Warning: This post contains words like "boob," "nipple," and "suck." If any of those words make you uncomfortable, skip this post and come back another day. For those of you brave enough to continue, don't say I didn't warn you.
BREASTFEEDING "SUCKS" - ha! I crack myself up!
The truth is, for some women it does prove to be quite difficult and for others it works just as nature intended. As for me, I think I started off somewhere in-between and have gotten to a place where it works really well for both me and Bean (note, Bean is my son's nickname).
For those of you who are interested, you can read about the benefits of breastfeeding here . Please remember that breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is a personal choice. As an infant, I was formula-fed, as was the Mister, and we turned out a-ok. But after hearing all the benefits (and knowing we'd save mucho mulah not buying formula), it was a simple choice for us - I would give breastfeeding 110% and then re-evaluate if for whatever reason it wasn't working out.
Again, this choice is up for each family to make on their own, and the following tips and suggestions are from me and my experiences alone. If you have any other questions or concerns, discuss with your doctor or lactation consultant.
OK - onward tally-hoe!
If you are considering breastfeeding, here are a few things to keep in mind…
1.) Preparation is key
While nothing could really prepare you for a little nymph sucking the lifeblood from your boobs, I highly suggest taking a breastfeeding class- WITH YOUR HUSBAND/PARTNER. The Mister and I attended a breastfeeding basics class, which is probably available at most hospitals. This class was so incredibly helpful and provided so much useful information. We practiced "holds," talked about what to expect and even reviewed products that make the process more comfortable (I'm lookin' at you, Lansinoh lanolin!). The Mister and I left the class feeling prepared and confident.
2.) Take a deep breath and RELAX
Even though you are meeting your little one for the first time, they already know you pretty well. In fact, they can sense any frustration or stress. So try and stay clam when you try and feed them for the first time and the process will be easier for both of you.
3.) The sooner the better
The sooner you can try breastfeeding your baby, the better. I literally fed bean for the first time as soon as they handed him to me. I'll be honest, it wasn't easy. Mommy and baby have to work together to form a latch and a position that works well for both of you. For me, it wasn't like Bean immediately found the perfect spot to suck and latch on. I literally had to pinch my nipple and jam it into his mouth like a bottle. At the same time, I would lightly pat underneath his chin to initiate his sucking. Eventually he got the hang of it on his own, but I'm certain we wouldn't have been as successful if I left him to figure it out on his own. The hospital has nurses and lactation consultants standing by to help you with this. Lean on them for support and let them help you find what works best for you and your baby.
4.) Practice makes perfect
When things don't work out the way we intended them to, a common response is to avoid or put off trying it again. WRONG. In this case, you really need to keep at it. Yes, in rare cases there are variables that make it almost impossible to breastfeed successfully. But we are lucky to have many tools to off-set any challenge - i.e. nipple shields, positioning pillows, etc. Try them all and you'll have a much better chance of making it work.
5.) It's not a bed of roses
I want to SCREAM when I hear people say "if it hurts, you're doing it wrong." When you have a little ninja vigorously sucking on your boobs for HOURS a day, it's bound to get uncomfortable. I remember genuinely thinking at one point my nipples were going to fall off. I'm not joking. Seriously, if you could see my face right now it is stone cold. But referring to my earlier point (practice makes perfect) it does get easier over time - probably because your body toughens up with callouses!
6.) There's no greater feeling than success
So yea, I mentioned it could be rough. And yea, it might hurt a little bit, too. But it's also pretty miraculous. That you get to be the one to comfort your crying baby. That you get to watch them grow in front of your eyes. That they fall alseep nestled on your chest, not wanting to be anywhere else in the entire world. That eventually, they look up at you with complete adoration, smiling from ear to ear, knowing that you are someone special - their mommy
Many of you have asked about my exact breastfeeding experience and what worked for me. Before I went back to work, I breastfed Bean on-demand. I'd feed him whenever he wanted to be fed and we didn't worry about "how much he was getting." Sometimes this would mean I fed him every hour and other times it would mean I got 3 hour stretches. That being said, I wasn't really able to go anywhere without him for the first few weeks. One time I risked it, left him with the Mister and went to the grocery store. It was a DISASTER. So we learned that the Mister had to run all the errands.
But knowing I had to head back to work, we wanted to introduce the bottle as soon as we could (but not TOO soon, because we didn't want to cause nipple confusion). For us, this was at about 4 weeks. Luckily, Beanie took the bottle without hesitation (after we got it to the right temperature - lukewarm). During the weeks leading up to my return to work, I'd pump at least once a day and started building up a milk stash in the freezer.
Now, I pump at work every 2-3 hours for about 10-15 minutes. For me, that's all I need to get about 4-7 ounces (I've been called a milk goddess, no joke). The grandmas then use that milk to feed Bean the next day - if he gobbles it all up before I get home, they pull from the freezer stash (which I try and add to on the weekends). When I'm home, I breastfeed. So Bean gets breastfed in the evenings, first thing in the morning and all throughout the weekends (unless the Mister and I have a date night). This is the system that works best for us and our family.
Looking back, I do see how easy it could have been to throw in the towel when my nipples felt like they were being ripped off my body and Bean went through phases where he had to eat EVERY HOUR FOR 45 minutes-2 hours straight. But I'm glad I forced myself to stick it out - for me, stopping was never an option. I only know what I've experienced, but for us, all the benefits outweighed any pain or discomfort. I can also say that I'm fairly certain breastfeeding played a HUGE part in my uterus shrinking down so fast, as well as kick-starting my weight loss.
I hope this helped some of you who have been curious about breastfeeding or currently weighing the pros and cons yourself. I'm happy to answer any additional questions don't hesitate to ask ANYTHING (contact info is on my blog). I know how intimidating this can all be and I am happy to help in whatever way I can.
Shannon is a first-time mom and the founder and creator of The Daily Balance , a Web site updated daily with advice, tips and personal stories to help others find balance in their lives. From food to fashion, motherhood, fitness, inspiration and recipes, The Daily Balance is the perfect tool for those who "want it all."