I have always been very vocal that I really do think that breastfeeding is the best option for feeding babies. Obviously, it doesn't always workout for some mama's... and that's totally okay. But I really think it's something that should be talked about more... and taken more seriously. So here I go. (and also? i will not pass judgement on you if you don't.. these are just opinions and suggestions.)
My good friend Lauren went into some awesome detail about breastfeeding, specifically, for new moms. READ THIS! Super informative stuff here folks. And Adriel has written so many good posts on the topic as well, check those out, too.
There are just so many reasons to at least TRY to breastfeed. The benefits far outweight the challenges, in my opinion. It's a wonderful way to bond with your baby, I know from experience. It helps with babies health and immune system. And come on guys, if nothing else - it's FREE. :)
Alright I could go on forever about why breastfeeding is so awesome but I will move it along...
Here is my advise on breastfeeding, in a nutshell.
A lot of people make up their minds ahead of time that they just don't even want to try to breastfeed, for various reasons, and I can understand that. But women's bodies are unique in that, we spend 9 months growing our precious babies in our belly's and our body provides the nourishment the child needs while they are in the womb, right? And even better, after the baby is born, our bodies are still capable of feeding and nourishing our babies. Why not take advantage of that? Our bodies are built for this. I mean, that's pretty dang incredible if you ask me.
I will be honest and tell you that breastfeeding is HARD work. Who would have thought, right? I mean, you stick the baby on and he eats, right? Wrong. A lot of babies will struggle at first. Although it's the most natural thing in the world, we need to remember that this tiny little person is NEW. He is fresh out of the womb and still figuring out how to live. So simple yet so complicated. ;-) I will be the first to admit that breastfeeding can be uncomfortable, painful and frustrating. There were so many times (with both of my boys) that I just wanted to give up because I was exhausted and I just wanted a break. But I went into it knowing that breastfeeding is not easy. And I made a promise to myself that I was going to power through the beginning stages and just commit to it. Unless there was an allergy or something going on that was 100% out of my control. I was going to breastfeed, for at least 6 months.
There are a number of reasons why people can't/choose not to breastfeed. But in my opinion, these are the top #3 reasons people stop (and there are many many more, but I am just going to address these 3):
- Low milk supply
- Pain & discomfort
- Baby has trouble latching
1. Low supply. Some women don't make as much milk, but there are ways to stimulate supply. There are supplements you can take. I am a huge fan of Fenugreek. I took it when I was nursing Bennett and it helped SO much. As a side-effect, you might walk around smelling like a pancake house (you will smell like maple syrup when taking this stuff), but you will most likely see an increase in supply.
Another way to increase supply is to nurse frequently, and for longer periods of time. For the most part, our milk production is supply & demand. The more you nurse, the more milk your body will make.
Pump pump pump. I have mentioned this in a previous post, but I made the HUGE mistake of not buying a pump when I was nursing Bennett. And I feel that if I had one, I would have made more milk, and kept up my supply. This time around, I pumped between feedings and yes, even after the baby went to bed and was sleeping 6-9 hour stretches, I still to this day, get up and pump at 2am. Do I have to? NO absolutely not. But I do it because I want to keep my milk supply rich, and I want to have extra milk on hand. (the reasons for this will be at the end of this post).
So if you think you aren't making enough milk, don't give up quite yet. Try some different things to help stimulate your supply. If all else fails, then you could always continue nursing as much as you can, and supplement with formula. I did that with Bennett for a little while and it worked out awesome!
2. Pain & discomfort. Dudes, this sucks. I'm not gonna try to lie about it. Breastfeeding hurts at first, it really does (at least it did for me!). It takes several weeks for you to get used to it. But you just gotta power through and after a few weeks, it will not hurt anymore and it'll be totally fine. Not much else to say here because it's just a matter of being tolerant of the pain. But I promise you, it won't last forever! Load up on lanolin creme, this will help with dry and sore nipples!! Also, nipple shields can help as well!
3. Trouble latching. This one is HUGE. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to feed your baby and he just doesn't "get it". Easton struggled for a while for the first few weeks with latching and I was in tears over it. He was mad, and I was upset -- it was just not good. But I stuck it out. I had to give him a few bottles to make sure he was getting enough milk (again, thank goodness for my medela pump), but we totally stuck with it and our efforts paid off. Easton nurses like a champ now!! Another thing to consider if your baby is having trouble latching, the issue might be that you have shallow nipples... the lactation consultants in the hospital will probably be able to point this out if this is the case. If it is, they make nipple shields to help with that.
While we're on the topic of lactation consultants, they are readily available for you for the days following your delivery. They are super knowledgeable and will do anything to help you be successful at breastfeeding. Take advantage!!
So the moral of the story is that even though breastfeeding can be difficult, tiring and just plain inconvenient sometimes, you will be hard pressed to find any nursing mom say that they regret doing it. I will never regret it. I know that my boys and I have benefited GREATLY because of it and I am thankful for the opportunity.
Okay so with all of that said. Here is where my breastfeeding (round two!) journey is headed.
Easton has been exclusively breastfed for 4 months now. And in that time, I have used my pump 1-4 times a day, not only to keep my supply up, but so that I could get a large stash of milk built up. I even bought a deep freezer, and after 4 months... it's exploding with milk.
Why am I doing this?
Because I am planning on weaning Easton when he's around 6-7 months old. I know that right now some of you are rolling your eyes wondering why I would just talk about how amazing breastfeeding is and then turn around and wean my son so early? Well this is where it all comes down to personal choice. Some people choose to breastfeed for a a few months, some for a year and some even longer. I absolutely believe that for me, 6 months is the minimum I will do it. But I have my own reasons why I won't continue much past 8ish months.
Easton is already clingy. He's SUPER attached to me, and a big part of that is because he's nursing. And don't get me wrong, I LOVE my little mama's boy. And I love breastfeeding him. But here's the thing... I am a working mom. There are times when I need to be gone for 8-10 hours to shoot a wedding, and so it's super important that my baby will take a bottle, and be comfortable in someone else's care. And beyond that? My little two year old is a trouble maker. He uses the time I have to take to feed the baby, to get into as much trouble as possible - because he knows that I can't just jump right up and stop him. Little stinker. Another thing that's a challenge is that Easton is SUPER picky about how/where he eats. He does not like to nurse in public at. all. It's really inconvenient and annoying. And the last part? The selfish part? I want my body back. Yes, breastfeeding is an honor and I will never regret doing it, but being a mom of 2 little kids, and trying to run my own business, I don't get much alone time. And I NEED "me time" to feel sane. The problem I'm running into is that when I am gone for more than a few hours, I have to pump - and that isn't always the most convenient thing! (like in the middle of a photo shoot!). I just can't always make it work.
These all sound like excuses don't they? I know, I know. But really, they are valid. Just like everyone else's reasons for not breastfeeding or quitting (I hate that word).
So with a LOT of consideration, I have made the personal decision to start the weaning process with Easton at around 6-7 months, and have him completely weaned by 8 months. And the best part? I have more than enough milk stored that he will never have to have an ounce of formula. As soon as he goes through the last of my frozen supply, he'll move on to cow's milk and will be eating more baby food.
I feel that I've come up with the best possible solution for my family. I have had to put in a LOT of work, and have been super tired from my middle of the night pumping parties to get a good store of milk but I'm happy to have done it because it means that Easton will get the BEST possible nourishment for a long time, even when I'm not nursing him anymore. And I think at the end of the day, I am doing my best for him. And that is good enough for me.