Ok, so all you
3 guys that read this blog can X out if you want, although Matt will probably be the first guy to tell you that during those early weeks, breast feeding is a two person job and it takes 4 hands. Literally. That’s just one of the things I don’t think your doctor/family/friends/random bloggers prepare you for…just how challenging breast feeding can be, particularly in the beginning. Yes it’s a very natural act that women have been practicing for, well, forever, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Even if you have a baby that easily figures it out, you may have your own personal issues. Or you may be ready to go, but your baby has some issues. Or, bless your heart, you may both have issues. Or you may be one the lucky ones where you and baby have it all under control from the very beginning. I’d say I fell somewhere right in the middle. Once we got the hang of it, it was, and continues to be, smooth sailing, but it did take a couple weeks to get the kinks worked out. There are a few things I wish I had known…
For starters, your milk does not magically come in the second you birth that baby. It may take a few days (in my case it took four). This can be temporarily problematic. Baby is born. Baby is hungry. Baby wants milk and lots of it. Mama’s body is still trying to figure out what in the heck just happened to it. The milk is not always there quite yet. Baby gets feisty, which makes Mama think Baby is not getting enough milk. Mama gets upset and discouraged and feels like a failure because she thinks she isn’t producing enough milk. Mama gives up. A good pediatrician knows that it takes a few days for milk to come in, but more often than not, they aren’t all that educated when it comes to bf’ing (no offense…it just is what it is) and they put the fear of God in you that you’re starving your baby. This is where a lactation consultant comes in. I cannot stress the importance of this enough….get a lactation consultant in your room pronto. They are lifesaving, and unlike a lot of peds, they get bf’ing and they know it takes work and patience, and they will give you that. They will also help quiet the naysayers in your life and the doubt in your head. Along with this I also recommend finding a breast feeding support group. I looooved my support group meetings. I went every single week while home on maternity leave, and I still try to go when I can. Not only were these meetings a great opportunity to talk to a lactation consultant, it was so encouraging to be around other nursing mamas. Sometimes the best advice I got was the advice from other veteran moms.
Also, breast feeding will play mind games with you. You will doubt your ability to make enough milk. You will doubt your ability to nourish your baby. You will doubt your ability as a mom. Add to that postpartum hormones and those naysayers and you’ve got yourself set up for throwing in the towel. Whatever you do, do not give up on a hard day. That’s the worst possible time to give up on anything because you know what, it will get better. The first step is to stop doubting your ability. Women have been breast feeding babies forever. How would babies have survived back before formula was invented? Women’s bodies are designed to make milk. It’s one of the many amazing qualities of a woman’s body that God designed. Trust your body and its ability to provide for your baby. Remember that if you were able to provide during those last 9+ months, you can certainly do it now. It may take a few days or weeks to get the hang of it, but you are learning together…you and your new baby. It’s just the first of many new things where you will be learning together.
Another thing I think you don’t necessarily realize is that nursing is a huge sacrifice…of your body, your time, your energy…it can feel very all consuming at times. Not only did I feel an incredible sense of responsibility since I was literally providing all the nourishment for Asher Wade, but I felt this sense of not being in control of my body. It almost felt like he had control of it and that I was completely tied to him and his need to eat so often. Since he wanted to nurse so much, and it was such a soothing mechanism for him, I really couldn’t be away for more than an hour or so, at least in the beginning. Matt would always offer to watch him so I could go shopping, get a pedicure, or just get out of the house for awhile, but I was paranoid to leave him in case he went in to meltdown mode or got hungry. This got easier as time passed, and obviously got a lot easier when I went back to work and he got used to bottles. Still though, even now I try not to be away from him except for work. Again, just this sense of feeling tied to him. Not a bad feeling at all, just a feeling in general. It will be interesting to see how it is when he has weaned and I can leave the house without worrying about whether he’ll need to nurse, and being able to wear whatever I want. Right now it’s pretty much nursing friendly clothes only:-)
With all that being said, breast feeding is such a wonderful, joyful, rewarding, liberating experience. I knew I wanted to breast feed, and I was pretty hell bent on doing it, but I had no idea just how much I would love it. It’s been one of my favorite things about having a baby. Those moments where it’s just AW and me, snuggling, being so close and intimate, they are indescribable. So sweet and fulfilling. I dread the day I have to give them up. Nursing is also the ultimate soother. If you remember from my colic post, it was pretty much the only thing that soothed Asher Wade during those first few months. He could be having a complete come-apart, but as soon as he heard the familiar snap of my nursing tank (not even kidding), he would immediately calm down, knowing what was coming. Even now, when he’s upset, scared or not feeling well, he’s always comforted by nursing. It helps him fall asleep and it helps him feel safe and close to me. Happy, safe, secure, full and close to mommy. Those sound like things all babies want, huh? Well here is your one stop shop. Oh, did I mention it’s free? I think that’s what Matt likes to tell people the most. The bonding is hands down the greatest aspect though. Of course there are many ways to bond with your baby, but I can’t imagine a better way. There’s just something about the act…how it provides nourishment, comfort, security, warmth and love, all at once. It’s so amazing and I will treasure it forever.
Sorry, no pictures to go with this post;)