Thursday, May 22, 2008

Breastfeeding Advice for Mommies-to-Be

Breastfeeding isn't easy at the beginning for some women. You and the baby might have a hard time figuring this breastfeeding thing out. It's ok; you're both new at it. The hospital should have a lactation consultant to come help you with things like making sure the baby has the correct latch.

The baby will want to nurse all the time at first. That's normal. The 1.5-2 hour time between nursing sessions which books talk about is measured from the beginning of one session to the beginning of the next. You could find yourself nursing for 45 minutes, then having only 45 minutes to sleep before it's time for the next nursing. Those first weeks are hard. Take up your friends and family on offers of help. Eventually, the baby will nurse more efficiently and go longer between nursing.

Don't put the baby on a "feeding" schedule. Nursing whenever s/he wants and for however long is what gets your milk supply up. Hold that baby all the time. You both need it. Let the baby nurse on one side for as long as s/he wants; don't time it. Don't take the baby off one side, just to put him on the other side because the baby is 'supposed' to feed on each side so many minutes (which is what I mistakenly did at first). Just offer the other side only after the baby has let go and finished with the first side.

I had a rough time at the beginning because my little guy was in the NICU for the first 36 hours. I had to start with the hospital pump. Little Bit also had a huge, huge appetite. Though many breastfeeding advocates say to never supplement, my doctor finally suggested supplementing with formula. It was the right thing to do for us. After hours and hours of crying that first weekend, my baby sucked down a full bottle of formula and finally went to sleep with a full, happy tummy. The plan was to supplement a few days just until my milk supply caught up to his appetite.

I continued to nurse him first, then supplement with a bottle. I was supposed to use the breast pump after every feeding to help stimulate my supply. Bleary from lack of sleep, I just couldn't get myself to do it. Sleep was more important. I now wish that I had known about getting a supplemental nursing system (the formula supplement gets to the baby through a tube that is next to your breast). It would have cut down on the time it took me to get him fed, and it would have stimulated my supply so I could stop supplementing. I felt guilty for not being able to produce enough breastmilk and for having to give him formula. But, it doesn't have to be either all breastmilk or all formula.

One of my lifesavers was this nursing pillow. It helped save my sanity, literally. With Little Bit snuggled against me securely on its surface, I was able to have my hands pretty free to hold a book, the TV remote, or feed myself. It helped ease the transition from being able to do whatever I wanted when I wanted to being tied to the needs and demands of this new little being.

After those first few months, breastfeeding got easier. Eventually, I was able to just nurse him in the middle of the night without also having to give him a bottle afterwards. It's so amazingly easy to just 'plug the baby in'. I learned how to nurse him lying down, so we could all get more sleep. I'd drift off as he nursed and so would he.

When I went back to work, I pumped. I used the Ameda Purely Yours pump, because it's the only pump that protects the pump parts and tubing from contamination.

Just before Little Bit's 1st birthday, I was able to use a month of unpaid FMLA leave before it expired. That time with him, nursing on demand, really boosted my milk supply. I'm sure that's part of why I've been able to continue nursing, even though I supplemented and even though I work full-time.

I continued to send both breastmilk and formula to daycare until he was done with formula at about one year. Soon after, I tapered off pumping at work - hallelujah! - but continued, and still continue, to breastfeed Little Bit when he and I are together.

He continues to receive the immunities and vitamins and all the benefits of breastmilk. I continue to receive the health benefits of nursing him (reduced chances of breast cancer, etc). Instead of walking around with a pacifier or carrying a 'lovey' like some toddlers, Little Bit comes to me for comfort. As DH says, I'm his lovey. That's not such a bad thing to be. Eventually, he will outgrow the need to nurse. It will be another letting go on the road to growing up.


shuttle mom said...

Great advice!
I was fortune enough to have older mid-wives in my life that were more than happy to coach me on breastfeeding. They were also there to support me during those toddler years when my family said my babies were "too old" to still be nursing.

Avonlea said...

Thanks! You were fortunate to have the mid-wives for advice and coaching.

No one I know in real life (outside of the Interweb) has breastfed as long as I have. Some of my friends think he's "too old" to still be breastfeeding, but most are just curious -- like, 'How long are you going to do it?' or 'Do you have a set time that you'll wean him?'