The other night at dinner, one of my friends asked me how nursing was going for Hudson and I. Apparently I made it sound pretty awful in the beginning and then never gave a full update on our progress, so here it goes…
First of all, something you don’t think about or probably even know as a first time breastfeeding mama, is that your actual Breast Milk doesn’t even come in until your child is a few days old. Hudson was five days. The first couple of days your body is only producing colostrum, a precursor to breast milk that is full of antibodies to keep a newborn healthy. But, here’s the thing; Hudson was hungry in those first few days. And jaundice. But the amount of colostrum you produce is basically just enough to keep your child alive, from what I understand. Thus, he was crying for food. A lot. I remember our second night in the hospital when the nurse took Hudson out of the room for some tests, she came back in and let me know that Hudson was crying from being hungry. And that if I would just feed him more his jaundice would go away more quickly. Given that I had literally been nursing him for hours before this, without any sleep, I had a miniature breakdown. The pressure and guilt I was feeling was horrible. Where was my milk… why wouldn’t it just come in already?! The next three days at home were just as disheartening. With every cry from Hudson I heard the echo of that well meaning nurse’s voice in my head. “You need to feed him”… “I’m trying!!” I would silently yell back. Next time around, I will know better. I will know that newborns can go days with barely any milk per feeding. And the milk will come in. And it will get better. So much better. Then, hopefully there will be less trauma all around.
Once the milk did come in, we were on auto pilot. Aside from the delirium that comes with waking up every two hours (which only lasts a few weeks!) Things were good. There were the occasional nursing strikes from Hudson, Which were stressful but, again, normal. And I will know this next time around and keep pushing forward without sweating it.
Other things to watch out for when nursing are thrush and mastitis. I had thrush, which I blogged about before here. It was very painful but went away quickly with medicine. And now I know more about how to prevent it and recognize the symptoms immediately. (Hint: let your nipples air dry completely before putting your bra back on. And get your fill of probiotics!)
Other than those little speed bumps, it has truly been great. And so much easier than formula. Yes, I said easier! Hudson is currently on a diet of both formula and breastmilk and I can tell you from much experience, unsnapping your bra is a million times faster than mixing a bottle. And time is truly of the essence when your baby is wailing. Plus who wants to make a bottle at 3 am?! Not to mention all of the other health benefits of Breast feeding your child! (Less likely to form allergies, less likely to get ear infections…. it goes on and on…)
[Disclaimer: As I’ve said before, I don’t mean to be insulting to anyone who has chosen not to breastfeed or is not able to. I was a formula baby and turned out great!! Or at least, I think so… hmm..]
And of course one of the greatest perks of Breastfeeding you always hear about is the bond it creates between mother and baby. But what happens if the thought of a baby sucking on your nipple skeeves you out?! Let me tell you, I am not a touchy feely person. And I’m not one to gush about emotions and all of that mushy schtick. But, that bonding thing they speak of is real. I do love nursing Hudson. And I totally understand those mothers who nurse their kids into toddler-hood. Never again will I judge or scoff at how disgusting it is. You’ll get it if you try it. Just trust me on that.
As for Hudson and I, we only plan to continue breastfeeding until he is 12 months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and possibly a short while after in order to wean him off.
Lastly, if you’re looking for any tips on making breastfeeding easier, here is what I can offer you
- Eat. Breastfeeding can actually require more calories than pregnancy. Up to 200 more per day, to be exact. So don’t start trying to lose the pregnancy weight right away.
- Drink lots of water. This is honestly, just a good tip for life. But breastfeeding takes a lot out of you and as a new mom you may forget to stay adequately hydrated.
- Don’t sweat the challenges. (Or at least try not to.) Lactation Nurses and Breast feeding advocates are truly amazing. However, sometimes they can leave you feeling like a horrible mother if you decide to give your newborn a pacifier, supplement with formula or even give them pumped breast milk in a bottle too early. But, this is your journey with your child so do what you feel is best for the both of you. [FYI: Hudson had his first bottle before he was a month old and we never had any real issues with nipple confusion.]
- Research before the baby is born. No book or class will truly prepare you for the experience of breastfeeding. However, it is a huge help to have a little knowledge going in. Because there are so many things that can come up besides the things I have mentioned in this blog and it will be a lot let stressful to know about them beforehand rather than learning on the job. So, ask your doctor about breastfeeding classes nearby, watch you tube videos, read forums, check out books. You can never be too prepared.
- Persevere! It is totally worth it. I promise.