Thursday, June 28, 2012

'Controversial' topic - breastfeeding!

I have no idea why this is at all controversial actually. Humans are animals. Animals have babies. Babies must be fed. Conveniently, animals are well-equipped for such endeavors.

With my first pregnancy I expected to breastfeed my son for a few months at most. I didn't have a firm cut-off date, but I never imagined being one of 'those'  moms who nursed a toddler. 17 months later...I decided the time had come to wean my son. Yes, he had teeth. Yes, he was eating real foods and drinking water. Yes, he could walk up and raise my shirt when he wanted to nurse. Whatever - it worked for us. 

When I returned to work after Baby 1 it was January and I  had a few months of teaching left so I pumped daily. He was never given formula except for a couple days after birth when the hospital convinced us he needed more because he'd lost a few ounces. Once I threw out the nursing schedule and keeping track of which side and for how many minutes he plumped right up. 

Me nursing Maggie shortly after coming home
from the hospital. See? No boobage!
My son nursed all. the. time. There were days when I thought I might as well just lay on the couch with my boob out. The boy never took a pacifier - I was the paci. He spit up a lot too! No wonder - he would nurse forever and be completely full, hence projectile spit up! We didn't put him on drugs for reflux, it never occurred to us. 

For Baby 2, I knew I'd nurse for however long she wanted. However, we got off to a very rocky start. With my son, it seemed that he just knew how to nurse and got down to business. For my daughter, it was difficult. I remember vividly sitting up in bed with her latched on and crying because she was hurting me so badly. My nipples cracked and bled. My breasts would get so full that letdown was forceful and would spray the poor girl in her face. Thankfully, I had a great resource in my doula and her tips guided me towards successful, painless nursing. (My daughter didn't latch on properly - I had to coach her to get her mouth opened wide enough to get a painless latch.) 

If I had not already successfully nursed my son for son long, I would have given up on my daughter. The pain is indescribable. I had her in August so I had months of pumping at work ahead of me, but I did it for her. I weaned her at 19 months. Again, she had teeth, could actually speak, and was eating regular foods. She would have continued longer I'm certain (so would my son), but for me it was time to call it quits. 

Best advice I can give new mothers and even 2nd and 3rd time around moms? Get help! Find someone who will support you. If the hospital cannot help you do not despair! The nurses and lactation consultants were useless when it came to breastfeeding at both hospitals I delivered at. My doula/birthing educator was my life-saver. Also I found a great La Leche League group nearby that was a huge support - it was the first place I ventured to after Baby 1. There isn't much that could be more supportive than nursing your baby among other women who are also nursing. 

Hubby Lee raking leaves
with Baby Maggie in the sling!
Having a sling for baby-wearing was also a life-saver. I nursed both of my kids everywhere - including while grocery shopping and eating out at restaurants. I rarely used a blanket to cover up because it was hot and I couldn't see what baby was doing. Also, as I learned at a La Leche League meeting, if you unbutton your shirt from the bottom up it makes a natural 'shield'. Frankly, I hated the idea of people being able to see my lovehandles, the baby always blocked the view of my breasts. 

Another thing to consider that many people (including me) immediately poo-poo is to allow your babies to sleep with you. When mothers and fathers complain about not getting any sleep when their kids were babies I feel sorry for them. Because both our babies slept with us, no one had to get up in the middle of the night to fetch a hungry/wet baby. Because I nursed, no one had to get up and make bottles in the middle of the night. It was so easy

We did get a co-sleeper bed that attached to the side of our bed when our second child was born, but she was within easy arm's reach. Also, our first-born slept on a crib mattress on our bedroom floor when baby 2 came along so we never had both kids in bed routinely. Ultimately we got a king sized bed and got rid of the co-sleeper. When I weaned our daughter we moved both kids into their own queen sized bed in their own room. They are 5 and 8 years old now and still choose to sleep together although they have their own rooms and beds. 

Did we have sleepless nights when the kids were babies? Sure...there were a few. But the vast majority of our nights were peaceful and uninterrupted. Generally if a baby wasn't sleeping well it was because they were teething or sick - which was thankfully rare. Did babies spit-up, poop, pee in our bed? Yep. But we quickly learned to keep a waterproof pad under where the baby slept. 

Overall you have to make decisions based on your needs and the needs of everyone in your family. Do what makes sense to you. Sometimes the easy choice is the best choice. Find someone you trust and ask questions. It isn't always easy, but this too shall pass. 

I make no bones about being open about my 'granola girl' choices - I'm happy to answer questions and talk about birth and breastfeeding. Good luck to all my preggo friends! I'm here for you!!

See my post from 6/23/11 on VBACs for Maggie's birth story.

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