Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Breastfeeding!

What to say? Too much!!! I usually just post journal-like entries. But then I rarely post about thoughts on my mind, of which there are many!

I'm going to post about breastfeeding. About my personal journey, but also some very good things to know. Probably because it is dear to my heart. Also because my friend Emily posted recently and I enjoyed it. Also because I don't think there can ever be too many women learning about this and encouraging others about how normal and wonderful it is (101 Reasons to Breastfeed). Before I start, my friend Carolyn has written a much more concise 10 Tips for Breastfeeding Moms. Read that if you don't have time for my post!

(Before Beginning: I don't want to offend anyone, especially those of my friends who have really tried and were not able to continue very long. I know some of you it was in your heart to do, and it just did not happen. I admire your fortitude, and I don't want this to hurt you since I know you feel you haven't gotten to enjoy something you desired. This post hopefully will not upset you, that's my very last intent!)

In our society today, not much information is given on breastfeeding unless you are looking for it. You really have to educate yourself about it. Breastfeeding may be difficult and challenging at first, and if you are unprepared for how to overcome obstacles, you may give up needlessly!

Your hospital may or may not have a lactation consultant, to help you begin your journey, if you're a first time mother. Read books like The New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding or Breastfeeding Make Simple. Go to sites like this. Learn before you give birth, but read often those first few weeks as well!

Know that your first few hours with your new baby are pretty crucial to creating a connection to your baby and developing the breastfeeding bond. Breastfeeding is the closest, most intimately special, comforting, nourishing thing you can do with your baby! You want to nurse as soon after their birth as possible, even if it's a short time. Babies will naturally do this (although, they may need help doing it right). Be aware that after delivery, well-meaning nurses, family, and friends will tell the new labor-tired mother, "You need sleep" as they urge her to send the baby off to the nursery for hours so momma can rest. You easily could miss the baby's first cues for hunger or comfort. Even after an exhausting (natural) labor, your body is ready and able to respond to your child. Sleep is something you can get when your baby is sleeping, but it should not take place over their well-being. I think this is a misguided help people are trying to offer, and new moms who don't know better may not know what to do (respond to baby or to their exhaustion & everyone's advice). Keep your baby nearby, respond to their rooting/stirring/fists in mouth, and any other hunger cues. If the baby is crying, you have waited too long, for they are past hungry! Crying is the last resort to an infant needing food. Learn your little one! You more than anyone else in the world have been designed for this!

Also, newborns are notorious sleepy-heads. You will have to work to make sure your baby stays awake during a feeding, and doesn't sleep too many hours at a time so they nurse frequent enough. I set an alarm my baby's first night of life to make sure she never went more than 3 hours without eating at night. I continued this the first few weeks. Whenever she gave the smallest inclination to eat, I fed her. Throw away the foolish idea to "Never wake a sleeping baby!"  They should be nursing 10-12 times a day at least! You cannot over-feed your newborn!!! Frequent feeding helps your milk come in. Even though I was feeding my baby approx every 2 hours, my milk did not come in until 4 days after she was born. But I did not worry or fret, because she was getting enough dirty and wet diapers and had no signs of dehydration (learning about this, educating yourself, will help you become a more confident breastfeeding mother). I had the pedi check her at 3 days old as well. She was getting colostrum at least. Know when to worry and act, and yet educate yourself so you don't shipwreck yourself by acting on unfounded fears. A good pediatrician will support breastfeeding first, and will want you to call at the least concern! Try not to get one you will be fighting with on your early breastfeeding choices.

Don't even try to get your baby onto a sleep schedule! That is just not even recommended until your milk supply is well established and your baby is gaining weight well to even start trying to schedule them. I didn't try until she was 3 months old (and even then, I fed her whenever she woke at night, I just tried to get her into regular napping). Am I clear? Sleeping, and especially scheduled sleeping, is secondary in importance to establishing a healthy baby with good easting habits. This means you personally putting the child's feeding first before your own sleep, errands, etc.

If you want problems, introduce a pacifier too often/too early (I'd say before your baby is a month old, but I don't really know). They are too little to discern nipple differences, and you will be taking away the child's opportunity to comfort nurse (nursing just for the comfort the sucking and closeness to you gives them). Comfort nursing stimulates your milk production, and continues the bond between you and baby.

You need to become aware of what a good latch looks like, but also discern between a baby sucking and drinking. There is a difference. A baby can be at the breast, sucking, and getting little nutrition for hours! You need to watch that they are drinking, that the chin is coming down to intake the milk (suck - swallow, or suck-suck-suck-swallow before your milk comes in). There are a bunch of great videos that show the difference on here (if you're offended by nursing uncovered, by all means don't go here, but it's important that a mother knows how to identify good nursing).

A breast-pump can be your best friend. Even if you just get a hand-pump, you want to be able to express milk when your baby hasn't taken enough, when you have a reason to be out and need your baby to have a bottle of it ready, or when you are trying to get over a breast infection. Don't assume you won't need one.

Challenges will occur. But if you arm yourself with knowledge, you have a much higher chance of succeeding. Milk production is something you were made to do for your child. Ask, read, and know other mothers have gone through what you may be experiencing. It may come easy or hard, but if you get over the "hard" initial few weeks, you will then be on the other end where breastfeeding is so much easier than bottle. You will experience the amazing love that outpours when you nurse your child. When the oxytocin is released as your baby nurses and your milk lets down, you will feel overcome with the happiest most in-love feeling for your baby. It is a joyful emotional high unlike any other (to be a little bold here, the closest thing I can liken it to is an orgasm... not as good, but just such a rush of wonderful feelings all at once!) You will fall in love with your sweet-smelling, cooing little innocent newborn all over again as you cradle their little head in your arms and provide for their tummies.

I have a 10 month old, and I treasure our little night nursings. Even when she wakes up at 11, 2, 3, 4, and 6 to nurse (like the last few nights - ah teething!) I don't even mind it, because she's so satisfied and comforted by our little time in the chair in her room. (She gets back to more regular feeding once they break through, and I am grateful for uninterrupted sleep.) :)

Do not think of what you are "missing" by having to nurse your baby (sleep, vacation time, family functions, "socialization", etc). Do what you can to forget all that and be a joyful mother in the "now". Your child will feed off your emotions.
(Little story: I found that if I were tense or creating endless "to-do" lists for myself as I nursed Elyana at night, she would get agitated. But I learned to stop, take deep breaths, and envision  quiet/sleepy thoughts going from my head into her as I nursed, she was asleep and peaceful in minutes. It was amazing.)

Ok, I'm done for now. Do know that even if you can only nurse your baby a few weeks or months, you are giving them the best start! It's better to do something than nothing! Feel free to always email me personally if you want to talk more. I am STILL learning myself, but I feel it's such an important thing for mothers and babies, I couldn't not write.

6 comments:

Catherine said...

Thanks for posting this, Denise. I appreciated your honesty. :) I have been doing a lot of research but I am still so ignorant. I didn't even know that a mother's milk doesn't come in till several days after birth until mom told me. :P

Carolyn said...

Great advice!!!

Herb of Grace said...

Denise, great advice! I would add two things;

1) Be aware that there is an extremely wide range of "normal" for nursing needs. For example, my Sofi nursed for 45 min with 90 min in between for many a long month. Judah, on the other hand, was done in ten minutes! Going to the ped to get a weight test (they weigh the baby, you nurse, they weigh the baby again-- shows exactly how many ounces they're getting) can re-assure you if you have a speedy nurser and are wondering if they're getting enough.

2)You absolutely MUST educate yourself about YEAST. It's one of the biggest causes of women ending the breastfeeding relationship earlier than they intended. It can cause unbelievable, mind-bending pain and a super-cranky baby. And it's not only indicated by those obvious white patches in the babies mouth. I have a post on my blog all about this! :)

http://theforsheyfour.blogspot.com/2009/02/yeast-infections-info-for-nursing-moms.html

Thanks, Denise, for a very informative post! I'll probably be linking in :)

Seth and Karen's blog said...

I really enjoyed this post. Even with my third child there are still things to learn about. Your post is especially beneficial to mothers beginning to nurse their first child. I have to amen everything and also agree with Lisi about how each baby is different at nursing (especially when it come to how long they nurse during one nursing period!)

Thanks for the concise yet thorough overview! Love you!

Lindsay said...

Well done Denise:)

Catherine said...

Denise,
I was thinking about the term "skin to skin time" that you talk about a lot and realized I didn't quite know what it meant. (Aside from the obvious, of course) Are you talking about breastfeeding, or just cuddling up skin to skin? And what are the supposed benefits from this?
Also, I was babysitting another formula fed baby today who was really gassy (miserably so--he screamed about one hour out of the two) and wondered if breastfed babies ever get gas a lot? I know breastmilk is a lot easier to digest but didn't know if that exempt them from gas at all or just moreso than formula fed babies. Thanks! :)