Before I dive into this conversation, I want you to hear me: I WILL NOT JUDGE YOU IF YOU CHOOSE FORMULA. Breastfeeding is tough, especially in those first 3 months. For me, it actually impeded my ability to lose weight. It seems that you are one extreme or the other–either you loose weight easily as a result, of your body clings to your weight like crazy. And I felt chained to my baby and/or my pump. Formula is definitely and without a doubt easier.
However, I chose breastfeeding for both of my babies. In fact, I breastfed them each until they were a year old. Because of that, I thought I’d offer some of my thoughts surrounding breastfeeding.
So why breastfeed?
- You pass your antibodies to your newborn, giving him an edge in fighting sickness.
- MUCH, much cheaper than formula.
- It helps to prevent ear infections.
- It can help with weight loss (though it did not for me.)
- Breast fed diapers are WAYYYY less stinky than formula diapers. Not even kidding.
- It can reduce the risk of cancer for both you and baby.
- It is linked with higher IQ levels and is thought to produce more intelligent children.
- It allows for a deeper connection between you and your infant.
(Here are some other reasons breastfeeding is important, just in case my list isn’t exhaustive enough for you.)
For me, breastfeeding was something I had placed in upmost importance. I was going to breastfeed, come hell or high water. There was no option; this was going to happen.
So when my baby wouldn’t latch… when she would scream because my milk wasn’t dropping fast enough… when my milk took a full five days to come in… I cried. I felt like a failure.
Just because breastfeeding is a perfectly natural thing doesn’t make it easy.
Thank goodness, the hospital in which I’d given birth had lactation consultants on hand to help. They begrudgingly gave me a nipple shield when it became obvious that Claire wasn’t going to latch (nipple shields are generally discouraged; I even had one nurse tell me, “This means you won’t breastfeed long.” Ha. Joke’s on her.) The hospital had open meetings where you could come and see them FOR FREE after you’d left the hospital. I visited them twice before resigning myself to using a nipple shield long-term.
Three months later, when Claire had become more accustomed to breastfeeding, I was able to carefully wean her from the nipple shield. It wasn’t easy. I started each feeding with the nipple shield, but then the second side I would offer to her without. Sometimes she’d scream. Sometimes she’d latch and eat a bit before realizing that I was tricking her. THEN she’d scream. Eventually, she got over it, and I got to put the shield away.
Cam, however, was ridiculously easy. (That’s been the story of his childhood. With Claire, EVERYTHING–sleep training, breastfeeding, etc–was hard, and with Cam, everything was a breeze.) He latched perfectly the first time. That was a HUGE relief; as I’m sure you can imagine, I was approaching breastfeeding for the second time with tons of anxiety after the fits Claire had given me.
What I would have wanted to know:
- Yes, it hurts at first. You will adjust. ‘Til then, buy the nipple ointment stuff.
- BUY A GOOD PUMP! You can get a Medela pump on eBay for around $100 if you’re looking at it and thinking, “Holy crap–$400?!?” It is totally worth it. I went through two Medelas, both of which I bought on eBay. (Lots of people buy the expensive pumps intending to breastfeed and then aren’t able to.)
- I pumped consistently between feedings starting in that second week. (I tried pumping some the first week, but I was so sore already.) This almost immediately doubled my milk production, and I was able to freeze the excess for later use. Around 2 or 3 months, I slowly stopped the extra pumping during the day; I pumped in the middle of the night until he was around 7 or 8 months. When Cam was around 9 months old, I was able to be go on vacation for a whole week because of all of the milk I’d frozen.
- Drink TONS of water, and remember to eat healthy.
- It’s worth it.
- Around the 3 month mark, everything gets easier. If you’ve done sleep training, your little one starts sleeping through the night… and by that point, he is an expert at nursing. Somewhere in there, it starts taking only 10 minutes for him to nurse. MUCH easier.
My thoughts on coverings
OK, let’s be honest, here. Which is more obvious???
I felt like I was hanging out a neon sign that said, “ATTENTION WORLD!!!! I AM BREASTFEEDING RIGHT NOW!!!!” when I was wearing the Udder Cover. Or Hooter Hider. Or whatever other ridiculous name we’re using now. Not to mention, both babies HATED being covered. Cam would try his hardest to pull the cover off, which usually resulted in a battle to the death, complete with tons of anxiety from me and screaming from him.
My favorite option was to wear a nursing tank under a similar colored shirt. This meant that my torso was completely covered at all times. I would always try to find a quiet corner (or out in the car–that was one of my favorites) where we wouldn’t be bothered with tons of distractions. If there was a room available that was empty, I’d take that in a heartbeat. One thing I absolutely hated–nursing in a bathroom. I won’t lie–I’ve done it. But how gross is that?! And it’s people’s go-to suggestion.
Anyway, if you’re considering breastfeeding as an option, I hope this has given you a different perspective. And if you’re in the middle of the hard part (the first 2-4 weeks), I hope I’ve given you the courage to keep plodding on. I’m here if you need to talk about it. Though I’m hardly an expert… and you might be better served to find a lactation consultant in your area. But I’m definitely here to commiserate!