Sunday, August 24, 2014

Breastfeeding is Awesome But Not Easy, Not Necessarily (#1)

Here is # 1 from the list of 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Giving Birth

Breastfeeding is Awesome But Not Easy, Not Necessarily  (#1)

I always planned on breastfeeding.  I was not totally enamored with the idea (in fact some part of me thought it was a bit weird) but after having “Breast is Best” drilled into me for many years I knew that I wanted to try.  People warned me that it was not necessarily a piece of cake.  Many mothers have problems breastfeeding, especially during the first month.  

How did I prepare for breastfeeding? 

-I took a breastfeeding class at a local hospital prior to giving birth (the only type of prenatal class I took, and it was helpful)

-A good friend (who is also a pediatric nurse) gave me a book – The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Dr. Jack Newman - available here.  This book is excellent.  Dr. Newman is a world renowned authority on breastfeeding.  Reading this book before giving birth is ideal because once the baby comes.who has time to sit down and read a book?? 

Despite trying to prepare, I did encounter problems breastfeeding, namely I had terrible rapid letdown.  I’ll spare you the details, but for the first 3 ½ months of my son’s life, nearly every time I breastfed milk was pouring out of his nose.  Not fun.  I wanted to give up on numerous occasions.  My Doctor (who is amazing) gave me some solid advice:  First, he told me it was alright to give my baby formula and that I should not feel guilty about it (this was when baby was over 12 weeks old).  I did not end up doing this, but it made a huge difference to my mental state just to hear him say this - and he knew it.  He told me that many mothers need to hear their doctors say this out loud because they feel incredibly guilty about even considering giving their baby formula.  Second, he told me that although breastfeeding is best for baby it is not worth sacrificing your mental health.  At the time I was not getting more than 45 minute sleep stretches, my son had the previously mentioned milk fountain coming out his nose, other things were going on….I was stressed.  I was wondering if giving the baby a bottle to help him feed better would help get things in order (ie. restore my sanity).  I needed to hear these things from my doctor, and he was amazing.  I know that not every woman has a great supportive doctor.  I am lucky.  Nobody else knows what is going on in your home or in your mind.  If you truly feel you need to take a break from breastfeeding – you are not a sinner at the Church of Mom – do not beat yourself up.  Do not let others beat you up.

Despite all this – I made a decision to continue breastfeeding.  Sometimes as a new mom we struggle with guilt about what we may or may not be doing right - my doctor's support allowed me to shake this guilt and gave me the confidence I needed to buckle down and continue breastfeeding.  DoctorSmart (as we shall henceforth call him, not his real name) also told me that if I continued breastfeeding, the feeding issues would pass - my son would adjust to the flow of milk in time.  He did.  It took nearly 6 months and even now at just under a year we still have some issues but everything is soooo much better. I also have a wonderful friend who is a lactation consultant and who offered me tremendous support.  

Long story short – if you are planning to breastfeed do some reading beforehand (again I strongly recommend Jack Newman’s book). 
Do not be surprised if you run into some trouble.  This is normal.  When you do run into trouble consult with good resources – such as a lactation consultant – and know that there is lots of support available for you.  Some good resources are listed below.  Oh and by the way – I now love breastfeeding and so does my son.

Great breastfeeding resources:
Jack Newman’s website - Breastfeeding Inc.
A lactation consultant (Quick Note: A nurse is not a lactation consultant, unless he or she actually is a lactation consultant.  This is not a slam against nurses – they’re awesome – but they are not experts in every single area of the medical field so just make sure you are talking to someone specifically trained in the area of breastfeeding.)

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