|Dreamer, in her baby carrier... I think she's trying to tell|
me something! Haha
Before I start I do want to say to formula feeding moms: you also rock. Please don't let anyone put you down. Maybe you made the best decision for your family: I stay at home for example, I can't imagine the pressure of working while exclusively breastfeeding. Or maybe you really, really wanted to breastfeed but found yourself unable to for medical or practical reasons. There's no judgment here. Your baby is hungry and you're feeding them. You're a good mom. But I am writing to breastfeeding moms because I am a breastfeeding mom. So far Dreamer has never had any formula and I see no reason she would need to have any, though unforeseen things happen.
1. It gets better. The first few weeks I found it challenging. Actually, the first time Dreamer was
handed to me to feed, she latched on like a champ and ate for like forty-five minutes straight.. but after that first feed, I had some difficulty with latch. She especially would nom down at the area around my nipple, not actually getting it, or she would only grab the tip, which hurts like knives. But this passes, at least for most women. Now some breastfeeding resources says it doesn't hurt at all if they're latched correctly but they forget your nipples may need to toughen a bit. Some moms quit because they think they can't take the pain, but if they're latching right it does pass. Even when she does get an incorrect latch from time to time now it doesn't hurt so bad because I've toughened up.
Also, she has learned to latch better. Remember, she has never done this before either and it's probably the first skill a baby learns. Before this they just get all their nutrients pumped to them versus the umbilical cord. Suckling is the very first "work" a baby has to do for him/herself and with all new skills, it gets better with practice.
By week three I was pain free, maybe before that.
|a younger Dreamer, going to nom her hand to signal hunger|
The second time was after I'd been home a few weeks, or maybe just one. That time period is a blur! And I was still worn out and recovering and she needed to feed again and I was pretty much in tears. This time it was Ryan who suggested we try formula. I snapped at him no, even though I really was tempted, and I persisted... and I am glad I did, because not long after that it got much better and now it's really no big deal at all. So when it's tough at first, if this is something you really want, just endure. It does get better.
2. It's only exhausting at first and during growth spurts. Which sadly, are the same thing. That is, when you first get home from the hospital you've endured a grueling labor or an abdominal surgery and are very weak. The baby is literally sucking the energy out of your body (in the form of calorie rich colostrum or early milk) and you're just wiped out. You start feeling better a few weeks later, but at week three bam another growth spurt hit. Dreamer had three in the first six weeks. I actually forget which growth spurt it was, but Ryan came home from work and saw the house looked like a tornado had hit and gave me a raised eyebrow and I just said wearily, "Growth spurt." It was all I needed to say. When baby's going through a growth spurt, it's hard to do anything else. However, they don't last long and if you just power through them it'll be okay. And after the first two months I've found breastfeeding relaxing, but not tiring. Before I would start feeding her and often fell asleep myself, even if I didn't feel tired at first, because this wave of exhaustion would sweep over me. That's gone and instead I just feel peaceful about it.
3. Babies get more efficient at feeding. I didn't know this, but I welcome it! I read somewhere (but can't find it to link it!) that at about two months many babies generally can get 90% of milk in the first five minutes, so the overall length a feed has to last can go down. It also means if I only have a few minutes to nurse her and then have to leave for a few minutes, she's less likely to be upset. Earlier if I tried to feed her for five minutes, do something (say tend something on the stove) for five and then come back, well the world was ending. Now she normally rolls with it. I think this is mainly I'm leaving her with a fuller stomach, but also I'm assuming she's starting to trust me. I won't starve her!
|One of her very first "milk comas"|
5. Leaking happens. As I eluded to in #4, I leak. But what I didn't say is at first I literally turned into a fountain. Still happens occasionally. For me and many, but not all, moms when the baby nurses on one side it triggers "let down" in the other side. So for me what that means is while she's feeding on the left I will literally have milk shooting into the air on the right. It's insane. It's slowed down a bit, but I would often have puddles on my bedsheet (I most often nurse in bed) two feet in diameter after nursing the first few weeks. But your body adjusts to your specific baby's needs and while I still leak I am only leaking a few inches now. Some of this however is also from me learning how to deal with it. Tip for new, fountain creating moms: apply pressure to the leaking side, it stems it 90% of the time. You may have to keep holding it down the whole time, but a lot of times after 60 seconds or so of pressure the breast gets the hint.
|One of the special looks I only see on her face while feeding|
Oh, it's one thing to feel a little awkward when discreetly doing it when you're out and about. But I admit it's a whole different awkward while visiting relatives when I retreat to a bedroom to nurse in private and my mother-in-law comes in without warning. She'll walk up and look... yes, she's looking at the baby, not really me, but unlike strangers when I'm out who discreetly glance or look the other way, she's staring directly and it feels very, very weird. Haha.
8. Breastfeeding moms get more sleep. Say what? They think on average breastfeeding moms get 45 minutes per sleep daily. Why? Because when the baby wakes us up we don't have to put the bottle together. There's no mixing, there's no shaking, there's no heating, there's no making sure the water is purified/has been boiled. It's just offering her a breast and bam, she's fed.
It's also more convenient during the day. If I want to go out I just need diapers, wipes, my changing mat, and a few changes of clothes for her. No need to worry about bottles, making sure I have the right kind of water, formula.
The hospital gave us one can of formula (we technically paid for it) when we left. We've never
opened it. I own one bottle. I've never taken it out of the box. So far none of it has been necessary, and it's great to say that. Just that much less to worry about. (I do have a pump and maybe in a while I'll use that bottle to pump some breastmilk and get a few hours out... but right now I stay at home and with sterilization and the extra things to clean out it just seems more trouble than it's worth.)
9. It can slow you down. In a good way. Sometimes I'm super busy, doing stuff all helter skelter and guess what? Dreamer gets hungry.
|Not to mention it's very satisfying to see her|
Sometimes it's hard that you're the only one who can breastfeed her. You're stressed or tired or busy and you'd like to share the burden. It's understandable and it's okay. But...
10. I'm the only one who can do this for her... and that's marvelous. As I said in #1 it was hard the first few weeks. There were some days I passed her off to her dad or grandparents and then wanted to snap their heads off when they said "I think the baby is hungry" because I was exhausted. But now I'm normally happy to feed her. Sometimes I'm in the middle of things and I have a moment of irritation that my "to do" list just got backtracked again, that stressful feeling of "I'm getting behind!!"...
But then I sigh the stress out of my body. And I smile down at my darling daughter, who looks up at me with her big brown eyes and if she happens to catch my gaze breaks out in the most delightful grin. And I pause. I breathe deeply and cherish her face as she latches on to her mommy for her sustenance. With dirty diapers and burpings and other baby things if I am overwhelmed I can ask for help. But with feedings she needs me. Mommy. It's our thing.
I think in many ways God designed breastfeeding not just to feed little babies, but to wean Mommies.
|Isn't she beautiful?|
For nine months my body cradled her under my heart. She couldn't live without me, literally, and every breath I breathed I shared with her. I felt her first kicks in wonder, all alone, then gradually I could lead my husband's hand there. Later I birthed her, and she was introduced to the world. Right now, I get to see little expressions that she only makes when I feed her. I get to treasure these little moments. Soon, very soon, we'll start giving her mashed up bananas and other things and gradually, day by day, year by year, she'll leave me. In near moments she'll be crawling, walking, running away from me. One day I'll say "let's do something together" and she'll sigh and say she'd rather be with her friends. One day she'll move out.
But for now, she needs me, Mommy. I'm the only one with the magic boobies. Daddy is great and more and more loved ones will grow dear to her over the years. But I came first and for now I'll cherish breastfeeding.