Friday, August 29, 2014

Lessons learned in breastfeeding

What a journey breastfeeding has been; all while in the thick of my newest journey with our last baby.  I never knew how strongly I would feel about providing food for my babies before I began this journey.  Though I know that breastfeeding is not the right choice for everyone for a wide variety of reasons...for me, it was.  I knew that I would "try" to breastfeed Caleb when he was born.  What I did not anticipate was how hard "trying" something that is supposed to just come naturally can be.  I wish I would have taken a class or read a book or prepared for this journey in some way.  I did not.  We hung in there and I managed to nurse for 9 months before having so supplement some with formula.  I continued to breastfeed until he was 16 months old and weaned himself.  Eight months later, I was pregnant again and knew I would again be having a new journey with a new baby.  Nursing was much easier this time (three weeks of painful nursing versus 6 weeks).  I was prepared better with supplies that were helpful the first time, and was mentally prepared for what I would be going through initially-all while knowing it gets easier, WAY EASIER.  I nursed Kinley for 6 months before getting pregnant again.  I continued to nurse while pregnant, and actually until about three weeks before Hazel was born.  I again supplemented around the 9 month mark due to low supply while pumping.  We made it almost to 16 months.  And, now, I am nursing a newborn again.  It is SO much easier this time around and I think so much has to do with my comfort, knowledge, and experience.  I have learned a lot about nursing over the years, mostly due to trial and error.  I never did read a book about it or take a class, but somehow seemed to manage okay.  I know I will never nurse a baby after Hazel, and so I thought I should sum up some of the most important things I have learned throughout these journeys as I continue to embark on this next one.  Here goes:

  1. It will hurt to begin with.  Do not listen when people tell you to "rough up" your nipples.  It will just cause you more unnecessary pain during an already painful process.  Expect it to hurt, and for a few weeks.  Mentally, it will be easier to overcome if you know to expect it. 
  2. The hurting will go beyond your nipples.  Nursing will also cause your uterus to contract.  This will not feel good.  Going to the bathroom before nursing, every time, will help.  Even if the baby is screaming-go to the bathroom.  Once, I did not and I was cramping very painfully for over an hour.  It was excruciating.  Using heating pads will help.  Relaxing your body will help.  Being tense makes it worse.  Don't worry, it will go away. 
  3. Have supplies ready, and be proactive with them.  Lansinoh soothie pads were amazing and helped a lot when things got really painful.
  4. Engorgement is no joke.  Use a washcloth while showering to shield your breasts from the water, because it hurts like hell.  In fact, the water also hurts sore nipples, so having a washcloth or towel in the shower for the first couple of weeks will be a godsend.  
  5. Use your breastmilk to heal your nipples.  Squirt a little on and let them air dry.  It is very healing and will do wonders.  Side note; breast milk also does wonders for baby acne, adult acne, pink eye, and many other ailments.
  6. Air dry your nipples as much as possible.  Change breast pads often.
  7. Lansinoh cream is also helpful in the beginning when things are painful.
  8. Store up breast milk early.  If you are like me and respond poorly to the pump (if you have to work) having a good amount stored up can be very helpful.
  9. Drink lots of water!  Eat enough as well.
  10. Skin to skin works wonders in the beginning for milk production.
  11. Nurse the baby while he or she is naked (diaper only) to help the baby stay awake and nurse more effeciently.
  12. The My Brest Friend will be your best friend.  It is wonderful for nursing in the beginning.  Lay a blanket over it, and under the baby to help to avoid having to wash it frequently because nursing can sometimes be messy.
  13. You can download an app to help you remember what side you nursed on last and for how long...or you can use a hair tie on your wrist and move it from side to side to let you know which side is next for nursing.  I used an app before, but three kids in I don't have time for that, nor do I feel the need to keep track of how long she nurses for.  The apps are also cool if you want to keep track of dirty diapers and such...but again, no time for that now. 
  14. Watch the babies latch, it shouldn't hurt too much.  If it does hurt a lot, seek help.  Ask about your baby being tongue tied (all of mine were).  A small procedure can make this problem so much better!  Don't be afraid to talk to the lactation consultant as many times as needed.
  15. Your milk will come in.  Many doctors will try to freak you out about weight gain and such.  Sometimes they want you to go in multiple times for weight checks.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Your milk will come in and the baby will begin to gain weight (most times).  Stressing about it will just make it worse.  Stress=bad for milk production.
  16. Relax.  Enjoy the quiet time with your baby.  Read while breastfeeding.  
  17. The chiropractor can be your best friend.  Middle of the night nursing sessions while falling asleep can reek havoc on your neck.  Regular adjustments help a lot!
  18. Storing frozen milk could have it's own post, but some of the things I have learned are:
    1. Freeze in small quantities (4 oz for me).  It sucks to use more bags, however, when thawing milk to use it is much easier when all the bags have the same amount of milk in them.
    2. Lay bags flat to freeze for easier storage.
    3. Put frozen milk in a bin and mark the dates on the outside of the bin.
    4. Thaw frozen milk in a container with sides.  Sometimes the bags leak and you WILL cry over spilled milk.
    5. Freeze in a chest freezer in order for the milk to last longer.  
  19. Pump a little each morning to build a stash.  I pump for five minutes each day and store up at least 4 ounces each day.
  20. is a wonderful resource for all questions regarding breastfeeding, and I check it often still.
  21. When pumping at work, try to make it as enjoyable as possible.  Watch videos of your baby (sounds work way better than pictures for milk production).  Bring something that smells like your baby.  Drink water while pumping.  Take your time and pump for at least 5-10 minutes after you think the milk has stopped.  Take deep breaths and tune out any distractions.
  22. Store pumping parts in a freezer bag in the fridge between pumps to avoid having to wash them each time.
  23. Nurse for as long as you want to, deciding when to stop is a decision that is made between you and your baby and no one else gets to have a say in that.
  24. Nurse in public, however you feel comfortable to do so.  You won't want to feel trapped in your house and if you are afraid to do it in public you may end up feeling very isolated.  It is like swimming in a cold lake-you just have to jump in.  Ignore the comments and looks you hear and see from others because its truly none of their business.  When I am nursing in public or attending to my kids in any way I tend to tune everything else out.  Often my husband will tell me later what someone said or tell me about a look he saw.  I just don't care--anymore.  I wish I had felt this way at first.  With three kids I just don't have the luxury of being as discreet or planning around nursing the way I could before.  Now, though, I appreciate the ease of it and could care less about what anyone thinks.
So, there you have it.  Some of my most important lessons and tips.  I know someday this will be just a blip of my entire journey of parenting, but I have loved nursing and have felt a tinge of sadness each time I have been done.  This last time will be especially sad for me since I know it is my last and I am aware of just how quickly it will go by.  For now, I am just trying to enjoy each tender moment (as tender as they can be with two other children in the mix) I have, knowing it is a countdown to the last...and you just never know when that will be. 

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