07 August 2012

Breastfeeding ---> where we're headed.

In honor of national breastfeeding week, I really felt like I should speak up about it. Not only about breastfeeding in general - but my own personal experiences and decisions as a Mother.

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):
  1.  Low milk supply
  2.  Pain & discomfort
  3.  Baby has trouble latching
Those are all completely valid reasons to stop. But believe it or not, I went through all of these things. And thankfully, there ARE ways to get through these obstacles, if you are willing to put in the effort.

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.


Courtney B said...

Every time this company has come out with a promo code I've bought one! I gave them away for baby showers but I still have 2 left over and I'm excited to have one!
I've actually had a rotten attitude about breast feeding my own baby. I'm not sure why... I know the benefits and I know I want that bond with my baby... but I'm scared of the pain. Nervous that I will feel like a failure if I can't nurse, or if my baby can't. And I really want Eric to be able have turns feeding our baby and bonding with her as well. Of course, I'd prefer to pump and have that bottle be full of breast milk. And I will also be working so I don't want her to totally depend on me... I'll need her to take bottles 1-2 days a week! But I've really had the idea that if it's not "easy" for me then I'll have no problem giving it up. I know.... SO HORRIBLE!
But this was really great for me to read so thank you for posting! I'm definitely going to give nursing my best shot, I know I can do hard things! If it doesn't work out because of allergies, or not being able to make milk, or whatever reason... I will just have to be reminded that I'm not a failure for a mom!

Sara said...

this is so awesome mandy!! i regret not being able to breast feed my oldest. i tried and my dr let me give up. i didn't have anyone to help me out. and with my youngest, i was afraid it would happen all over again. so i just didn't. So proud of all the breast feeding mommas out there! :)

Stephanie Clark said...

Great post Mandy! I feel like the word is getting out there more and more about breastfeeding but then I still see moms post pictures on FB mostly while still in the hospital giving their baby formula. If there aren't health reasons why you shouldn't..I feel like everyone should at least TRY. I mean formula now even says right now the label "closer than ever to breast milk". So, even the formula companies know bf is best... That being said I myself "quit/gave up" at about 4 months =(. I think your list should have including moms who work full time like 8-5... because even though my job allowed for it the stress of having to keep up with my work and pump 3-4 times a day was AWFUL! IT'S SO HARD! I still hate that I had to keep working, but I also feel like there are some things I could have done a little better, but at 11 weeks I also had my gallbladder removed and I was never able to regain my freezer supply. So we started supplementing with formula and then my son refused the boob. So I was pumping while my husband fed him. No time to actually spend time with him because I was attached to that pump (which I loved, but kind of started to resent. I was also pumping WHILE trying to feed him before work in the mornings. Oh the nightmare. I'm praying that when I have my next child, something will change to allow me to be at home more. It's just so heartbreaking that something you want so bad doesn't work out. I'm so jealous of your full freezer =)

Stephanie Clark said...

OH the typos /\ /\ /\

Kiara Buechler said...

I think you have a great plan. I became best friends with my pump at 8 weeks when I went back to work. I still bf'ed in the mornings, evenings, and on weekends, until at 8 months D stood up while I was nursing him. I was just done nursing him after that, it felt to weird. I exclusively pumped for the next 3 1/2 months. My freezer supply got us all the way to his his 1st birthday, plus one day. My original goal had been six months, but after D was born I changed the goal to a year. I used a nipple shield for the first four months, because at first he couldn't latch at all. One day I decided to just go for it, and it was so freeing to stop using the shield! It is kind of shocking to me when moms don't try nursing, the moment he was born there is nothing that could have stopped me from at least trying.

torie said...

This is exactly how I feel! I couldn't breast feed Rylie because of a bad latch, so I pumped (strictly) for 6 months. Talk about a pain! Andrew on the other hand took to it right away. I was so scared before he was born, but I realized all babies are different. I just weened him before BlogHer (6 months) and had mixed emotions. I miss the snuggling during the night time feedings, but it's nice to be some what free. I have a good stash in the freezer too :) Thanks for sharing!

Sarah [NurseLovesFarmer.com] said...

I love this post, very nicely written, Mandy. I am a HUGE breastfeeding
advocate, Braden was EBF the whole first year of his life, until I
introduced cow's milk (very slowly) at 9 months. I purposefully started
weaning him at 8 months, so he wouldn't be nursing like a "baby" and
eating from me as often. Eventually we weaned to morning and night only,
and then 1 week after he turned 1 I knew it would be my last time, and I
figured if he wanted to, we'd keep going, but only 1 feed a day. He didn't show any interest after and it was the perfect journey for us. I commend you for your choice to EBF Easton and that you've worked so hard to pump so he has enough to get him onto cow's milk! Good for you both. The reason I chose not to "actively" pursue nursing past 1 year (and actively weaned at 8 months) was because I wanted to go back to work and didn't want to start pumping so late in the game just to go back to work and do the odd shift and not be engorged.

I think if moms were educated more to the benefits of breast milk,especially in the super early stages and how good it is for their health and digestive system, more would do it -- or at least TRY as you say. Even having formula once in the hospital completely wipes out all the good "bugs" in their digestive system. It's quite sad, really (to me!) I always support a mamas right to choose what works for her and her baby/family...but there's part of me that really will never understand why women don't at least want to try it, especially in the beginning!

Jamie said...

Thank you for mentioning that sometimes breastfeeding just doesn't work for a family.
When I had my son Owen, I ran into every.single.problem you listed above and then some. First, my son wouldn't stay awake long enough to feed, so getting him to latch was a struggle. Then, I ran into sore nipples, and was told that if my son was latching properly there shouldn't be much pain. (I later learned that this is a lie.) Then, my milk never came in. I never heard my son swallow any breast milk, and I wasn't even pumping enough to cover the bottom of a bottle. He wasn't peeing or pooping and had lost weight, so after 11 days we switched to formula full-time.
I recently learned that I likely have a condition known as Insufficient Glandular Disorder, which makes it nearly impossible for women to breastfeed without mostly supplementing with formula.
I think the problem with hyper-activism (read: Latch On NYC) is that it makes those of who physically could not breastfeed feel like failures. I still struggle with it to this day. I hope to be able to breastfeed my next child, but if I can't, I hope that I'm not made to feel like I'm feeding my son poison by feeding him formula.

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Jamie, I totally get it!! I'm definitely breastfeeding advocate, but I also understand that there are situations beyond our control and at the end of the day - as long as the baby is fed and happy... that's all that matters. I think that most people just want to make sure that mama's are educated so that they can make informed decisions. And I'm truly sorry if anyone has made you feel like a failure! You did you're best and are a wonderful mom for trying!

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Thanks Sarah!! I always get nervous that people will think I'm judging or attacking them when I write things like this. That's so great that you breastfed for so long!

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Torie, that's amazing that you strictly pumped for that long! It takes so much dedication! :) And I hear ya about having mixed emotions with weaning. Like I mentioned, I'm planning to start weaning Easton around 7 months, and I'm already kinda getting teary about it. So... we'll see what happens. lol. And yay for liquid gold in the freezer!

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Yah... if one of my kids ever stood up while nursing I'm pretty sure that would be the end of it for me. lol. It took Bennett biting me for me to decide that it might be time for him to wean (he was around 10-11 months).

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

He he I love typos!! Thanks so much for your comment!! Pumping is hard work!! I am breastfeeding AND pumping so I know it takes a ton of time and commitment! So sorry to hear about the issues with your gullbladder! :( I hope it works out next time for you!

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Thanks Sara! So sorry you had breastfeeding issues! But the important thing is that your kiddos are happy and healthy!

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

I was scared of the pain, too, girl. It's not a good feeling when you first start breastfeeding. But like pregnancy and labor/delivery - you get through it!! I'm so happy you are willing to at least give it a shot!! Just try your best, that's all you can do! :)

sarah said...

Nice post...it's great for moms to hear from personal experience.. just be careful you aren't speaking for everyone when you say things... I didn't have any pain when starting to breastfeed and it's good for moms to be aware of, but not scared of.... it's not always a grin and bear it experience.. also, mention of a resource for help would be good.. like La Leche League http://forums.llli.org/

Glad things are going well for you guys!

Laura Railing said...

Ahh Mandy Thank you thank you for posting this!! Guess what our first son did? Freak out the second he was sideways. it was so. bizarre! Seriously. Like even in his sleep!!! Nursing lasted like a grand total of a week with him :((( This time around though I am totally hoping to go for as long as we can!! We will see! Thank you for all the ideas though! I am hoping to be able to use some of them!

Amy Wheaton said...

Great post! I was not expecting to be able to breastfeed Eli. For some reason I had always equated small boobs with no milk...boy was I wrong :) It has worked out great for us and he was EBF until six months when he started having some solids. He's almost nine months and I plan on weaning him around the time I go back to work and he turns one. We're down to nursing four times a day now, along with three meals of solids. One of the things I loved most about it (aside from the fact that it's free) is that whenever the baby gets hungry, you're ready to feed him. You don't need to bring formula, a bottle, a bottle warmer, etc. etc. And in the middle of the night you don't need to stumble into the kitchen and warm up a bottle. It was just so convenient.

Laura said...

I really appreciate your information AND your honesty. With Ethan, I wanted to at least try breastfeeding. We had issues with latching, at first...and I gave up rather quickly because I was entirely too emotional. Each time we tried and it failed, I'd get so upset, he'd be screaming, and it just wasn't pretty. I decided to EP, and wasn't producing enough. I tried Fenugreek, and that stuff gave me the WORST of headaches...so...needless to say, that didn't work out. E was able to get 2.5 months worth of breastmilk, and for that, I'm grateful, but with baby #2, I hope to be able to try harder, and, like you, at least get to the 6-month period.

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Babies are so strange when it comes to nursing!! Easton LOVES being on his side but hate's nursing in public. If we aren't at home he freaks out and won't eat very good. What is with babies? lol. But really, you did your best and at least you tried. Hopefully it will go better with baby #2! Best of luck!

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Thank you!! So awesome that you were able to EBF your babe!! It's the best, right? And you're totally spot on about it being convenient! Who wants to get up in the middle of the night and hassle with bottles and warming up milk? I just grab the baby and lay down to feed him. Easy peasy.

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

Breastfeeding is an emotional thing!! Easton had huge issues latching for the first few weeks and I was a wreck trying to get it all figured out! So I totally get it! And hey, 2.5 months of pumping is awesome!! It's a lot of work to pump all of the time (trust me, I know!) ha ha. Best of luck with #2! Hope it goes well for you!

Michelle said...

Great post Mandy! You've done an amazing job with the pumping, wow!
I loved breast feeding my babies and I'm sad that it's over, my little girl bf for 2 years 1 month and my little man went for 2 years 5 months, not everyone's cup of tea I know, haha but both babies had no trouble bf and we just kept going until they weaned themselves :) It does become a tad embarrassing when they can ask for "boobies" though, lol.
Keep up the good work mama!!

Eli@coachdaddyblog said...

I have three girls. All breastfed. All soccer stars. All cute. Coincidence? I think not.