Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some Not-So-Professional Breastfeeding Advice

**This post is going to contain some personal information about myself and about the lactacting human body.  Nothing gross, but I will be using the appropriate words for related body parts and will be using some description. If you don't really want to know, then this is not the post to read.**

I have a lot of friends right now who are pregnant, or have just had a baby within the last two months. I mean a lot.  I think at last count I was up to 10.  It might be even more at this point.

Anyway, with all the pregnancy announcements and Kiddo recently turning one, memories of the joys and the tears of new parenting have been coming back in full force.  I was wondering what advice [in the midst of all the massive amounts of advice!] I actually wish I had been given specifically concerning breastfeeding.

Why just breastfeeding?  Well, because I had a really awful time with it for the first two months. As in, I wanted to quit every single day for two whole months. I'm not exaggerating.

When I was pregnant, I couldn't imagine why so many new moms quit breastfeeding after only a couple tries.  Honestly, I thought they were just lazy. And then, I had a baby - and I tried to breastfeed.

Before I get into my story, I want to preface by saying that breastfeeding might go really smoothly for you.  I truly hope it does.  Conversly, you might have trouble breastfeeding because of things outside of your control, like poor milk production or something medical. I don't want to scare you into or out of breastfeeding.  I simply want to encourage any new moms out there that are struggling and looking for help. Breastfeeding is a personal decision, and no one should ever feel pressured into or out of it.

I spent every feeding at the hospital in excruciating pain. I would have to pinch myself or kick something just to distract myself from the pain.  It hurt so badly that eventually I couldn't even let my daughter latch. I would get her just close enough and then involuntarily yank her away just before because I was so scared of how badly it was going to hurt. My husband woke up at 4 a.m. our second night to me having a complete meltdown over my inability to breastfeed properly.

Engorgement came, making it even harder and more painful to latch.  I had cracked, and eventually, bleeding nipples, which only added insult to injury.  Then, a clogged duct - the only cure for it was to breastfeed even more often.

This went on for over two weeks.

By the time the pain became more manageable, Kiddo wound up in the hospital with a skin infection.  Over those two days with her in the hospital, I essentially went back to square one with breastfeeding her.

I spent innumerable nights crying because I wanted to quit, but I knew I couldn't. We needed to save our money so Josh could go to school, so breastfeeding was our only option.

 To those ladies whom I judged, and judged harshly for quitting, I apologize.

Eventually, slowly, breastfeeding got better.  By month three, Kiddo got better at it, and so did I. I learned a lot about breastfeeding over the past year, enough to write more advice than any new mom would care to hear, so I'm just going to stick to three things.

My Three Bits of Breastfeeding Advice:

1. Get help while you're still at the hospital post-delivery.  If its available to you, ask to have a lactation consultant visit you at the hospital post-delivery.  If that isn't an option, see if you can get a nurse on the floor who knows her stuff to help you out. Ask, ask, ask. Even if you "aren't doing that badly."  Even if its 3 a.m. Make sure you walk out of that hospital as confident as you possibly can be about breastfeeding. Also, walk out of there with information about who to contact if breastfeeding gets difficult again.

2. Wear a sports bra at night.  I didn't think I needed to wear one because I'm not well-endowed.  Night bras were supposed to be for supporting the extra weight.  I found out the night after my milk came in that this is not the case.  Those bras are to hold nursing pads so that you don't soak yourself literally from head to foot.  Waking up soaking wet and freezing in the middle of the night is the last thing you will want to experience in those first few days with a newborn.

3. Get a buddy. I give this advice to all new moms, but specifically for those who are really struggling with breastfeeding.  I battled over quitting every single day for two months, and even months after I had a lot of days where I just wasn't feeling it.  I am so thankful that my husband stepped in to encourage me to keep going, to remind me the reasons why, and to even tell me a couple times that I wasn't allowed to quit breastfeeding for at least another week.  Without his support, I know I wouldn't have made it.  So, enlist your husband, your mom, your best friend - tell them to help you keep it up.

Along with my tidbits, I want to share with you my three favorite breastfeeding accessories:

1. Medela Tender Care Lanolin.
 This nipple cream was, by far, my favorite.  The consistency is less chunky than most lanolin creams.  Using this cream is like spreading softened butter on toast.  It's just easier - especially when you're sore.

2. Belly band/tummy sleeve/what have you.
 I got these while I was pregnant in order to stay in my normal jeans longer.  Turns out, I used them more for nursing convenience than to keep my pants up.  The belly bands work as a tummy cover for all those times you will be pulling your shirt up to nurse.  It's great for being in public, for keeping yourself warmer while feeding, and for protecting your tummy if you had a c-section. Coolest thing is they even help keep the extra post-baby flubbies tucked in :)

3. Johnson's Nursing Pads.   I tried every variation of nursing pad under the sun.  Reusables would get miserably chilly once they got wet, and most disposable pads would rustle or were huge. These pads come contoured and [bonus!] even have a little indent for your nipples to go.  The outside has a sticky if you want to adhere your pad to your bra. They don't rustle and they can hold a lot of leaking without getting you wet.

[These links go to my Amazon Associates page, where a percent of your purchase of these items through the links will come back to support this blog.  Thanks!]

So was breastfeeding worth it?

Yes, I can safely say, one year later, that breastfeeding was worth it. While I am truly excited to finally have my body back to myself now that I have weaned Kiddo, I realize now that getting to breastfeed her throughout her first year of life is something I truly cherish. It was the first time in my life that I fought to continue doing something I didn't want to do [with a lot of encouragement from the hubby]. To breastfeed was a choice I made to chose my family over my feelings.  Breastfeeding made me grow up, plain and simple.

I even think I will do it again, when kid #2 rolls around some day :)

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