life, love, and maybe babies

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Feed Me, Seymour: The Honest Guide to Breast Feeding You Never Knew You Needed

When I was pregnant, people would constantly ask me one question that grated my nerves more than any other...

Are you going to breastfeed?


As someone who had worked so incredibly hard to even get pregnant, I hadn't really taken the time to consider breastfeeding vs formula. I was way too busy thinking about whether this pregnancy would even go to term to focus on what I would do to sustain my baby's life after he came. 

But, as most babies do, he arrived. And he was hungry. Our nurses at the hospital were fantastic and the lactation consultants were extremely helpful in helping me to get breast feeding going. Now that nearly 13 weeks have passed, I look back and see how much my approach to breast feeding has changed since those first few days.

So let's get to the good stuff that 4,392 other articles won't tell you about breastfeeding. For example:

1. Breastfeeding is freaking hard

Yeah, yeah, you say. Everyone knows it's hard. All the mom's say it. But really, what's so hard about it? I mean, you bring the baby up to your nipple and off you go. Um, no. That's the forensic explanation. It is so, so much more than that. I mean, sex is technically putting part A into part B, right? But we all know how intense and complicated and wonderful and awful sex can be, don't we? Breastfeeding is the same way. It's all the nuances and little things that make it either fantastic or awful.

Full disclosure, though? At the beginning, it's pretty much just awful. So don't go into your first experience breastfeeding and feel like you're a failure if you aren't screaming, "YAY, I GET TO BREAST FEED TODAY!" 

That may never happen.

2. There is pain. No matter what you read that says otherwise.

Almost every "how to" guide I read clearly stated that if your nipples hurt while breastfeeding, you were doing it wrong. That is blatantly not true. Remember, before you had your baby, your nipples were rarely (or never) getting play. Maybe once a week? Once every two weeks? Hell, it might have been five months since your boobs last saw daylight because when you're pregnant, your boobs hurt and you're all " DON'T TOUCH ME THERE, OKAY!?" 

Now, this eight pound human being wants to chomp down on your practically re-virginized tata's and get liquid out of them 10 times a day. And this isn't supposed to hurt? Girl, please.


The fact is, your nipples have to get used to being sucked on in a completely non-sexual way. It just isn't pleasant at the beginning. Now, that isn't to say that if it hurts to feed that you're definitely doing it right, it just means that if it hurts, you aren't necessarily doing it wrong. And you, my friend, get the joyous task of figuring out which category you fall into. For me, it hurt because the cross-cradle hold turned out to be a dud. My little man just couldn't latch correctly. The minute I switched to the football hold we were off to the races. But it still did hurt at the beginning. 

I highly recommend walking around shirtless and braless for at least a week if you can. Your partner will love it and your nipples will love you. Be aware though, you will have to thwart the increased advances made by your partner as a result of your free floating lady parts. Just "accidentally" squeeze some breast milk on him. He won't touch you for a month.

3. You will leak.

I spent a good month and a half waking up in the middle of the night swimming in my own liquids before finally realizing I needed to sleep with a bra and breast pads. And no one thought to share with me that when you feed your baby on one side, the other side is going to let down, too. You must prepare for the rain!

Sometimes the leakage happens two minutes after my baby's last feeding, sometimes it takes two hours. So keep close watch, as thou cannot know the time or the hour when the boobs will spring a leak.

Do yourself a favor and invest in the nursing pads and keep them in your bra 24/7. Don't bother taking off the sticky adhesive strips and trying to keep them in place, either. They're going to move, as are your boobs. You get used to it and eventually you won't have any qualms about fixing it in public. 

4. You'll Never Take Your Bra Off Again

Because #3.

5. Ounces matter

If your breastfeeding time table goals exceeds your maternity leave capabilities, you're going to have to pump. I'd recommend starting pretty early on so you can get the hang of it. 

Pumping sucks. In fact, they should just call it Sucking because that's what it is. Two weird, plastic, alien-looking things attach to your titties and siphon the freaking life out of them. If you're lucky some milk comes out, too. But guess what? Sometimes you'll pump for 25 minutes and not a single drop happens. It's super reassuring. Then out of curiosity you'll Google"how many ounces should I be getting when I pump" and you'll read things like, "I immediately got 10 ounces at every pump!" and "I loved pumping! I got 1,200 ounces in two weeks for my babe!" 

(I just tell myself that these women are ugly in real life. It's the only thing that makes me feel better.)

(Not really, those ladies are just super lucky.)

As an added bonus, here's something else you have to deal with. Your husband WILL NOT get it. One of the first times I pumped, I only got half an ounce and my husband said, "So just throw that out, right? It's not worth it to keep it."


Excuse me? Not worth it? I just spent 35 minutes with a machine making a sound that can only be described as several cows being disemboweled as I hunched over two giant vacuums who, I swear to God, get personal pleasure out of my pain, and you don't think the half ounce I pumped is WORTH IT?

I highly recommend keeping all sharp objects away from yourself when you've just pumped, because if anyone dares question how much you got, you will probably end up on death row.

6. Forget Text Neck. 

You will get Tit Neck from looking down at your boobs when you pump to SEE IF ANYTHING IS COMING OUT. Oh, and get ready to get genuinely excited when you see the milk start to spray. It's like Christmas morning.


7. Eventually you will breast feed for all to see in public


8. The nursing cover sucks

Who wants to eat like this? Exactly no one.


For the purposes of research, I ate my breakfast today with a blanket over my head and guess what? It's not a pleasant way to eat. I couldn't see anything, it made me hot and it's stupid. Why would I expect my child to eat this way just because we're in public? I mean, if I do flash a nipple it's for less time than Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

Also, the nursing cover is the most awkward thing on earth. How is anyone expected to thread the needle of a mouth to a nipple without the benefit of SIGHT? I am not a superhero, people. 

9. Cluster feeding is a real thing

As I left the hospital with my newborn son, basking in the glory of the beautiful human I produced, my lactation consultant called after me, "Don't forget about the cluster feed at two weeks! You'll feel like he's attached to you!" 

I wasn't really listening. 

Thankfully Hubs was, because around the two week mark, my son went on a breast feeding binge. He fed every 15 minutes for over two hours straight. As I sat there with red nipples, a sore back, and angry as hell, Hubs piped up, "Hey, didn't that lactation lady say this would happen around two weeks and you just had to power through it?" 

Those lactation peeps. They're always right.

Cluster feeding sucks but it is necessary. It's signaling to your body to up the milk production to keep up with what baby needs. If you supplement with formula, it might cut back on your discomfort, but you might not ever get your supply up to where it needs to be. Try and power through. Sit down with Netflix ("House of Cards" all day, erry day.) and a bunch of snacks and let babe eat as often as he needs. Have some lanolin on your nipples in between feedings and you'll come out the other side, I promise.

10. Your timeline will change

When I started nursing, my pie in the sky goal was to make it at least a year. After day two, I had decided I would make it a week. After a week, I decided one month...max. Now I've been successfully breast feeding for three months and my new goal is six.

The correct answer for how long to breast feed is: as long as you want.

There is no magic number of months or days or weeks. Frankly, if you're hating every second of it, you are transferring that energy to your baby. He can feel it. If you are absolutely despising the process to feed your child, then it might be time to move on. 

But here's a little thing to remember: breast feeding is like having contractions. If you knew you had 192 more to go before your baby arrived, you probably would have just given up and jumped out the window. Instead you took it one at a time, minute by minute, half hour by half hour. That's how I've learned to handle breast feeding. I take it week by week. 

So, new mama (or second or third time mama), give yourself a break. Join a breast feeding support group. Email me. Call your mother. Call your best friend who breast fed twins for nine months. Your body was designed for this, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If breast feeding isn't for you, that's fine. You will probably get questions from nosy people with good intentions. Try not to go too hard on them. They just don't know any better. 

Hang in there!


1 comment:

Nora said...

This is brilliant, thank you!

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