Breastfeeding. It seems like everyone has an opinion on the subject, and many view it as black or white. You either do it or you don’t, and each camp slings mud towards the other. Often, the act itself remains cloaked in mystery and the women who struggle with it or choose not to are frowned upon. I personally am a strong proponent of breastfeeding, but I’ve also faced many of those same hurdles as other women. What’s more, there are so many things I wish I’d known going into it, even with #2.
It often huts a lot for the first few weeks.
I don’t know if no one told me this or if I just didn’t understand what they meant by “pain,” but it slipped my mind. #1 was incredibly difficult due to an extra-high palate, and I nearly gave up from the pain of it all. I was bleeding, cracked, and crying during most feedings, with constant aching throughout the in-between time. With #2, I thought it would be easier because his palate was more normal. It was, but only by a margin. Logically, it all makes sense. You’ve literally got a vacuum on one of the most sensitive parts of your body. Until the baby learns how to eat smoother and your body forms a callous of sorts, it will hurt. But, it will also get better. For both boys, it took about three weeks for us to fall into a rhythm.
Use your lactation consultant.
Often, hospitals will have one on the maternity floor to help with any questions you might have while you’re there. Use them. If you feel like your nurse is pushing too much for something, or doesn’t know what she’s doing, feel free to ask for the lactation consultant. Nurses are a fabulous resource, but sometimes it’s best to go to the expert. If you’re lower income, see if you can apply for WIC. Their lactation consultants are fabulous and, best of all, free. With #1 and the issues I had with him, I went to them as a last resort in shame that I couldn’t do what women had been doing for thousands of years. They were the ones to discover his high palate and gave me a life-saver: the nipple shield. With it, I was able to nurse him until he was 8 months old. Without it, I probably would have given up. With #2, I went to them 4 days after he was born. He was doing this weird yanking in the middle of eating, seriously hurting me. And, did I mention that nursing in general hurt? They helped calm me down, talk over some new techniques, and made sure #2 was latching right. Just hearing them say, “This is normal” helped immensely.
Don’t be ashamed to pump, and don’t beat yourself up if it dries up.
With both boys, I had to pump due to work or school. With #1, it was in the locker room of the gym I worked at, and I was so embarrassed. Here I was, pumping life-giving liquid for my child, and I was ashamed! Don’t be! Your boobs were created for this purpose. Definitely don’t make the people around you uncomfortable by lounging at your desk, pumping while talking to your male co-workers, but don’t feel like you need to hide in the bathroom handicap stall to pump. (Unfortunately, this was the case with #2, but that was mainly due to the fact that I had 10 minutes in between classes at college. There aren’t many rooms that you can pump at there.) What’s more, pumping is not the same as feeding your baby. I beat myself up with both when my milk started to vanish, but I shouldn’t have. I was putting in the effort, taking care of my family, and staying committed. The fact that biology was against me is not my fault. It just happens. It’s not your fault, either, so stop feeling like a bad mom. 🙂
If you choose formula or have to switch to formula, IT’S OK!
Formula is not from the devil. Formula will not cause your child to be fatter or dumber or less healthy. There are definitely benefits to breastfeeding, but formula is still a totally viable, acceptable, and terrific way to go. I had to switch to formula when #1 was 8 months, and I missed the closeness of nursing, but he wasn’t affected by it too much. (He had a mild milk allergy, so soy formula was fun, but that’s only my personal experience. The allergy was actually one of my own biggest motivators to breastfeed, because it was much easier to remove milk from my diet than to pay for the soy formula.) Two of my nieces and nephews were only formula-fed, and they are happy, healthy, and smart as all get out. They haven’t suffered for not breastfeeding. If you choose formula or find yourself having to supplement, you are not less of a mother. You’re just feeding them something else. There is nothing wrong with it.
These are just a few things I wish I had been told before I started nursing. What are some of the things you wish you were told?