Breastfeeding is back! A resurgence in popularity has been mounting for the past few years and I’ve boarded the train. Jeremy was formula fed. I had intended to breastfeed him when he was born 3 1/2 years ago but due to a few circumstances he was given formula in the hospital and, though we tried, we weren’t able to overcome the nipple confusion in order to breastfeed.
Lesson Learned #1: Make sure you are not so heavily medicated during or after childbirth that you are not aware of what’s going on with your baby. I had such a strong epidural (which slipped in my back and turned into a full spinal block like they do for c-sections) and I was completely numb from the chest down for the entire birth and for six hours following. They gave me some medicine to help me sleep off the exhaustion and medication.
Lesson Learned #2: Inform the nurses that you want to breastfeed your baby immediately following birth and that they should give him no bottles at all. While I was sleeping off my overly-strong epidural the pediatric nurses gave Jeremy bottle after bottle of formula. They said that he needed to eat because he was slightly jaundiced. Absolutely, of course I want my son to eat when he’s hungry, but I wanted to give him mother’s milk. “Well, you were sleeping and we didn’t want to wake you.” To me, that is not a good enough excuse. They could have woken me up. Also, they wouldn’t let me have him room-in with me until I was un-numb. By the time I got my baby out of the nursery he had had 4-5 bottles of formula and was completely confused by my nipple and the fact that he’d have to work a little and exercise some patience for breastmilk. He had already become accustomed to instant gratification of the readily-available formula and wouldn’t stay at the breast long enough for my milk to let down.
Lesson Learned #3: Don’t give up on your *girls* too early. Since breastfeeding wasn’t working out I just gave up altogether. My milk finally came in fully a couple of days after I brought Jeremy home from the hospital, we were already resigned to our bottled formula and I let the milk build up in me. Both sides became severely engorged and developed into mastitis. That was an incredibly painful stretch of days while I tried every home remedy I could find. Finally the cabbage leaf trick worked and my milk went away. Had I not become so discouraged in the beginning I might have realized that I could have pumped my breastmilk and given it to him in bottles. Nipple confusion and impatience are not the end of the world. Bottles are fine, just change what you put in them!
Lesson Learned #4: Make sure your partner is aware of and supportive of your plan to breastfeed. Jeremy’s dad went home while I was asleep and Jeremy was in the nursery, so he wasn’t able to stick up for my breastfeeding plans on my behalf. This time Jason was not only aware of my plan to give breastfeeding another shot but he was very supportive of my plan and has continued to be. In the hospital he read the brochures with tips so that he could help Jesse and I with our setbacks. At home he’s been great about keeping Jeremy entertained while Jesse and I take our time with breastfeeding so that we don’t have to rush. While it is a natural instinct, it takes a lot of practice for both mom and baby to get the hang of breasfeeding – you need time to work on it.
This time around, I had a really fantastic online community of lactation consultants and seasoned breastfeeders (including a few exclusive pumpers). They have been an incredible wealth of knowledge. I read everything they had before I even brought our Jesse home so I was prepared for any problem we could encounter. In our first two weeks we overcame the excruciating cracked nipple, painful shallow latch, low production of one side (due to little use while the crack healed), and over supply of the other side due to exclusive use while the crack healed on the other side. Without the experience and support of that group Jesse might be downing Similac just like his big brother did and suffering the extreme reflux, ear infections, horrible gas, and stomach aches that poor Jeremy had to endure.
What am I celebrating as a Finer Thing in Life this week? An extremely positive breastfeeding relationship! Link up your thoughts over at Amy’s Finer Things.