Thursday, August 11, 2011

Breastfeeding: Things I didn't know and the benefits

I am thinking of starting a "series" of blogs about things I've discovered since having a child that I didn't take into consideration before he was here.  It's nothing I could have even expected without experiencing it.  Even with advice from others, there are just so many little things that go with having a baby that people either forget about, don't think about when giving advice, or simply things that vary from baby to baby.

Anyway, this week, I'm writing about things I've discovered about breastfeeding.  I wouldn't have seen myself writing on this topic except I have discovered so much from it, I feel I have to share.  

Plus, I participate in an online forum and have found that MANY women go through the exact same struggles with breastfeeding that I myself have faced.  

So I am making two lists here.  First, there are the challenges that I never imagined breastfeeding would pose.  And, second, there are many benefits that breastfeeding provides that I didn't even know about before starting.

  • For many women, milk doesn't come in right away (as was my case) and the doctors and hospital staff will PUSH formula feeding so hard.  I felt lost my first week because on one side I was being pushed to give formula in bottles being told that was okay.  And on the other side people were saying don't dare give a bottle or pacifier as it could destroy my breastfeeding experience. 
    • NOW- Picture are sitting up at 1 am after having had a total of 3 hours of genuine sleep in a few days.  You are bleary-eyed, your child is only a few days old.  The strategies you've been given to help him latch only make him angry.  And he will not latch on for anything.  Oh and PLUS he's screaming at the top of his lungs because at this point he is starving and mad.  What do you do? Conflicting views/advice runs through your mind, you don't want to mess things up, but you have to take care of this child. This is exactly what I was thinking...what I went through.  Give him a bottle? Try to get him to continue to nurse? There is no professional to call on.  Your child is hungry.  Things aren't always as simple as you would think.  
    • I found with him I had to put a small amount of formula in a bottle, stick the bottle in his mouth for a few seconds, take it out, and then immediately start breastfeeding.  It worked very well! This is actually how we got started.  
    • I think if I'd had milk from day 1, it would have been easier.  But I will say that breastfeeding gets A LOT easier once milk is in.  When my milk came in, he chugged it down like it was the best stuff in the world.
    • Also, the pacifiers I gave my baby (soothie and gumdrop) actually helped him strengthen his muscles enough to get milk out better.
  • Not everyone can express milk easily.  And the amount expressed is NOT an indication of the amount of milk you are making.
    • A doctor told me to pump my milk to see how much I was making.  Well, at first, I could only pump out half an ounce! 
    • My baby was feeding well and gaining weight. So, I'm pretty sure I had a lot more than half an ounce! It was only after this that I researched it and found out that many women actually do not get much out with a pump..and I even used the expensive, high-end hospital pump to get at most 2 ounces.
  • Breastfeeding can be very demanding 
    • The thing about breastfeeding is that it works on a supply and demand basis.  So, supplementing with other things too much actually makes it more difficult in the end because the more the child nurses, the more milk you make.
    • For me, this has meant literally nursing him around the clock sometimes.  Babies go through growth spurts meaning they can eat every half hour (going from 30 minutes after the start of the last session).  Basically, this ends up being the baby eating for hours on end.  I just get my liter of water and let him nurse as much as he wanted.
    • There have been days when all I've been able to do has been nurse him and change his diapers from all he ate.
  • It's not easy to know if the baby is getting milk, BUT there are little ways to tell!
    • Not surprisingly, a lot of the time I can hear him gulping the milk down.  This is my favorite because I know he is getting tons of it when I hear the gulps.
    • The baby's ear will wiggle as he/she sucks.
    • The baby's jaw and temples will be moving.
    • This is just my baby, but he twirls his foot when he is getting milk! It's so cute!
    • Also, OUTPUT is the biggie.  My baby has at least 12 wet diapers a day plus at least 3-4 soiled ones.  As a nurse once told my mom, "If they be's a poopin, they be's a gettin' it!"  
    • Also, the poop will look and have the consistency of mustard showing the baby is getting plenty of the good hind milk that is necessary. 
  • Nursing releases the hormone oxytocin into the body, which helps fight off postpartum depression.  I had some days where I felt kind of down after he was born.  But I found myself feeling better and better the more I nursed him.  I looked it up only to find out that positive hormones are released that help fight off those baby blues.  
  • Breastfeeding also helps with weight loss after pregnancy.  I learned that it burns around 500 calories a day or more.  That's not bad at all!
  • It also gives babies exactly what they need to stay healthy and fight off infections.
  • Babies feel comfortable nursing.  My baby enjoys it so much that he actually doesn't want the bottle.  
I understand that there are many people out there who choose to formula feed.  And this blog is by no means pushing breastfeeding over formula feeding.  It's just what I've learned.

For me, I really didn't consider formula feeding as an option.  Plus, I actually feel really good nursing my baby.  I feel strange giving him a bottle.  BUT I never knew breastfeeding could have so many unforeseen challenges.

My doctor told me that many women give it up after 1 week. So she encouraged me to stick it out for at least 2.  Even now, at almost 5 weeks of it, I sometimes feel it would be easier to bottle feed.  If it weren't for my strong desire to do it, I would have given it up.  For anyone else who may be struggling with it, you are not alone and it really does get easier the more you stick with it.  There is also no pattern for how babies feed either.  Some are fast eaters and others are slow eaters.  Some go through fast growth spurts while others cluster feed for several days.

But the most amazing thing about it is that it all works naturally! Feeding the baby whenever he/she is hungry and letting him/her feed for as long as he/she wants to causes your body to react naturally and cater to the baby's needs.

Also, to those of you who had multiples and nursed them, hats off to you! One is a lot to me and I admire people who could do it with more than one!