Monday, October 15, 2012

Breastfeeding: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I wanted to post something about breastfeeding because I'm pretty proud to be doing it.  I have no experience with formula feeding so I can't compare but I can share my experience that I've gained in the past nearly 3 months of breastfeeding.

Initally, I spent HOURS researching "what is normal" while up in the wee hours of the morning feeding Liam. I found that a lot of my struggles were common, a lot of "common" views weren't exactly accurate, and breastfeeding isn't easy.  It's actually as far from easy as you can imagine. But with each ugly there is a good.  With each bad there is a good.  With each good, there is a wonderful.   To sum it all up with a simple phrase- "Just give it six weeks".  If you can get through the first 6 weeks, you've made it.

We'll start with The Ugly.
     Your nipples-
      They will be scabbed.  They may even have blood blisters on them.
     When you shower, even the water from the shower head will cause so much pain you reconsider ever taking a shower again.  
      The initial latch hurts like hell. Every time.  I reconsidered breast feeding every time Liam would cry to be fed.  I dreaded that latch.  It brought tears to my eyes.  Liam would latch, unlatch, and re-latch a dozen times in the beginning.  I may have yelled at him once or twice to figure it out.
      Everyone tells you to use Lanolin to help- what they don't tell you is that you'll have oily stains on your shirts, bras, and anything else that comes in contact with it.  If you don't use it, your nipples stick to your clothes and peeling them off isn't pleasant.

The Good?  This only lasts about 4-6 weeks.  The scabs go away, the stains become something to laugh at, and showers become your friend.  The latch stops hurting ad you and your baby figure each other out.  It becomes better.  It becomes wonderful.  It becomes a bond.

The Bad.
  I have 2 words- cluster feedings.  These are what makes mommas think they aren't producing enough milk to feed their children.  These feeding occur typically in the evenings, though they can be at anytime.  They occur around growth spurts, so 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, etc.  They exist to help stimulate increased milk production to help feed baby during these growth spurts.
In my experience here's what happened-  I'd feed Liam- he'd take his typical HOUR to eat.  Then 10-20  minutes later, he was crying and rooting for the breast again.  Back on the breast he'd go.  He'd eat again, and again, and again.  I can remember one day he was latched to the breast for 3 straight hours.  I couldn't believe it.  Thank goodness I had my Kindle Fire because I was researching away to make sure this was "normal".  Guess what?  It was.  It didn't mean there wasn't enough milk there- it just meant he was helping let my body know that soon he was going to need more.  I just needed patience (and nipples of steel would have been nice).

The good?  These feedings don't last forever.  The evening cluster feeds actually helped Liam sleep through the night by 6 weeks.  (He now sleeps 10+ hours at night).  The repeat feedings helped us learn to latch better. Liam now eats in under 20 minutes, both sides.  They increased my milk production.  Initially when I pumped I'd only get 2 ounces total from both breasts in 20 minutes.  Now I can get 5 ounces in about 10 minutes, just on one side.  Patience.  JUST GIVE IT SIX WEEKS.

The Good.
You're passing to your child immunity to illnesses.  You're decreasing their risk of asthma, allergies, eczema, ear infections, and even certain cancers.  You're developing a bond like no other.  Yes, mother's who formula feed have a bond too, I'm not discounting that, but  it's so hard to explain.  Breastfeeding a few weeks will make a difference.
Oh yes- and let's not forget the additional 500-800 calories a day you'll burn by breastfeeding!  I shed those 24 baby lbs in the first 6 weeks post partum without exercise.

I've now been breastfeeding for nearly 12 weeks- so I'm not an expert by any means but I really do encourage other mom's to give it a try.  Please ask if you have any questions.  I've even breastfed in public (in the doctor's office waiting room, at a wedding, in my car in a parking lot, and at the table in a restaurant!), and while that was a little panic inducing at first- not a single person said something to me or even looked at me wrong.

A great website and resource is .  I spent many an hour reading the information on there.

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