Mar 17, 2014

On Breastfeeding {Part One}...

Yesterday, Zianne had her first taste of solids {aka one part rice cereal, four parts breast milk.... we'll be starting veggies in a few days}. She loved eating. Mainly, I think she was elated that we were giving her a new piece of plastic {the spoon} to put in her mouth. I honestly tried to savor her last full week of being fully breastfed, because introducing solids is the first step in weening and it was a tiny bit bittersweet.

Now that I'm six months into this breastfeeding gig, I thought I'd take a step back and assess what worked... what didn't... and which products I actually used to make this once full-time {now part-time} job easier on me and the baby. I know I am already forgetting details from the newborn stage and I'm on a mission to write down everything I can, so I have something to look back on if and when we are blessed with baby #2 and I'm feeling overwhelmed or hazy on how the first six months go down.

And if you are about to embark on the breastfeeding adventure for the first time or you are in the midst of the first few crazy weeks or months of nursing, I hope these posts are helpful and encouraging. I know every woman's experience is different, so I don't offer up this information to claim that my way is the right way or the only way. But I know as I've had questions as a mom, I've liked jumping online, reading about different methods and experiences, and then making my own decisions and forging my own path based on what seems to work best with my child and for our family. I'm only here to add to the conversation...

1. It will get easier. There is nothing like the first two months of nursing. You are typically feeding 8 or more times a day. Feedings might last an hour or more. You are getting up multiple times in the middle of night. It is literally MORE than a full time job. When you do the math, you will discover you are feeding your child well over 200 hours in a month, so don't do the math, unless that kind of thing motivates you. You also might be trying to overcome latching problems, cracked nipples, or any number of difficulties or discomforts. And your boobs are just weird. They get engorged and uncomfortable. You are spilling out of bras and shirts. You doubt any of your clothes will fit again. You can't imagine you will ever find a nursing bra that actually fits and you are constantly leaking and spraying milk on yourself, on top of all the times your infant regurgitates milk back onto you. For the first two months, you will be a milky mess. But eventually all that changes. Suddenly your baby will sleep longer stretches... you will drop feedings... seven, six, down to five a day {usually by five months}. Your milk supply will stabilize. Your baby will sleep through the night. The leaking will become minimal or stop all together. Feedings will take 15 minutes. You will find a bra or tank that supports you well... and all of a sudden you'll realize one day during a quick and painless feeding... "Oh, we've got this."

2. Educate yourself. I highly recommend taking a breastfeeding class before your child is born, even if you've watched videos or read a book. There is something about learning in a classroom with a group that is so beneficial. Take your spouse to this class too, so he understands the benefits of breastfeeding and some of the challenges that are ahead. Micah has been a huge reason that breastfeeding has gone so well for our family. Anytime I would sit down for one of those hour long newborn feedings, I would realize I forgot something {my phone, my Bible, the remote, water, food, etc.} and I would only have to ask him once for help. He would drop whatever he was doing immediately and fetch anything I needed to make the feeding go well. I am so thankful for him, and I think it's something he realized he needed to do because he attended the class with me. Additionally, you shouldn't be pessimistic or worried about breastfeeding, but educate yourself on things that can go wrong and various solutions. Find out what are signs of tongue tie? What foods can you eat to increase your supply if it seems low? What are some common foods you might have to eliminate from your diet if your baby reacts poorly to something you eat? Give yourself a decent knowledge base, so you don't have to figure out everything when the baby is crying on your lap and you haven't slept through the night in the past week. There will still be many things to figure out when the baby is born, but try to do some of the preliminary research beforehand.

3. Get help. Although breastfeeding is natural, it's not necessarily easy or straightforward. I know, as mammals, our babies are supposed to come from the womb ready to nurse, but that's not always how it goes down. Over the past year I've watched so many friends struggle to breastfeed their children. I've seen mothers wrestle with low supply, tongue tie, resulting frenotomy surgery, blistered, bleeding and inverted nipples, latching problems, and the list goes on and on. I've also watched all these friends overcome these challenges in one way or another. But it was hard for them for a while. Z and I had a really smooth breastfeeding experience, but I still spent my first two weeks wincing at the start of every feeding, and at night I would lie face down on my engorged chest and ask Micah to massage my back because it ached with the pain of around the clock feedings. Yes, it truly does get better, as mentioned above, but that doesn't mean it's any less overwhelming when you're in the thick of it at the start. I highly suggest having a recommended lactation consultant on speed dial for when you arrive home from the hospital. Hopefully, your hospital {if you use one for delivery} has a lactation consultant team that you can call after you are discharged, but, sadly, lactation consulting departments at hospitals are overworked and understaffed, so I would recommend considering a private lactation consultant if you are struggling. They are like magic baby whisperers who will come to your house and sit with you during feedings to give you advice, reassurance, check your baby's latch, your posture... everything. Many times insurance will pay for them, but even if they won't, it might be the best $50-80 you ever spend on yourself and your child. Also, learn about La Leche Leagues and other breastfeeding support groups in your area. And finally, find a few friends that successfully breastfed their children that you can call or text for advice or help if you need it. Basically, have a handful of people or groups you can call on for help. Maybe you won't ever need to... but it's good to have the phone numbers ready just in case.

4. Don't worry. Yes, breastfeeding is often hard at first. Yes, it hurts for the first few weeks, and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Yes, you might have to do some troubleshooting while you and your baby adjust to your new way of life together. But breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing. There are tools and medicines and professionals to help you overcome almost any problem... and there's also a very good chance there won't be any problems at all. Many women, other than the initial latching pain for the first week or two and the discomfort when their milk comes in, don't experience any setbacks with nursing. Zianne and I transitioned to breastfeeding so easily that I didn't even have to use all the lanolin and other pain soothing devices I had bought. I'm glad I was prepared to combat the pain, but I was so thankful that I got to return almost all my breastfeeding aids to Target a few weeks after she was born. So buy some supplies to get you through the first few weeks, but don't actually open any packages and save all your receipts, because you might be one of those mamas who gets to take it all back to the store when everything goes smoothly!

5. Feed your child. My goal is to breastfeed Zianne for at least a year, and we are halfway there. I don't take our success for granted at all. I was prepared for difficulties, and I still keep two sample size containers of formula in the pantry in case we ever have an emergency. I hope we never have to use them, but I will be thankful they are sitting on the shelf if we ever need them. If you are determined to breastfeed, my hope for you is that all goes smoothly, and that you have resources to help you if you run into problems and people around you who support your decisions. But, like anything in this fallen world, breastfeeding isn't guaranteed to happen for your and your child... or at least not in the ideal way you've planned it. Because of sin, we live in a broken world, where things like premature birth, disease, sickness, low supply and misshapen mouths and bodies affect the ability for a woman to nurse her child. When it comes down to it, you are a good and loving mom if you feed your child... whether it happens at the breast, through a bottle, with milk, formula, or a combination of the two... whether you nurse around the clock, use your pump, get donated milk, or supplement because you don't have a sufficient milk supply. No matter what you do to feed your child, you are doing the right thing.

I'll be back tomorrow to share some of the products that have helped my breastfeeding journey go smoothly...


  1. Nicole M. Hutchison3/17/14, 3:26 AM

    Perfect. Post.

  2. Sarah []3/17/14, 3:49 AM

    Beautifully written and will be so helpful to so many moms!

  3. Beth @ The Goad Abode3/19/14, 6:44 AM

    This is a great post, Jen! Isn't it crazy how quickly you can forget some of the details that were so important at the beginning and you felt like all you did was breastfeed round the clock?!
    And hooray for making it half way through the first year (my goal is one year too)!!

Add comment
Load more...

Please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!

Newer Post Older Post Home