Breastfeeding and Me, Part I

Remember this post from two years ago?

I've been thinking a lot about it lately.  My perspective has changed quite a bit since then, so, naturally, my opinions have changed as well.  However, in some ways, my opinions have also stayed the same.

My breastfeeding experiences so far have been drastically different with my two children.  I breastfed Kyle for about 3 months, then made the switch to formula because it made us both happier.  With Lucas, I've breastfed exclusively (so far) for 9 months, and plan to nurse for at least 3 more.

For a long time, I felt like I failed with Kyle.  The only thing I ever wanted to do was nurse him, and it didn't work out.  Now, 3 years later, I'm finally at peace with my decision to give him formula.  This has been aided, in part, with my being able to nurse Lucas so successfully.  I know where I went wrong with Kyle, and I was able to correct my mistakes with Lucas and avoid repeating history.  Here are the reasons why I feel I was successful this time:

1. I already had breastfeeding experience, and I knew what to expect.  Sure, it was only a few months' worth, but it was enough.  I knew what a good latch looked like, I knew how to handle my milk coming in, I knew the best positions to hold the baby, etc.  There is no greater inhibitor for me than fear of the unknown, and the second time around, I didn't have to worry about that--score one for me right there.

2. I didn't have an epidural when I was in labor.  Now, I know this isn't the case for everyone.  I know many moms who had epidurals who have developed a successful breastfeeding relationship with their babies.  I'm not ruling out the possibility that I'll have an epidural with my later children, and I fully expect to be able to breastfeed them.  But, for this birth, it was of the utmost importance.  After Lucas was born, we were both so alert without the haze of an epidural, so there was nothing hindering our first attempt at breastfeeding.*

*interjection: after Kyle's birth (where I did have an epidural) Kyle and I were both a little foggy and lethargic, and neither one of us was really interested in trying to breastfeed.

3. Our first attempt at breastfeeding was within 30 minutes of Lucas' birth.  I really feel strongly about this point.  Being born is hard work, and, after the initial shock and adjustment to his/her new surroundings, a newborn baby will want to sleep.  It was critical for me to start breastfeeding during Lucas' alert period immediately following his birth rather than wait until we had been moved to recovery (like I did with Kyle).  Then, we both would have been tired, and breastfeeding for the first time would have taken more work.

4. I didn't let the nurses freak me out about how much Lucas was eating.  Newborn babies aren't born starving.  They don't really have high nutritional needs the first day after being born, either.  I feel like hospitals put way too much emphasis on how much a newborn is eating.  I understand why, of course, but I let it freak me out with Kyle.  I was already worried that I wasn't doing it right, and worrying that I was starving my baby compounded the problem.  Because he wasn't nursing as frequently as my postpartum nurses liked, they got me all worried that he was starving.  They convinced me to supplement with formula.  This was bad for two reasons:  first, it eliminated his hunger, thus eliminating any impulse he would have to breastfeed; second, it introduced another nipple that provided nutrition, thus creating nipple confusion.  With Lucas, I knew better.

5. I kept Lucas in my room with me during my stay at the hospital.  There are so many people (my mother-in-law included) who say, "send the baby to the nursery so you can get some rest!"  This never really made sense to me, because once you take the baby home, there's no nursery to send him/her to.  Why not get used to having your baby around from day one?  Plus, having him in the room with me helped us become attuned to one another, which is so important for breastfeeding.  I could tell immediately when he woke and wanted to nurse, and I was able to do so.  Yes, if I had sent him to the nursery they could have brought him to me when he was hungry, but why rely on other people who weren't going to be around when we got home?  Keeping him in the room with me helped to build our breastfeeding relationship by allowing me to feed him on demand.

6. I was able to stay at home with Lucas full-time after he was born.  Again, I know this is not a requirement.  There are many women who work outside the home and are able to exclusively breastfeed their babies.  For me, however, it was important that I was available to breastfeed on demand for more than just 6 weeks postpartum.

7. I didn't ever give up and give Lucas formula.  There were many times when I half-heartedly considered it, like when I was up for the fourth time in one night to nurse Lucas through a growing spurt, or when my nipples hurt so badly when he first latched on that I literally cried from the pain*.  But, I knew that I was giving him the best possible nourishment by breastfeeding (plus, we saved SO much money by not buying formula!), so I persisted.  Plus, it was so gratifying to take him to the pediatrician and find out that he had gained 11 oz in 3 DAYS, all from my milk.  Making milk really is a super-power.

*second interjection: to those people who say "if it hurts, you're doing it wrong", I say (and pardon my French) "BULLSHIT."  It takes a while for your nipples to toughen up--newborns have some SERIOUS sucking power.  However, if you have pain in your nipples or breasts after nursing through the initial pain stage, it IS a sign that something's wrong, and you should seek help.

Obviously every woman's experience with breastfeeding is different, but for any first-time mom that wanted to breastfeed her child, I would give the following advice from my experiences:

1. Start breastfeeding as soon as you can after giving birth
2. Keep your baby with you as much as possible while in the hospital
3. Don't let the nurses talk you into supplementing if breastfeeding is going well
4. Breastfeed on demand and avoid putting your baby on a schedule for the first few months of his/her life
5. Never, ever, EVER give up!  There are so many people and resources to help you succeed

Check back tomorrow for a post on how my opinions have changed and how they have stayed the same because of my experiences breastfeeding Lucas.

One of our first family pictures after Lucas' birth, in which I am, in fact, breastfeeding


Natalie Sadler said...

I agree with your experience with Kyle vs. Lucas--it's been the same for me.

Although I still feel bad sometimes for not trying harder with Copeland, I need to stop and remind myself that I don't love him any less because he was our formula baby. He taught me so much more about parenting and love than Ellie has (and probably ever will have) shown me.

I can't blame anyone else for how my nursing experience with Copeland went because I didn't inform myself enough on nursing (the barriers, the PAIN, etc.)

And you are completely right. Whoever told me nursing shouldn't hurt is full of CRAP. It hurt so bad with Copeland and I ended up bleeding.

If I had stuck to nursing with Copeland, I'm sure I would be in a mental institution. Our relationship changed so much when formula was introduced completely. Sure, I felt like a failure, but I wasn't putting off feeding him for fear of the pain. He and I were crying so much less once we made the switch, and through much comforting from the Spirit, I knew it was the right decision. Especially into my journey to relactation. I KNEW it wasn't the right thing to do when I actually prayed about it.

I also sometimes have to remind myself that Jay was exclusively formula-fed and he's the most stable, loving, incredible, sensible, smart man I know. One's life is determined more by what you do with what you have than it is what others have done to you.

The Bradys said...

Thank you for being honest! I have the same words for those people who say "Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt at all. You must be doing it wrong." I am on my third, and every time (in the beginning) it has hurt so badly!

Breastfeeding Hailey was a nightmare. But, because I've been more informed and "been there, done that." my two boys have been awesome! That doesn't mean there haven't been stumbling blocks along the way, I get infections all the time, but I know how to work through them.

Why are those nurses always suggested to supplement with formula? It drives me nuts! Let me choose what I want to do with my baby thankyouverymuch.

Thanks again for this post, Jessica. It's nice to relate on a topic where there is so much controversy.

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