting is by Kiinde. Their starter kit comes with several attachments so you can pump directly into their storage bags, which then attach directly onto a bottle so you don’t lose any of the creamy fat that can stick to the sides of other bottles when you warm it up and transfer to a feeding bottle. I’m looking forward to trying this one out with Baby #2. (No, I don’t receive anything for mentioning the company 🙂 I just learned about it at MommyCon this month!)
- Bottles: you may have to try several varieties before you find one that works for your baby, or you may have to forget this idea altogether. It really depends on the baby.
In closing, I hope that your journey into motherhood is as filled with wonder and joy as mine as been. No doubt it’ll be different, maybe even difficult, but even the hardest child is a blessing in a mother’s life. I wish you the very best in everything, and hope that you and your spouse will make the best decisions for your family that you can. In the end, you are the one that knows what your family needs the most.