Is Breast Best?
At our first prenatal appointment, our Nurse Practitioner (Rose) told us breastfeeding was the hardest thing that new moms experience. I was already planning on doing it because of the documented benefits and for the bonding experience, but hearing her say that made me want to do it even more. She recommended only one book to get us through our entire pregnancy, The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins. Of course, I got the book – only it wasn’t until we were already home with Desmond and I realized just how right Rose was.
The Nurses and Lactation Consultants at Newton-Wellesley Hospital were incredible. After struggling to get Desi to latch, I found great comfort in pushing that little button and saying, “I need help getting my baby on”. They would come in, grasp my boob, and put the baby on it. It was like magic. When we got home, it didn’t come that easy. There were tears of frustration – both from me and the baby. There were tears of pain – just from me. For the first couple weeks I needed a stress ball for the first 20 seconds of every latch. It was excruciating. But once I got him on and our 30-40 minute session began, I did a lot of reading. I read about the benefits of breastfeeding, proper handling and storage of breastmilk, pumping, increasing milk production, and recipes for cookies and smoothies. Then I made the cookies and the smoothies. In fact, I’m sure gaining back all the weight I lost after having Desi was probably due in part to all of that goodness, but I believe they helped me with my production and I would probably do it all over again.
Of course, I also read about milestones, developmental exercises, and ways to soothe your baby, followed by lots of online shopping for baby clothes from Amazon and Carters and making music playlists on Spotify. I wasn’t just learning about breastfeeding, I was using my breastfeeding time to learn about lots of great new sites that never would have interested me a year ago. This also happened to be an open invitation for all of the advertisers taking over my Newsfeed and favorite blogs.
I was diligent in feeding Desmond every 2 hours day and night until he surpassed his birth weight. Lucky for us this happened within our first two weeks. At that point we let him determine his night-time feeding schedule and slowly we increased our sleep stretches. The first 5 hour stretch was like a little bit of heaven. You will get mixed reviews and opinions on the day time feeding. Some say wake the baby every 2-3 hours. Some say let them sleep. Some babies don’t give you the option. We were very lucky. We had the option and we chose to wake him. I followed the theory that waking him up to eat frequently during the day would allow him to learn the difference between day and night. I think that helped with his ability to sleep longer during the night.
I knew I would be going back to work after 12 weeks and started pumping once a day when Desi was 6 weeks old. This was the start of the freezer stash. I would pump after Desmond’s first feed of the day and could get 10oz in 15 minutes. Those were the days…. I’d give anything to have that production again.
To introduce bottle-feeding and to give me a little more sleep, Dave started giving Desi the overnight bottle when he was 8 weeks old. This was a hurdle we were really happy to get over. It was another learning experience and took an ISIS Parenting Group video for Dave to make this work.
When we reached 9 weeks, I added a second pumping session to my day. With Desmond going to bed at 7:30, I would pump around 10 before getting into bed myself. Some would go to the fridge for the nightly bottle and some would go to the freezer. I love the freezer stash and I still feel an overwhelming need to replenish what I take from it so I will always have a back up.
It took me a little while to say it, but, I love breastfeeding. Once we got it right, it was quick and easy. Our sessions went from 30-40 minutes to 20, to 15, to sometimes 5. He always seemed satisfied, was pooping plenty, and best of all he was growing. It is such a rewarding feeling to know that again, my body is doing what it’s supposed to and I am giving my son everything that he needs to survive.
With all of this being said, I couldn’t have done any of it without my husband. He is amazing. He might moo at me when I’m pumping, but his sense of humor and unwavering support make parenting easy. There is no way I could ever imagine doing this without him and I am grateful for him every day.
Don’t get me wrong, as much as I am loving the whole experience, it hasn’t come without some struggle. When I went back to work, I added an overnight pumping session when the baby woke up to feed. This would be anywhere between 2am and 5am. The loss of sleep and busy days led to me getting sick twice in 3 weeks. The second time, my production dropped significantly. I mean my left side was only sputtering a max of 1oz and my rockstar right side was at a max of 3. Needing 5oz for 2-3 bottles a day – this wasn’t going to cut it. This was the first time I strongly considered supplementing and still, I am coming to terms that at some point, I might need to. I was sad at the thought of giving up breastfeeding and am so happy that some antibiotics gave me back my health and my production levels. This of course was followed a couple of months later by the return of my period and Desmond starting solids which dropped my production again. Sometimes we just have to ride the waves.
One of my breastfeeding highs was the first time I nursed in public. I was nearing the end of maternity leave and had taken Desmond to walk Cushing Park. It was a beautiful, cool September day and we were gone longer than I anticipated. So I sat on a park bench and I fed my baby. I was discreet and relatively neat, and no one saw anything. I was comfortable, happy, proud, and it all felt so liberating.
I am extremely lucky and proud to have an 8 month old who is exclusively breastfed. It has been a huge commitment that has not been made without sacrifice and I am beyond grateful to have made it this far. I am dedicated to continuing as long as I can – with the goal being one year. I was reminded how much my life changed when I asked my husband for a manual breast-pump for my birthday and when one of my favorite Chanukah presents were new nursing pads
In closing, let me also say that I think women should feed their babies any way that is comfortable and feasible for them. There is nothing wrong with formula or with choosing to use it instead of breastfeeding. I truly feel for all the Mamas and babies who struggle with breastfeeding. I can only hope that I will be as lucky as I have been with Desmond for our future baby, or babies
Theses are a few of my breastfeeding must-haves:
- I used both the My Brestfriend and the Boppy. The Boppy was my preferred pillow.
- Nipple cream to soothe and protect sore nipples… I used this liberally after every nursing session and after getting out of the shower: Nuk Natural Lanolin with Avocado
- My favorite nursing tanks and bras. I literally wear the bra or the tank every day! The Tanks are especially great for the ‘two-shirt method’. They are soft and comfortable, but tight enough to make you feel secure. Both the bra and the tank have easy-to-use clips that can be connected and disconnected with one hand: Bravado Nursing Bras and Bravado! Designs Essential Nursing Bra Tank Top
- The best, most absorbent burp cloths: OsoCozy Cloth Diapers
- My Medela Pump In Style, Double Electric Pump
- My Medela Easy Expression Bustier
- Nursing Pads – both to absorb any leaks and to protect sore nipples: Dappi Organic Nursing Pads
- Lastly, a calm, distraction free environment. This was great while Desmond was little, but even better now because he just wants to move and experience everything around him.