Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thoughts on Breastfeeding

Growing up, I always knew that when I had children I would breastfeed.  My mother often talked about how she breastfed me until I was 2!  So it was a little of a no-brainer that's what I would do.  When I was pregnant with Lily, we hired a doula (to help with natural childbirth), and attended a birthing class but it never occurred to me to attend a breastfeeding class.  Breastfeeding is so natural, I'll instinctively know what to do, right?!?  Wrong!

When Lily was born, the nurses at the hospital were attentive and helpful in getting her to latch on.  She attached, she's sucking - everything seems to be working.  Flash forward a few days, and I've got a screaming baby in my arms at all hours of the day and night.  She would latch on for a second and pop off, repeatedly.  The emotions swept over me and I was sobbing and feeling like a horrible mother and that I would never be able to do this!  I called the hospital's lactation consultant, but they were on vacation (as they had been during our hospital stay).  During a postpartum visit from our Doula, she suggested that I get some nipple shields.  I have relatively flat nipples, and Lily was getting a very poor latch now that my milk had come down.  My poor baby girl, whom I had been constantly breastfeeding was starving!  Zach quickly ran out and picked up the shields and we began using them immediately.  It took a few tries before Lily and I both got the hang of the shields.  But once she did, she was a rockstar at nursing!

The shields worked amazingly...but breastfeeding was feeling like more of a task than a bonding experience for us.  We co-slept and when Lily would wake to nurse, I (or the hubs) would have to roll out of bed, sterlize the shield and get it to fit on properly before I could feed her.  It was exhausting.  I began to think that I would never be able to nurse her without the assistance of the shield.

I starting reading up and discovered a lot of literature that the shield should only be used for a short time.... here we were going on our 2nd month with the shield.  I started trying to wean her off the shield and onto the breast directly, starting her on the shield and then slipping it off once she had got it flowing.  It wasn't working.  The second I slipped the shield off, she wouldn't be able to reattach or rather, wouldn't attach.  She had gotten use to how easy it was the suckle on the shield rather than directly on the nipple.  I tried, but often got discouraged so I would just resort back to the shield.  I didn't want my baby to go hungry.  After about a week, I decided to suck it up and be firm about getting her to nurse without the shield.  I had to be patient with her, but kept trying to put her directly on the breast.  I ended up having to remove the shield altogether in order to get her to latch on.  It took a lot of patience for both us, but eventually she learned how to latch directly onto mommy.

Once we had eliminated the shield, breastfeeding became the beautiful experience I imagined it would be.  Being able to feed my baby without any assistance was amazing and empowering.  It wasn't easy, and I completely understand why a lot of women do not breastfeed or stop breastfeeding after the first month.

We have been breastfeeding exclusively now for 10 months.  I fully intend to breastfeed until Lily is 2, just like my mom did with me.  I may or may not decide to continue beyond the 2 year mark (to be honest, some days I think I could give it up anytime).  The demand that breastfeeding requires is exhausting, even without any difficulties.  But the bond that it provides for Lily and I, is something so special for both of us.

I'd like to add, that while I chose to breastfeed, I recognize that many mothers decide not to or simply aren't able to.  I completely respect every woman's choice and am in no way judgemental of those who do not breastfeed.  I simply wanted to share my own experiences with breastfeeding, in hopes that it might help another mother out there.

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