Are you thinking about breastfeeding your baby? Whether you've just found out that you are pregnant or are due soon; you've likely been inundated with information about whether or not to nurse your child.
Will you work after the arrival of your baby? How long will you have available for maternity leave? Do you have support from your partner, family and friends to breastfeed; or are you in an environment in which breastfeeding is a foreign concept?
All of these elements, and more, may have an impact on your perception of nursing. I'd love to encourage you to at least try breastfeeding and to share some tips and tools that really helped me. I've been fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed all of my six children. My oldest child is 17 years old and my youngest is three.
With each child the experience and duration for which we nursed was different. I've nursed while working - and nursed while working as a stay-at-home mom. The shortest time period I've breastfed was for eight months and the longest is three years and still going.
I've nursed while perched on the edge of a toilet in a public bathroom stall with the lady next to me wondering what the noises were (in my early days before I felt comfortable nursing in public). And I've nursed in front of crowds of people with them being none the wiser (I got really good at using my blouse as a shield).
I've had babies that took forever to learn to nurse (my oldest was in NICU for the first few days of his life and was confused from the pacifiers the nurses gave him against my wishes). And I've had babies that literally found their way to my breast within a few moments of being laid on my bare chest after birth.
I've figured out how to eat, type and walk around while nursing. I've even gotten really good at picking up toys with my toes while nursing. I'm guessing even the circus would be impressed with the contortions I can wind myself into while feeding my infant!
I, like many of you, came from a family that wasn't all that breastfeeding savvy. My grandmother bottle fed her babies with a formula (recommended by the doctor) made of canned milk and dark corn syrup. My mother nursed me for a month or so but thought she was starving me to death. I was hungry more often than her friend's babies were so she thought I wasn't getting enough milk. Her friend's babies were formula fed and she said that no one encouraged her to continue on.
It would have been easy to give up breastfeeding with my oldest son. He was premature and it took almost a month to train him to nurse. We were staying with my mother while remodeling a house and she was a very doting grandma. She wanted to bottle feed him because it gave her special time with her grandson. I got into a crazy, time consuming, cycle of pumping my milk only to have someone else feed my baby. I am so thankful that I didn't give into the overwhelming urge to stop.
Two things that made a huge difference and allowed me to nurse my son to 13 months old were:
A spectacular lactation consultant who helped me teach my son to suckle properly.
And my mother-in-law who had nursed her children and was adamant that I was capable of doing so.
Here are some things you should know about breastfeeding ~
|Breast milk and the physical experience of being breastfed really is good for your baby! Overwhelming evidence supports the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you nurse your baby exclusively for the first six months of life and continue to nurse to one year or so long as it is mutually beneficial to both mom and baby. |
You can visit this link for some good information American Academy of Pediatrics Breastfeeding FAQ
All six of my children have been incredibly healthy and bright. Coincidence? I don't think so. I believe that the perfect food has given my kiddos the best possible start in life.
|Breastfeeding is good for the family! |
Not only can breastfeeding help prevent illnesses and allergies, breastfeeding can save your family a huge amount of money and extra work over the long haul. Contrary to popular belief, bottle feeding a baby isn't easier than breastfeeding, especially in the middle of the night! With breastfeeding there are no late night crying sessions while we fumble to make a bottle, just a little fussing and rooting around to wake Mom up. Then baby nurses peacefully and is back to sleep quickly.
Happy Baby = Happy Family!
Our family's experience is that a breastfed baby is a happier baby. All the skin-to-skin contact and cuddling is good for baby. The easily digestible breast milk reduces painful tummy aches too! A great resource on the benefits of breastfeeding and helpful tips can be found at BestStart.org . It's a free website and is full of information.
|Breastfeeding is good for you! |
The average mom will burn 500 calories a day to make breast milk. There aren't many exercise programs that can boast that big of a calorie burn! I've always returned to my pre-pregnancy weight within several months of giving birth without dieting or exercising. I have no doubt that my weight loss is the result of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding also slows the return of menses in many women, allowing a time period in which the body isn't losing iron. Studies also show that breastfeeding reduces a woman's chance of developing breast cancer.
See breastcancer at about.com.
Breastfeeding also release the hormone prolactin that helps you to feel calm. Every mom could use a little relaxation!
|When you choose to breastfeed, you don't have to be alone in the care of your baby. There are many ways for everyone in the family to be important to baby; such as holding and soothing. And there are so many wonderful products on the market to help make breastfeeding even easier. The few items that our family relied on were a great breast pump for those times that I might need to be away, bottles that closely imitated the natural breast, and reusable milk storage containers.|
~ My favorite products are ~
Medela Pump in Style Advanced Backpack
I loved the fact that this discreet looking backpack contained an efficient and powerful double pump (which allowed me to pump as quickly as possible on my breaks). Medela's exclusive "one touch" let-down button helps to better mimic your baby's suckling cycle (faster at first to get your milk to "let down", then more slowly once your milk is flowing). This feature really made all the difference in the world. I also looked at a photo of my daughter to help me relax and imagine her nursing. (Let's face it, a mechanical pump doesn't feel exactly like your baby). This pump isn't cheap (at $250.00 it's still far less expensive than some comparable electric pumps on the market) but it is well worth the money. If you are a working mom and weighing out the costs between purchasing a quality pump vs formula feeding; you will save money by choosing this pump as it will pay for itself within a couple of months. *Considering that a month's supply of formula is estimated to cost you between $150-200.00.
*See The Labor of Love and thesimpledollar
Ameda One Hand Breast Pump- BPA Free
A far less expensive option (around $30.00), this unique one handed manual pump was a very good choice for me when I wasn't working outside of the home. I liked that my hand didn't get tired (it has a very cool ergonomic squeeze handle that allowed me to pump one breast while baby nursed on the other). If you are a working mom you could purchase two to save time especially if you won't have access to electricity in a private area. I've used this pump a lot through the years and love that it is small and battery/electricity free (I can pump anywhere!)
Lansinoh mOmma Feeding Bottle, 5 Ounce
Nothing is more frustrating to pump your precious milk only to have your baby refuse to take the bottle it is in. Your baby will be used to your natural shape and a hard funny shaped bottle nipple can totally throw your baby off. The Lansinoh mOmma Feeding Bottle is brilliant! It is the first nipple I've seen that genuinely looks like a human nipple that has just been nursed on (yes, your nipples will look like that, don't worry, they won't stay that way!) At approximately $7 per bottle, these are well worth the money. If you plan on pumping your breast milk, don't waste your time and money on anything else.
Medela Breastmilk Freezing & Storage (*BPA Free) 12 Pack of 80ml Bottles in Retail Packaging #87061
You can store your milk in disposable bags or reusable containers. I prefer the reusable containers for multiple reasons. Reusable containers are less likely to leak, will save you money over a very short period of time and hold up better to transportation. And most will accommodate a standard bottle ring and nipple if you choose to use that style of bottle.
TL Care 6 Pack Organic Cotton Nursing Pads, Natural
Trust me, you will leak milk at first. My milk would let down anytime I would think about my baby or anytime I heard another newborn cry. I worked at the hospital for several years so I was exposed to crying babies often. One helpful trick to stop the flow of milk is to take your forearms and press them firmly into your nipples until the threat of leakage stops. If you clasp your hands together and put them under your chin, you can even make it look like you're fascinated by the conversation around you!
That being said, there will still be times your milk will leak. To catch the leaks you'll want nursing pads. Usually round and thin, they slip inside your bra. You can buy disposables or washable cloth. I've tried both and would highly discourage you from using disposables. They have a thin plastic liner that does a great job of keeping the milk from leaking onto your blouse, but they STINK! Literally! Imagine sour milk on a hot day. Ugghhhh! I had much better results with washable cotton pads. They still kept the leakage from reaching my outer garments and didn't smell bad. I loved that I could throw them in the wash and not have to spend more money on disposables.
Once you've nursed for a while, your body will adjust and those unexpected leaks won't happen. I usually stop springing leaks when baby is around four months old.
Motherhood Maternity: Wireless Full Coverage Nursing Bra
I've had many different styles of nursing bras but I'd say my favorite is from Motherhood. It isn't ugly and is cut low enough that I can wear it with my normal tops. Some nursing bras are too high up for my clothing or don't fit well. This one is smooth, functional, and not itchy. You'll be glad you bought one. Motherhood has a lot of great nursing clothes (at least in our store) which aren't absolutely necessary but make nursing or pumping discreetly a breeze. You might consider a few tops to start with, then decide whether you want to purchase more. I'm a cheapskate so the bras were the only necessary purchases. For the rest of my wardrobe, I got by on my regular clothing except for a few special items. My nursing apron basically turned any outfit into a nursing outfit.
Bamboobies Cute Little Nursing Cover, Black
To avoid having to hide in a bathroom stall to feed your sweet baby while out in public I would highly recommend you purchase a nursing cover. While I'm quite skilled at using just about anything to cover up; I have 17 years of practice. A cover up with something that goes around your neck or shoulders is a huge blessing for a first time breastfeeding mom. Especially when your baby begins to yank the blanket off to see what else is going on in the room.
There are a lot of covers on the market but I really like the Bamboobies nursing cover. It's trendy enough that you can feel stylish instead of matronly. It's cute enough that you could wear it as a layer blouse.
One More Thing You Should Know
You will probably read over and over that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. You'll read that if your baby is properly latched on, you shouldn't feel nipple discomfort.
Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt for very long but you will likely feel discomfort at first (even with a properly latched on baby) because your BOOBS ARE EXPERIENCING CHANGES! Compare it to breast tenderness with puberty or pregnancy. Now add a suckling baby in the mix. You might get lucky and feel no discomfort. I felt discomfort for at least the first few days of nursing with each child.
By all means, don't ignore your baby's latching technique. You shouldn't be in excruciating pain and it should get better with time. But don't assume something is wrong just because it hurts a little.
|Poppy and Baby Poppy|
~ Remember ~
The most important thing is you. No matter what products you decide to use to enhance your breastfeeding experience- just remember the only required equipment needed is you! As long as you are with your baby, you will never need to sterilize bottles, measure formula or check temperatures. Only you can provide the perfect food for your baby. Studies show that the composition of your milk changes depending on your baby's age, hunger level and environment.
Read Infant Nutrition Council's breastmilk information to learn how breast milk adapts to your baby's unique needs. You'll never take your breasts for granted again!
|Find support ~|
My final piece of advice is to find true supporters if you decide to breastfeed. There will be plenty of people ready to cast doubt into your mind about your ability to nourish your child as nature intended. I've had loved ones, strangers, medical professionals (yes, even a doctor), and friends make discouraging remarks to me. When you are in a weakened and tired state, you'll need someone to reassure you that you CAN give your baby everything that he or she needs.
So begin to seek out those supporters now. Find a local La Leche League chapter in your city or join an online support group. Perhaps you have a friend that has successfully nursed a child who would be willing to be there for you. Don't be too hard on your partner if he or she doesn't seem confident in your abilities but don't hesitate to say "Back off! I can do this! My body was created to do this!" We all make well meaning remarks that aren't so helpful at times. Keep in mind your partner might be just as unsure as you are.
And remember, I'm always here for real mom support if you need a little (or a lot of) encouragement. Don't hesitate to leave a comment or question, I'll try to respond promptly.
Please also feel free to share your breastfeeding tips and experiences readers! Breastfeeding is an amazing experience. If you are thinking about breastfeeding I hope that I might have swayed you to give it a try. You'll be so glad you did!