After weaning my youngest off the boob at the ripe old age of 19 months, I’ve reflected on my whole breastfeeding experience. I want to share in case you’re ready to pop out an infant and wondering if breastfeeding is for you or not.
When my oldest was born, we did not really turn to the internets for information like we do today. There weren’t mommy blogs and social media to give me any information about breastfeeding. I didn’t have a lot of friends with experience in the parenting arena and the idea of breastfeeding terrified me.
All the anecdotal advice I received said not to breastfeed. It’s painful, it’s horrifying, blood will squirt out of your nipples, you and your boobs will die a slow and torturous death. When I was in the hospital, (and call me sexist on this one), but a male lactation consultant came into my room after a fairly traumatic emergency c-section and offered to show me how to nurse. Of course I said, “Hell to the no, thank you.”
I didn’t even entertain the idea of breastfeeding for a moment. My daughter is now 17 and is a healthy kid who has seemingly no ill effects from being exclusively bottle-fed.
Fast forward to 11 years later, when I was having my second child (by birth, I have one kiddo from another mother). Now there’s a big movement for breast is best. There are all kinds of support groups and information on breastfeeding readily accessible.
Also, I was incredibly anxious this time around. Like hover over the baby watching her sleep all the time in case she stops breathing anxious. So, ALL of the information out there, I’m reading it. I talk to everyone I know who has nursed a child to get their feedback.
And to my utter shock, I’m hearing positive experiences. I credit my friend Erin for sharing her breastfeeding journey and answering my 1 billion boobie milk texts and IMs. So, I decided I was going to give it my all and really try this time to breastfeed. Because research shows it’s healthy for mom and baby and because the cost compared to formula is awesome — ZERO DOLLARS!
I want to share some of my takeaways, should it help someone else on their breastfeeding (or decision not to breastfeed) journey.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t feel that way in the beginning.
Here is how I thought breastfeeding would go. Baby is born. Baby opens mouth. Insert boob into mouth. Milk flows freely like a spicket. Repeat until toddlerdom. This is not how breastfeeding went, at least for the first few weeks.
The first feeding was super easy. I guess making their way out of your womb really helps babies work up a mighty thirst because that first feeding after birth worked like a charm with both kids I breastfed. I thought, oh, piece of cake. Second feeding and all subsequent feedings for the next few weeks were very rough. Imagine you can’t see very well, like you’re a mole emerging from the earth in the bright sunlight. For nourishment, you have to fit a quarter of VW Beetle in your mouth all at once and suck as hard as you can.
That’s what feeding a tiny newborn baby with a massive, milk-engorged boob is like. They can’t see well, they don’t know how they’re going to fit that giant thing in their mouth. It’s a disaster. To get the baby latched each time, I needed one to two assistants. I had to squish my boob into a boob sandwich, while one of the assistants held the writing baby’s arms and the other assistant smashed the baby’s open mouth onto the boob sandwich. Big thanks to my sister for being such a good sport.
After several million calls to the lactation consultant and one outpatient visit, we finally got the whole latching thing down. After about a month of nursing, it finally started to feel natural. Exhausting, but natural.
Fed is Best
From having one formula-fed baby and two breastfed babies, I can tell you no matter which way you choose to feed your baby you’re doing just fine. Unless you’re feeding your baby a diet of whole grapes and jawbreakers, you’re still a good parent.
If you’re nursing and need the encouragement to keep going, I advise you to reach out to a local lactation consultant. There happened to be wonderful lactation consultants where I delivered two of my babies and my insurance covered seeing them as an outpatient. There are also nursing support groups through local chapters of the La Leche League.
If you’re nursing and you’re truly exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, do what’s best for your sanity! They make baby formula for just this occasion. Use it!
If the idea of nursing makes your skin crawl and it’s just not for you, formula to the rescue. You’re no less of a great mom for not nursing. And bonus — you can drink wine.
Don’t let anybody shame you into how you feed your baby. You know you, you know your child, you do whatever works for you, wherever it works for you and whenever it works for you. And if someone gives you the stank eye, just squirt them with your boob like a clown with one of those trick flowers.
If you’ve never breastfed before, it is the closest thing you can get to having a superpower. You can control the milk production with your mind. I could seriously just think about milk and WHOOSH. There it was. Is this what getting a boner is like for men? Asking for myself.