Prior to the birth of my first son, I held the firm belief that I would breastfeed exclusively. I figured that since I was going to be a full-time SAHM (stay at home mom) that I had no excuse not to. After all, breast milk was completely free and the best choice for my baby, right?
Well, little did I know, breastfeeding was one of the most difficult obstacles that I had ever faced in my life.
|Peanut's first feeding|
Needless to say, I was not happy with the first hospital experience. My nurses called my room every two hours on the dot to report how long Peanut had nursed. I tried to get my little guy to nurse no less than 15 min on each side every 2 hours as much as I could...but most of the time that did not happen. Sometimes I could not keep his attention longer than 5 minutes, in which case, the nurse would take him from his room and back to the nursery to feed him a bottle of formula. I was often ridiculed by one nurse, when another would try to comfort me by saying "don't sweat it, your milk hasn't fully come in yet". I felt like I was "failing" as a mom already in two short days. I just did not get it, if breastfeeding was so natural...why couldn't I do it?
|Gotta love those post-nursing naps!|
With child number 2, the experience was a little different. This time I was in a different hospital in a different state. I was also allowed to have my baby with me in my room the entire time (unless there was a medical reason). I did not have to report to a nurse every couple of hours, so I was more relaxed. Leettle nursed when he was hungry and that was good enough for the hospital staff.
Both children were introduced to the bottle pretty early (within a month), which seemed to put much struggle and stress on what I believed should be an amazing experience. They always wanted the milk quicker than I could give it to them. In fact, most of the time was spent pumping as much milk as I could. My babies nursed a couple to a few times per day (for about 15 minutes or so) and were given a bottle of pumped milk whenever they showed signs of hunger, which was usually 15 - 30 minutes after being taken off of the breast at their will. I felt like my bottom never separated from the couch. A few months later, the introduction of formula came in, which caused further milk depletion. They were nursing less and I pumped less. This process became so incredibly tedious for the next 6 months or so, and I felt like a complete failure. I do not a recall a day that I didn't cry about it. Peanut and Leettle were both completely weaned by 10 months.
In fact, when both of my boys were under 9 months old, the breastfeeding issue actually was the cause of many arguments between my husband and I. Ok, I do not want to paint the picture that my husband is an awful person, because he is not, and is an amazing father...he was my only form of family support in the breastfeeding process. He hated the breast pump and I tried to "pump in secret" while he was not around. In his mind, breast feeding should have come naturally to me, after all, women had been doing it for centuries without any fancy equipment right? Needless to say, feeding and pumping time became irregular and the supply dwindled. I scavenged every health food store for Fenugreek bottles like an addict who needed his next fix, then threw myself on the floor and bawled if I couldn't find it. I had the same reaction almost every time I reached out for a can of formula from the super market shelves...literally.
|My Leettle catching some post-lunch zzzz's|
Above all, remember that breastfeeding is a learning experience, not only for the baby, but for the mom and family as well. Trust your maternal instincts. If I could do this all over again, I would have tried a little harder to breastfeed exclusively for as long as my babies wanted it (even if they went beyond that magical 12 month mark recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics), and would most likely invest in a baby-wearing wrap...anything to be the sole provider of my babies nutrition. Also, it is important to keep in mind that any length of time breastfeeding should be viewed as a success, no matter how long a mother breastfeeds her child.
It takes a village to raise a breastfed child. Do not be afraid to ask for help, those first few weeks are definitely a learning process...no matter if it is your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 10th child. This time is precious, and looking back, I wish that I had never wished it away.
Don't be afraid to rely on friends and family to help you carry out your daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, care of other children, etc. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of additional support of friends and family after the both of both of my children because my husband's job had required us to live away from them (we had moved again before the birth of our second child). After Leettle was born, our church had set up meal deliveries for new parents, which was quite a blessing!
If you choose to breastfeed, be sure to get as much support as you can. There is a huge community of breastfeeding resources and supporters that would love to help you. Be sure to check out the following pages:
If you know of a parent who could use a little help, be sure to lend them a hand to help ease the stresses of post child birth. This can be as simple as setting up meal deliveries via online and encourage others to do so too! Google "meal calendars for new moms" and you will find lists of websites that will allow you to notify a new mom that you (or other participants) will deliver a meal to them and their family.
Portions of this post were originally written on August 1st, 2012 during the "Let Love Nourish" event celebrating National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Reposted in honor of World Breastfeeding Week.
What were your breastfeeding experiences?
Tips or support?
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