Today I welcome Elizabeth from Staying Home and Staying Sane, as she shares her breastfeeding experience with us for the Natural Parenting; Tales From The Parents & Pros series! Let’s see what she has to say…. Even after a hard breastfeeding experience, she continued to be the sole-food-supply for baby #2 and #3!
Breastfeeding was my first choice from the beginning. At only 18 years old, a very young mom, I decided early on in my pregnancy I would try to breastfeed. I read book after book, parenting magazines and felt I was prepared. What I didn’t know was that my breasts, size barely B to be exact, would expand to enormous proportions and that my nipples would change color. The word “perky” immediately left my vocabulary.
Latching and lactating are two things that are learned, you think you are born with the ability to feed your baby the natural way but usually you’re not. I’m not saying that to discourage anyone at all. I had no clue what I was doing; I was a teen mom after all. I figured out quickly the best latching position for the baby and I, cradle hold always worked best through all three of my experiences. I have small breasts so this came naturally for me. Sometimes, women that have bigger breasts find it easier to do a football hold. He latched on easily AFTER I got home from the hospital. During our stay in the hospital, he wouldn’t latch on for anything. The nurses had taken to unwrapping his blanket and making him uncomfortable enough to cry. Crying baby, open mouth, boob in. My newborn son protested this with everything he had and stood by his convictions until we got home.
After coming home and nursing well for a day, I got to know an uncomfortable situation called…engorgement. Engorgement is probably the most miserable thing to experience after going through labor and childbirth. The breasts that I had come to know as just big and new became full, rock hard, alien breasts. Bumps and veins sticking out to complete the look. Tyler couldn’t latch on because I was so full of milk. I called a fellow mom and asked for her advice, she mentioned getting into a hot shower and letting the water run over my breasts while massaging them downward. Success came an hour later. Relief can’t explain how great the feeling is of milk letting down from engorged breasts. You can feel milk leaving parts of your body you would never have believed had milk ducts before. I have felt milk as far up as my collarbone, and the weirdest spot is under my armpits. That pins and needles effect is the best, only because you know you are feeding the beautiful baby in your arms.
Moms love to give advice to each other, I am very guilty of giving what I think is good advice but could just be something no one else really cares about. Advice and tips abound when you have a new baby, but the best advice I ever received was when you are breastfeeding and you are using the cradle hold, always make sure the baby’s tummy is touching your tummy. Latching on never hurt because I made sure to follow this most important rule. For the first few days, I even made sure we were skin to skin just so I would be sure.
Unfortunately, my nursing experience with my firstborn wasn’t as successful as would have hoped. I started to dry up on one side when he was about 6 months old. If I would have been more educated in breastfeeding I believe that I could have encouraged myself to produce more milk by pumping but being young, I didn’t.
My second nursing experience went much smoother. My daughter, Rhys was born almost three years after my son. She came two weeks early but was a chubby 9 lbs 2 oz. baby and she was hungry coming out of the womb. Her blood sugar was actually low as soon as she was delivered. With a Type 1 diabetic father, the nurse immediately tried to get her blood sugar up. Turned out she was just needing a bit of breast milk. She latched on so quickly, and in my comfortable cradle hold, she nursed each time she woke.
I’ve always been a stay at home mom so using a pump and bottles wasn’t a necessity in my mind. I wish now that I would have introduced it to her sooner because she turned into a boob snob. No bottle or pacifiers for her. Only milk she would take was from me, and in my arms. I can honestly say I didn’t mind it much until we went somewhere like on long car rides. I was a walking 24/7, All You Can Eat buffet. The Boppy was a must-have and I used it with all three children, religiously. I also became at nursing in the car. Every nursing mom knows that there is no such thing as a comfortable place to nurse your baby at a mall or a restaurant, unless of course you don’t mind sitting at the booth you’re in or the floor of a dressing room. Which, by the way, I’ve done both. While shopping at the mall, I started parking by the shady area. Blanket in tow, I would roll it up just a smidge in the window for extra comfort; it kept the sun and nosy people at bay. The nursing pillow would come out and I would have a book stashed away for my own reading pleasure. Nursing was never easier. We did this a lot while we were waiting for her big brother to get out of his pre-school class. Other than one case of mild mastitis that was treated with a cabbage leaf on the breasts and antibiotics I never had a problem. This went on for 16 months. I say that proudly, she was always a chunky monkey and very filled and happy. Once it was time, we both knew it and weaning didn’t take long. She had already started self weaning herself at this point as well.
By the time my third baby came along, I felt like I was an old pro and needed no instruction. In the hospital, I came with my own set of rules and let the nurses know that they would not take my son into the nursery until I had nursed him. Right after my little strawberry blonde was born, they wrapped him in a blanket, not bothering to clean him off, and he immediately latched on. This baby knew what he was doing! I had him with me for 2 hours before I finally allowed him to be taken to the nursery for the normal check ups they perform. Coming home, we had a bit of déjà vu when we discovered this little one wasn’t taking a bottle either. We even introduced the bottle easier and I tried leaving the house so he wouldn’t smell me or the milk. He was not one to be tricked and I soon learned how to plan my no-baby expeditions in bouts of 2 – 3 hours. I always enjoyed nursing. Closing yourself in a cool, dark room with a TV show or a book and enjoying feeding your baby, it’s a powerfully relaxing thing. Just to know that I was providing my babies’ food was powerful. I went on to breastfeed my son for 16 months as well.
Breastfeeding is a huge chunk of your life where you will not be able to do certain things. Drinking is out of the question and sometimes going out becomes harder than just staying in and being with the baby anyway. It is a part of my life that I know I am a better person for though. It taught me to be patient and calm when I felt nothing but. I believe all mothers are different and some mothers just are not able to breastfeed, I don’t think this imparts on their parenting skills at all. It is all in the way we raise our children. If we choose to feed our baby with bottle or breast, is not the issue. Now if we hold our babies close and feed them with our breasts or a bottle that is the key. Holding them close and gazing into their eyes is the point, not what you’re putting in their mouth. As an advocate for breastfeeding that might sound strange but it’s how I feel.