Breastfeeding Confessionals

bravado_body_silkThose who know me know calling me a breastfeeding advocate is an understatement.  For those who don’t know, full disclosure, I breastfed both my children for 2.5 years each and plan on breastfeeding my newborn for equally as long.  While my journey with breastfeeding wasn’t without its obstacles, I was so passionate about breastfeeding that I became a certified lactation counselor.  I am hoping to become IBCLC certified soon as well.  Part nuerotic, I was a pumping fiend and with each of my children I proudly donated over 3000 ounces of breast milk.  I truly enjoy supporting, sharing my own challenges and giving advice to friends and new mothers alike.

We all know that breastfeeding is best for baby and mom.  No argument there!  So while I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, I am all too familiar with the challenges that hinder breastfeeding success.  One theme I’ve noticed amongst my friends is the vast amount of misinformation and myths/old wives tales out there.  In addition to is the glorification of breastfeeding.  The portrayal of a beautiful experience which in reality is far from and leads to much disappointment and failure.  So here it goes, a breastfeeding confessional of sort – things you need to know and things you should know going into still what I believe to be the amazingly beautiful world of breastfeeding.

  • One big expectation new moms have is that breastfeeding will just take.  For one in a million it does just happen so naturally, but for most, its the coordination of two parties who, to be absolutely honest, don’t have a clue.  You’ve never breastfed and neither has baby.  So don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t take right away, what it will take is WORK. 
  • Breastfeeding is a major commitment with a lot of work upfront.  What that means is you’ll put a couple weeks of sleepless nights and round the clock feedings and building your supply, before you fall into a rhythm that works for both you and baby.
  • You WON’T have milk right away. Your milk will not come in until day 2 or 3 or even 4.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything at all to feed your baby.  What you do have instead is Colostrum and that is WAY BETTER than milk.  It is a precious liquid filled with highly concentrated (which is why your baby needs just a little bit) essential nutrients and antibodies.  But for sanity sakes I wish people would call it (special) milk too because all too often I hear, “I don’t have any milk” as an excuse for why they’ve stopped or didn’t even try to breastfeed.  
  • It will hurt sometimes. Sorry.  When your milk does come it, your boobs willl hurt and will feel like rocks.  It make take days before it stops hurting.  It may hurt when the baby nurses, but if it hurts every time the baby nurses, or is cracked or bleeding, consult a lactation consultant because the baby could be latching wrong.
  • That magical “letdown” may hurt too.  It’s still magical, but for some people, the letdown feels like a sharp stabbing pain.  On the upside, it goes away right after.  For some, you might not even feel the let down — lucky you!
  • There are many challenges that can hinder breastfeeding success like inverted nipples, premature birth to having a c-section or an early return to work.  All of these challenges can be overcome with a little persistence and perseverance.  With McChubs I had to overcome the challenges of a 35 week preemie who couldn’t coordinate his tongue.  During his stay in the NICU I had to give in and let him have a bottle.  While this wasn’t a part of my original plan, I remained committed to breastfeeding and he only had about 15cc (0.5 ounces) of formula before I could pump enough for his feeds.  Within two weeks we were back to exclusively breastfeeding.
  • Breastfeeding is FREE, if the baby only feeds at the breast but many moms have to go back to work, or for others, life gets in the way.   So I like to say, breastfeeding is a LOT cheaper than formula feeding, if you count investing in a good breast pump and pump supplies, maybe even a sterilizer.  For McChubs, I have invested, because that’s what it really is, an investment, of no more than $450.  I bought a quality breast pump and enough spare parts to allow pumping throughout any given day. This was the biggest lesson I learned with my firstborn.  In the first few weeks, between both A and I trying to navigate the world of breastfeeding, pumping, washing and then sterilizing, I almost gave up on the whole thing.  I was exhausted.  My hands were dry and cracked from the round-the-clock washing and sterilizing of breastfeeding parts.  It wasn’t until a friend gifted me another set of parts that I saw the light.  I was able to go two feeds without washing and sterilizing and it occurred to me if I had more sets, I could bring that time consuming routine down to once or twice a day.  The extra parts saved me time and sanity, both of which were precious in the early weeks.

So while this all sounds horrifying… take a deep breath… it really, truly is a beautiful thing.  I tell anyone that asks, if you can get through the first two weeks, your chances of breastfeeding success is that much higher.  You’ll be on your way to those cuddly moments of staring into your beautiful baby’s eyes as he/she is nursing at your breast.

  • You’ll get into a rhythm.
  •  Things will hurt a lot less.
  • You won’t be feeding 8-12 times a day forever.  Over time the feeds will lengthen and space out.  With the introduction of food, even less feeds.  By the time my kids were 1.5 to 2 years old, I was feeding them anywhere from 2-4 times a day at the breast and less as time went on.  Doesn’t that sound manageable?

My biggest TIPS for breastfeeding success:

  • Invest in a good breast pump.  The key word is INVEST.  Breastfeeding is a commitment and if you’re fully committed, invest in a good pump.  My recommendations for breast pumps at every price point can be found HERE.  A good pump is like having a computer to write this blog post, a bad pump is like having a typewriter instead.
  • Buy spare parts for your breast pump.  I recommend a minimum of 3 set to get you through a few pumps.  It will save your sanity and having to wash and sterilize parts, in what will feel like, around-the-clock.
  • photo 1A complete Nursing Wardrobe.  Nursing Tanks are awesome if you plan on wearing a regular shirt.  My favorite brand is Bravado.  They make the essential nursing tank which has been a staple in my wardrobe for over 6 years.  They open easy for breastfeeding and hide the jiggly midsection.  Are you a bra girl?  We love Bravado Designs Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bras under a nursing top.  I remember another mom telling me that Nursing Tops are just a gimmick.  In hindsight, she didn’t breastfeed for more than 6 weeks, so what did she know!  Nursing Tops are essential in my book and they are quite stylish these days.   We are loving the fashions from Thyme Maternity, the newest import from across the pond.  They are available at Babies R Us which always have amazing sales like BOGO Free, right now it’s Buy 2 Get 2 FREE!  When you’re out and about with baby, access to the boob quick and easy is a must and its great to know you don’t have to compromise on style.
  • Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand.  If your supply seems to be diminishing put baby to breast as often as you can.  Nothing can increase milk production faster than baby.
  • Your second line of protection is Power Pumping, a session where you are pumping 10 mins, resting for 10, pumping for 10 minutes, resting for 10, pumping for 10 and resting for a total of (1) hour a day.
  • RELAX.  Breastfeeding is very dependent on a balance of rest and relaxation.  Many moms note when they return to work a decrease in their supply.  While it can definitely be attributed to the baby being less at the breast, much of it also has to do with the stress of the return to work.  Some thought for consideration for those who argue their return to work was not at all stressful.  Did you feel rushed to pump fast or minimize the time it took from your day to pump?  Were you sitting there staring at the bottle measurement lines as you were pumping?  Some mothers complain they can’t get a let down from a pump and much of that has to do with stress as well.  My advice is always to relax.  Close your eyes, watch a slideshow of baby on your phone, call home, or watch a funny show.  Stop staring and counting the ounces on the bottle.  Do whatever can get you to relax your shoulders and release the tension.

Do you have some pearls of breastfeeding wisdom to share?

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GIVEAWAY

The generous team at Bravado is giving (2) lucky Mom Confessional’s reader a chance to win one of their beautiful Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bras in Orchid Pink or Safari Melon, perfect for spring!
You must answer the following question: “What piece of advice would you share with a new mom?” to be entered.  You have several additional entry options if you’d like to increase your odds of winning!  ALL ENTRIES ARE CONTAINED WITHIN THE WIDGET.  Good Luck!