(I absolutely adore Maggie and this picture is WONDERUL. How simple and easy breastfeeding should be!)
I’m a HUGE proponent of breastfeeding. It is, by far, one of my personal favorite things to do. The bonding, connection and attachment that takes place between you and your little one when breastfeeding really is beyond description.
I still remember the first time I latched on my son after delivery. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of completion within myself and a LOVE of all things like I had never felt before. Of course, part of the reason for this was I was still riding the oxytocin wave but even when breastfeeding felt difficult, overwhelming or even painful, I could still see the rewards in it.
I do agree that breastfeeding can be the MOST rewarding when we have a support system to help us through the potentially tough times. Especially for first time Moms. I do believe that we do have an innate self that completely KNOWS how to breastfeed and can do it with comfort and ease. I have yet to see any other mammal go and ask a friend about how to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding should be instinctual. But unfortunately, in our world when it comes to birth, we have somehow moved far, far way from instinct into a world of believing that others know better than ourselves what pregnancy, birth and even breastfeeding should look like.
I teach in my childbirth classes that I an uneducating my students on the myths and lies about conception, pregnancy, birth and life thereafter. There is so much misinformation being spread about pregnancy and birth and postpartum care, that I see part of my job to help women remove the myths and fears they hold about birth so they can move back into that instinctual place.
Its been interesting for me to watch my clients as they breastfeed. I have dealt with MANY first time Moms who I assumed might struggle with breastfeeding. Only to find that it came very easy for them. The ease of breastfeeding came about because they were PREPARED.
They read books on breastfeeding BEFORE delivery. They asked questions. They learned more about their breasts and their function as sustenance and connection for their babies. They worked through emotional/psychological feelings and beliefs they held about their breasts. They learned how to fully nourish their own bodies to produce to proper milk supply.
I do believe that as we move more toward instinctual…intuitive living, that part of that process for our modern day and age must be EDUCATION. The combination of education and support truly create a powerful dynamic for successful breastfeeding.
I will try and quickly run down my own breastfeeding experience for those of you who feel I may not understand the frustrations of breastfeeding. Because I have 5 children, my experience with each child has varied somewhat. I have had struggles and pain with some and ease and simplicity with others.
Breastfeeding my 1st son was VERY difficult. I was severely sexually abused when I was young (I will post more about this another time) and feel this DEFINITELY played into my breastfeeding experience. I struggled to open myself to my new son for a variety of reason.
Almost immediately after delivery, my nipples became cracked and sore and stayed that way for the whole year Dean nursed. I consulted with many people on what the issues could be but found no answers and no relief. It wasn’t until after I was done nursing him that I learned I had chronic thrush that was causing the pain.
After a year of nursing, my son naturally weaned himself before he was ready. I believe he knew the physical pain breastfeeding was causing me and he no longer wanted to be part of that pain. To this day, I have worked with him emotionally on the connection he feels he missed by not breastfeeding longer. He is now 16.
With all my future children, nursing was much easier and much more rewarding. I have dealt with severe thrush issues with almost all my children. I have dealt with chronic candida issues for years only finding relief through my raw foods diet. My last 2 children were a breeze as my candida was more under control.
When my 3 child, Millie, was 4 months…I ended up in the hospital needing emergency bowel surgery. I stayed for 2 weeks and because of the medications I was given, I was told I couldn’t breastfeed. Luckily, I have AMAZING sisters who, somewhat, took over the job of nursing her for me. We also introduced to a bottle and raw goat’s milk to supplement her. She is my ONLY child that has been given a bottle.
After the 2 weeks, I completely lost ALL my breast milk. I was totally dried up but I was determined to regain my milk and carry on breastfeeding my daughter. Right after major surgery, while I was striving to recover, I proceeded to take on the task of building my milk supply.
It a took a full month for me to rebuild my milk after my surgery. I used an infant feeder along with nursing around the clock. Though the experience was extremely overwhelming and frustrating at times, it ended up being one of the most empowering experiences I have ever had. I went on to breastfeed each child longer and longer until my 5th weaned herself around 3 though she still asks to nurse off and on.
I absolutely believe that ANY women can breastfeed if she really wants to. I have worked with many women, including myself, who have been unable to produce breast milk or struggle to nurse with previous children but then go on to nurse future children for YEARS! There are emotional and physical factors that come into play when to comes to guaranteeing a solid milk supply and a fulfilling breastfeeding experience. I will post about how I see those things another time so check back.
Please read the article below. I have gone ahead and added my own insights and opinions in bold directly to the article. Breastfeeding, as I see it, should be nothing less than a JOYFUL….connecting experience for you and your baby. One where deep bonding and connections are instilled along with health and vitality for baby.
I feel like one of the reasons that women often do not breastfeed as long as they potentially could is due to the fact that they are not always given the most honest information about what breastfeeding will be like during the first few days of nursing. I think because so many doctors, midwives, pediatricians, mothers and friends want a woman to breastfeed as long as possible, they often sugarcoat the reality of breastfeeding in order to persuade a new mother to give it a try.
(I believe breastfeedingcan and should be BLISSFULLY wonderful. The way we feel about our breasts, how our diets are, the support and education we have all plays into what our breastfeeding experience ends up being.)
And that really isn’t fair. It is especially unfair when that new mom feels like a failure because she is having pain, discomfort and uncertainty while doing something that everyone else described as simple, easy and the best thing to do for your baby. That is when dishonesty leads to fewer babies being breastfed to 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and beyond.
(It is important that we are honest and clear with Moms that breastfeeding can be intense, especially at first, but in the end….when you and baby have figured each other out….it can be most fulfilling and quite WONDERFUL.)
I was very lucky as I had a solid breastfeeding support group. Formula was totally alien and foreign to me, so the thought of learning how to formula feed just seemed bizarre to me. But I realize that some women don’t have that same support group. And successful breastfeeding requires support. It really does. So here is my top 10 list of things mothers should know about that first week of breastfeeding.
1. That first latch might hurt a bit…and by might I mean it probably will. And that is totally OK and NORMAL. It will get better and eventually, when done properly, won’t hurt at all.
(My first latch on never hurts. Its only after I’ve nursed for a couple days that I get the soreness. Preparation for the soreness by using herbal remedies will help to greatly alleviate the discomfort.)
2. People are going to see your boobs. It will happen. Lactation consultants, relatives, friends etc. are all probably going to see some skin while you are at the hospital and during your first several months of breastfeeding somewhat constantly. Trust me, this will be the one time nobody will care that your tatas are hanging out in a room full of people. Your new baby will be a thousand times more interesting.
(Working on emotional issues (such as shame, guilt etc..) regarding your breasts BEFOREbirth can help to remove discomfort about others seeing your breasts. After all, though we like to believe breasts are merely for the bedroom and intimacy….their true job is BREASTFEEDING! Going with a bra for the first few months along with wearing shirts that are easy to get your breast in and out of make a HUGE difference in your comfort level.)
3. Your milk might not “come in” right away, even if you have been leaking during your pregnancy. Don’t freak out if it hasn’t shown up in full on your little one’s birthday. Give it a few days. Your baby will be fine noshing on colostrum in the meantime.
(It takes 3 days for your milk supply to come in. Colostrum is God’s miracle for your baby. It is FULL of immune boosting properties to help your baby to thwart illness while they little systems are in a immature state.)
4. Don’t stress yourself out about your milk coming in. The majority of women in this world are able to breastfeed. Stressing yourself out over your supply will not help your supply at all. Remember, supply is just part of the equation. You also need demand. The more you allow your baby to nurse, the more milk your body will create to meet his/her demand. See more information about supply in the resources section listed below.
(She is RIGHT on with this one. Though let me make this VERY clear, if you have a large milk supply so you decide to pump in between feedings, you will produce that milk for the future. One of the problems I have seen with many women is they become SO engorged that they pump to reduce the pressure and discomfort. One are creating another problem by trying to alleviate the other. With each pumping, you are creating more breast milk which puts you into a vicious cycle of being engorged. Just be patient….it should only take about a weeks time before your milk will acclimate and the engorgement subside.)
5. When your milk does come in, it might be uncomfortable…and by might I mean it probably will. And that is totally OK and NORMAL. Yes, your boobs will grow to be even more ginormous than they already have grown to be, but they will die back down once your supply and demand levels out.
(Refer to the response above. Also, it takes 3 days for your body to regulate milk supply. How much you nurse on a Monday will then be created by Wednesday.)
6. Yes, your baby is going to want to camp out at your boobs. And that is totally normal and OK. Yes, if you talk to a woman who formula feeds, the amount of time your baby eats in comparison to her’s is going to seem like a lot. But you cannot compare the two. A baby breastfeeds to eat, establish milk supply and for comfort. A baby is given a bottle to eat only and has no supply to establish. You really cannot compare the two, so don’t.
(Your baby is looking not only for nourishment but connection and love. They are seeking a safety net to let them know the world is safe and they can ultimately trust it. Your breast offers them this safety net. Demand feeding instead of scheduled feeding creates a child who feels secure, along with all their nutriment needs being met. Just because your baby nursed only an hour ago doesn’t mean their still not hungry nor does it mean they might not be needing comfort and support. Taking a 40 day baby moon guarantees you to take the needed time, without extra stresses, to nurse, cuddle, comfort and love on your baby as much as possible. Your baby will grow up so fast that, I promise, you will only look back feeling at peace and happy that you took the needed time with your baby that you will never have again.)
7. Having a baby want to nurse ALL. DAY. LONG. is frustrating. If this is your first child, you are probably use to being able to do things when you want to and are probably not use to having an extra appendage that cries, poops, sleeps and eats all day long. It is OK to feel frustrated because just like your labor did not last forever, this stage will not last forever either. Allow yourself to feel frustrated and take breaks when you need them.
(Nursing your baby all day long only becomes frustrating when you haven’t set the stage BEFORE birth to find the needed support to be able to breastfeed whenever your baby needs. Having a newborn is a full time job and in our crazy, fast paced world, we want to still believe we can do it all and fulfill the needs of our baby. We can’t. We will burn out or our baby will. Make sure to set the stage BEFORE delivery so that you can take the needed to time really love on this new life entering your family. It really has long term effects in your relationship with your newborn.)
8. Just like that first latch may have hurt, the next several dozen will probably hurt too. But this is what you need to pay attention to. During that first week and possibly beyond, each initial latch may hurt, but once your baby gets going, the pain should reduce and eventually go away. If that initial sting, that can at times knock the wind out of you, lasts through an entire feed, you probably have a bad latch. A lactation consultant can be a great resource for you if you are struggling with latching issues.
(“The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” a book written by the Le Leche League is a MUST HAVE for every first time mother. I would NOT have made it without that book. Finding local lactation support, like stated above, is also a must to feel successful.)
9. Engorgement. I won’t lie. Engorgement is kind of a bitch. Having your boobs balloon up and ache from your milk coming in sucks. But this is again all part of supply and demand. I have always allowed my babies to nurse on demand and have yet to feel engorged for more than a few days. Pumping, showering and hand expression are all tricks that I have used to ease engorgement in addition to nursing on demand.
(Hand expressing and showering…YES….but pumping….NO! Read #4 above.)
10. Let down pain is a type of shooting/tingling pain that you will feel in your boobs when your milk is literally letting itself down to feed. Again, it feels uncomfortable, but the discomfort is allayed once you feed your child. With both of my children, I eventually quit having any sort of letdown pain whatsoever. Breastfeeding is like anything else in the world. It has a learning curve. There is a bit of a science to it. It comes easier to some than others. But if you put in the work, you and your baby can and will reap it’s benefits.
(A let down feels different for every women, from my experience. For some women it can be painful, for others they don’t even notice it. Just making sure you see your baby swallowing will, most likely, guarantee that your baby is getting enough milk. With my 1st baby, let downs were somewhat painful. By my last, I barely noticed them. For me, the sensation is quite wonderful….realizing my body can do AMAZING things for my baby. ) I am not a doctor, a lactation consultant or anything else that requires a fancy title. But I have successfully breastfed my firstborn for a year, and I am 11 months in to breastfeeding my second child. Despite having breastfeeding support, the number one thing that has allowed me to be successful at breastfeeding is my attitude. I never looked at it as something that I would “just try.” I looked at it as something that would just become a part of my life. And it did.
All the advice in the world will not guarantee that a woman will have a successful breastfeeding experience. But what will almost always guarantee that a woman fails at breastfeeding is not being honest about what the journey will be like. It can be a rough road. Things will hurt. At times, you will probably feel awkward or uncomfortable. But such is life in general.
Remember, everything in life is temporary. The pain and discomfort will subside and your baby will thrive on your milk whether you breastfeed for a day, a week, a month or a year.