A decision that every expectant mother has to make is whether she will nurse her new baby or feed her new baby formula.
I feel like no matter who you talk to, everyone has their own opinion, and some have pretty strong ones. While I was pregnant, I decided I "wanted to try it". Well I usually don't just "try" things... if I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it. But since I had NO clue what I was in for, I quickly signed up for the Breastfeeding Skills for Success class offered through St. Vincent's. Neither of our mothers were able to breastfeed successfully, so I knew they would not be able to offer me that much advice. I was one of the first girls in my closest circle of friends to have a baby, so I didn't have tons of friends I could ask for help either. I read blogs, articles, books, and Rusty and I attended the BFS4S class - what a trooper my hubby is. He even took notes! ; )
A few months later, we welcomed our bundle of joy into the world. We had a healthy baby on our hands - 8 pounds, 14 ounces. As soon as he and I were cleaned up after delivery, I nursed him for the first time. Anyone that says the first time isn't a little weird is telling a big fat fib. I'm not really sure if it was nursing for the first time, or actually just realizing, "Holy Crap. This is MY baby and I'M FEEDING HIM!" that was so shocking. Either way, the "weirdness" quickly wore off and soon we had a very good rhythm going.
"Is he getting enough?"
I was visited by a lactation consultant the next morning and she was FABULOUS!!! She offered excellent advice and support, and also relieved some of the pressure I was feeling. She is what I like to call "realistic". While she was definitely a breastfeeding advocate, she didn't pressure me to do this or do that. She just offered encouragement and her best advice. She also made me feel better about one of a new BF-ing mother's biggest fears - starving her child. She said let him nurse 20 minutes on each side - to help start your milk supply. If he still seems hungry, offer him a bottle. She said that these "bigger babies" sometimes need a little more until your milk comes in. On the second day, you could tell he was still hungry, so I offered him a bottle and he drank an additional ounce after nursing! CHUNK! Also, something I didn't realize, is that babies that are BF are use to working a lot harder to eat than bottle fed babies. So, after nursing, he could down one of those little hospital bottles in seconds!!! This is still true to this day. If he is ever given a bottle, he inhales it. We only had to supplement for a day or 2 after we came home, then my milk was in. HELLO HEIFER!!! Man, he definitely wasn't going to starve now!!
The first two weeks of Hudson's life were probably the hardest two weeks of my whole life. And I'm not going to lie, breastfeeding made it worse. I hate to say it, but if you are planning on BF, I want you to be informed. I am someone that HAS to have her sleep. Of course, anyone with a new baby is going to be sleep deprived. A newborn eats every 2-3 hours AROUND THE CLOCK. Well, the first few weeks you are breastfeeding, nursing takes a solid 40 minutes. Then there is burping, changing the diaper, etc. So BEST case scenario, 2 hour naps is the longest stretch of sleep you are going to get for the first few weeks. Even if someone else gives the baby a bottle during the middle of the night feedings, you HAVE to get up and pump (more on this later). Please let me be clear, I am NOT trying to discourage you from BF. The first few weeks were VERY rough, but I am so so so happy that I did it. Nursing now is so effortless. No bottles to wash, pack, heat up, etc. I can't even imagine a baby screaming at 1am waiting on you to make and heat up a bottle. Yes, it does put much more work on the mom, but it is worth it.
I was very, VERY tempted to quit the first few weeks. This is extremely common. I cried a lot. I was so tired and I knew if I just gave up, anyone could feed him and I could get some rest. I even put my brand new Medela pump I only had for a couple of days on Craigslist!!!!!! I'm telling you, I was ready to throw in the towel. You NEED support if you are going to do this. My biggest help came from my Aunt Jan and my sorority sister Heather. My aunt - a BF pro - came over and checked on Hudson and I and offered advice and encouragement. I wish I could show you the NUMEROUS texts Heather replied to during my most desperate times those first few weeks. She continued to check on me throughout the first two months and I will be FOREVER grateful. She has a true passion for helping new mothers.
If you are truly serious about breastfeeding, you need to share it with your "support team". Mom, MIL, Husband, BFFs, etc. EVERYONE needs to be on board. In your hardest and most desperate times, the people that love you the most are not going to want to see you upset and moping around like a sleep deprived zombie. When you cry, it is going to be very easy for them to give you a hug and tell you it's ok if you don't want to BF. And they are right, after all. IT IS OK. If you don't want to BF, that is TOTALLY fine. It is a very personal choice and it is no one's business but yours. BUT, if you really want to keep at it, they need to be prepared to support your true wishes, even when you are wanting to give up.
How can you help a BF mom?
Where should I start? It is a TON of work BF those first couple of weeks. Mom shouldn't have to do anything but nurse the baby and try to take care of herself. Reminder: SHE JUST BROUGHT A LIVE HUMAN INTO THE WORLD. After carrying it for 9 months. Her body needs to heal. SHE NEEDS A BREAK. Moms: Don't cook, don't wash clothes, don't clean, etc for AT LEAST the first two weeks. When you get a chance to rest, TAKE IT!!!!!
It's a 24/7 Job
When Hudson was about 3-4 weeks old, I decided I really, really needed at least 5-6 hours of undisturbed sleep. So on a Friday night, Rusty stayed up with Hud and gave him his 2 middle of the night feedings. I didn't get up and pump. I thought it would be ok....I'll just get up and pump as soon as I wake up. Well I looked like I was smuggling cantaloupes. I pumped an enormous amount of milk and relaxed on the couch. A few hours later, my right breast was really hurting. Throughout the day, it got worse and worse. I couldn't stand to lie on that side or for anything to touch it. Nursing was somewhat painful. All night that night I had chills. When Rusty woke up Sunday morning, I told him I felt really bad. My whole body hurt. He checked my temp and it was 103!!! I had mastitis with infection. This is an infection in your breast from a clogged milk duct. The symptoms are similar to full blown flu symptoms. It was more than likely from not pumping during those feedings. I had to stay in bed and do NOTHING but nurse, sleep, and take antibiotics 4 times a day. I fully recovered in about 4-5 days, but WOW, it was rough.
If I had to give a new BF mom advice it would be:
1) REST. REST. REST. Get someone to stay with you the first week. You and your husband are going to need some help, I promise.
2) DRINK LOTS AND LOTS of fluid. Every time you sit down to nurse, have a healthy snack, like Gatorade or water and peanut butter crackers.
3) If you really want to breastfeed, give it AT LEAST a month. It will take you that long to get comfortable with it. After 6 weeks, it will be much easier. I know it is going to seem like FOREVER at the time, but once you get in a good rhythm, it will be no big deal.
4) To help relieve your fear of starving your baby, chart his/her diapers. Your BF discharge booklet or any baby book that you read will tell you how many wet/poopy diapers a BF baby should have the first couple of weeks. As long as they are pooping and peeing enough, they are fine.
5) If you feel overwhelmed, get some help. Contact an "expert friend" or a lactation consultant from the hospital.
6) It is going to hurt when they latch on. More than likely it will be very painful for at least the first couple of days. I'm talking toe curling pain. Use lanolin cream and soothies frequently. If it hurts the whole time the baby is nursing, something is not right. Reposition and relatch. This too will pass. Hang in there!!!