Sunday, October 21, 2012

all things nursing (with lists)

Here we are at 2.5 months and I finally feel like I have this nursing thing down to a frickin' science. I can (and have) walked around the house attending to various chores (whattup dusting) with Elden on one boob. Protalk.

Here's the thing: nursing is easily one of the most difficult things I had to learn. That's right, ladies... as much as you want to think it comes 'naturally,' for me (and for a lot of my mama friends I've spoken with) it doesn't. I had heard there was somewhat of a learning curve involved but boy was there ever, and not just for me. Elden had to figure this whole thing out, too.

Overshare alert: I'mma be talking about nipples.

Here's kind of what our nursing experience looked like:
-In the hospital: it was awkward (the positioning, the latch, etc.) and slightly uncomfortable, but not hardcore painful in the nip area. However, those first few days that you nurse your uterus contracts. This contributes to returning you to your pre-baby body, but since they're contractions that hurts quite a bit.
-The first few days post-hospital: ohmygosh, shoot me now, this hurts more than childbirth, iwannadie, let'sjustgivehimformula, wahh wahh jonyouaresomeanformakingmedothis.*
-Weeks 1-3: Not going to lie, there were times where I literally screamed out in pain/bit my fist when Elden latched. I think a big function of this was because he had a terrible latch. His terrible latch also contributed to his gassiness (he swallowed a lot of air) and hours-long bouts of crying since he was the most difficult baby ever to get burps out of. I had cracked nipples. I had bleeding nipples. I had clogged ducts. I had engorgement that would put a cantaloupe to shame. But I would be doing you a disservice if I acted like it was no big thing. I know every woman and baby is different, but those early weeks of nursing were one of the most painful and emotionally difficult things I have ever experienced.

Things that I will tell you that others told me that you won't want to hear if you are currently experiencing weeks 0-3:
-It will hurt less, I promise
-It will be so worth it to you in the end, I promise
-It will be easier and you won't even realize you're doing it, I promise

Disclaimer: I know I was one of the fortunate ones. Not every woman who wants to breastfeed can produce milk for various medical reasons. Not every woman can endure the pain those early weeks. Not every woman's body can keep up with her baby's demand. I know breastfeeding isn't always for everyone, but we knew before we had Elden that it was the route we were going to go for both financial reasons (no need to buy formula) and for his health (the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until at least 6 months of age).

Things that helped me stick with it:
-Jon encouraging me, helping position Elden, and acting as a general support partner by looking up information that might be helpful (that article I linked to was INCREDIBLY helpful in fixing Elden's latch)
-Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter - all natural and lanolin-free, something Jon and I preferred
-Earth Mama Angel Baby booby tubes
-An angled nursing pillow. Many recommend nursing at a 45-degree angle, something the popular Boppy pillow doesn't accommodate. I adore my Gia nursing pillow and use it for almost all of his feedings.

Things that didn't help me at all that I thought would:
-nipple shields... Elden had no idea what to do with it so we couldn't even use it

Personal Pros of Breastfeeding:
-no need to warm up/make bottles for the middle of the night feedings--just grab baby and stick on boob (although if you are like me it will take a solid 3 minutes to find a comfortable position)
-it's free
-it provides Elden with my immunities that he couldn't get from formula
-the bonding experience with Elden (truthfully this was also helpful when I would get overwhelmed by visitors--no one wants to see you nurse amiright?)
-I was back to a lower-than-pre-baby weight within about 2 weeks of giving birth. Hello, best diet ever. Apparently you burn about 20 calories per ounce of breastmilk produced. Since Elden drinks about 5 ounces per feeding, I burn at least 700 calories a day nursing alone (~7 feedings * 5 oz per feeding * 20 cals). You do realize this means I eat whatever I want (within reason) and have no extra poundage to show for it, right?

Disadvantages of Breastfeeding:
-we didn't want him to try a bottle until he was at least 4 weeks old to avoid nipple confusion--that meant I couldn't really go anywhere without him
-the pain and frustration in those early weeks
-I was solely responsible for his feedings. This was particularly hard those early nights because I felt so alone and trapped(?) I guess
-we also didn't want him on a pacifier those early weeks to avoid nipple confusion and now he won't take one, which can be frustrating when he clearly just wants to suck to soothe himself to sleep

Things I recommend for dads/support partners:
-if you know your partner really wants to nurse, be firm (but loving in your firmness) with her... that might be the push she needs to continue, even if she is snarky with you in the beginning*
-Wake up with her for all her nighttime feedings that first week or two. Jon woke up with me every. time. (bless him) to help me get Elden into position and to just rub my back (although there were times I yelled at him to just not touch me) and be physically there when I felt alone, stressed, and unable to figure out this nursing stuff. Those first weeks would have looked and felt much different if he had left me to my own devices or listened to me when I told him just to go back to sleep (he knew what I actually meant was "HALP!!!!").
-do some research about anything she might be struggling with and share it with her.

Things I recommend for new nursing moms/moms-to-be who want to nurse:
-seriously stick with it. Prepare yourself for unimaginable pain so you're not caught off guard when you experience it.
-cut yourself (and baby) some slack! Breastfeeding is hard.
-Consider buying the products I recommended (or ones like it) above if you're struggling.
-Ask for help! Before we left the hospital we met with a lactation consultant and she helped me with a few things that I just couldn't figure out/didn't feel comfortable with on my own
-If/when your baby starts sleeping through the night, invest in a manual hand pump you can keep on your nightstand for when you wake up inevitably engorged and in pain. I adore mine and I don't have to mess with hooking up all of my electric pump components/cleaning it at 4 am. This also allows me to take my hand pump places if I know I'll be missing a feeding to provide relief/keep my supply up, as well as leave my more efficient electric pump at work.

So those of you who have experienced this, what did you find that worked for you? Did your baby pick it up really quickly? Or if you attempted but didn't continue, what were your reasons? How did baby adjust to the switch to formula?

*I might note that if Jon had not been the firm hand ("we need to do what's best for him and we believe that's breastfeeding") those early days and even weeks, I most definitely would have given up on nursing because it was so incredibly painful. While I somewhat resented him for telling me formula wasn't really an option at the time, I am eternally grateful for his loving encouragement (and firmness) now. Jon, I'm sorry for the times I snapped at you and said "then YOU feed him!" and batted your hand away when you were just trying to love me.


  1. The Leaky B@@b on facebook is an amazing support group of women who also breastfeed. This is an amazing post, thanks for writing it.

    1. Happily! It was so frustrating those early weeks because I always thought these things were supposed to be second nature and when breastfeeding wasn't I felt like a total failure!

  2. I didn't with either of my girls, because I didn't produce enough milk. I pumped for 2 hours only to get 1/2 an ounce. And I tried everything. Not to be negative, but my mom nursed me for over a year and I have the worst immune system ever. My husband and his brother were both formula fed and have the best immune system ever.

    1. If you have a bad immune system and were bf who knows how bad it would of been had u not been bf at all. Pumping is no indication of how much milk you actually make it takes 4-6wks to establish a supply. Always seek lactation help I was not bf and have a great immune system but it is best that baby is bf its natursl, free, and so empowering and fullfilling to provide your child with nutrition! Many moms quit with 1,2 or even 3 kids than sucessfully bf the next one.

    2. Ah yeah I think a lot of it depends on genetics, too. My sister was breastfed (I refused it after my mom offered a bottle apparently!) for many months and she got sick a lot while she was in daycare, as would be expected. I wasn't in daycare and I got really sick a lot in elementary school.

  3. Love this post! We're six weeks in and still really struggling. But sticking with it and hoping things click soon. After multiple trips to the lactation consultant it was finally discovered that Ellie has an anterior tongue tie, which has caused all sorts of problems with breastfeeding. She had a procedure last week to correct it and has basically had to start over from scratch and relearn how to breastfeed properly. I'm so, so thankful for my amazingly supportive husband!!! Things that have really helped us:

    Motherlove Nipple Cream. All organic and amazing!
    My Breast Friend nursing pillow
    Establishing breastfeeding goals PRIOR to baby's arrival