Support for Breastfeeding Moms
Breastfeeding is hard, ya’ll. If you’re a mother who’s nursed or even attempted to nurse your babies, you know this.
With my firstborn, Isaac, the problem was that neither of us knew what the heck we were doing. But with a lot of work and guidance from the wonderful lactation nurses at St. John’s Breastfeeding Resource Center, I was able to nurse him for a year.
So when Benjamin, my second son, was born on Dec. 10, I was confident. Breastfeeding would be a cinch, I thought.
I was wrong.
Because Ben was born via repeat c-section (my doc and I struck a deal: If I went into labor before my scheduled c-section, we’d do a VBAC. I didn’t, so we went ahead with the c-section), my breast milk took longer to come in. And when it came, there wasn’t much of it. And what was there quickly began to dwindle because Ben, who came home jaundiced, wanted to sleep more than he wanted to eat, so he wasn’t effectively removing milk, which is the thing that signals your body to make more.
I visited with a lactation nurse at St. John who set me on a regimen of nursing and pumping to try to build my supply. For two weeks, my days looked like this: Ben ate every two hours. I spent 30 minutes nursing, 15 minutes burping, 15 minutes supplementing and 20 minutes pumping. Then I had 40 minutes to do anything that didn’t involve my breasts.
Finally, I couldn’t do it any more. I cried through every feeding because I felt like I couldn’t adequately provide for my baby. I dreaded feeding him because all I felt while I nursed him was stress and frustration. And I was missing out on quality time with Isaac. So I put my boobs away and gave Ben a bottle. And I breathed a sigh of relief.
I decided Ben would be bottle-fed. The stress I was putting myself through wasn’t worth it. You’re not supposed to dread feeding your baby. You’re not supposed to feel guilty all the time.
So for two days, I didn’t stress. If there was milk, I nursed Ben. If there wasn’t, I gave him a bottle. And I remembered that breastfeeding is actually enjoyable. I remembered why it was so important to me. And
I un-gave up.
I went into a week-long nurse-a-thon. I didn’t do anything but nurse Ben, sometimes every hour, for a week. I’m still working to build my supply, and I still have to supplement in the evenings (that’s when milk production is at its lowest), but I’m in a much better place emotionally than I was three weeks ago.
So here is what I learned about both breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
Relax. Giving up for two days actually had its benefits because it helped me calm down. Stress is bad for your milk. If you can relax, you’ll see an increase in your supply.
Get help. Get help early, get help often. I programmed the number to the Breastfeeding Resource Center into my cell phone, and I call it often. Those nurses are the primary reason I’ve been able to nurse both of my boys. Lactation consultants associated with La Leche League are also a good resource. Don’t worry that you’re bothering them; you’re not. They want you to be successful; it’s why they do what they do.
Whatever motivates you is good motivation. I was, of course, motivated by breastfeeding’s benefits to both Ben and myself, but I was also motivated by less than altruistic factors: losing weight, saving money, having fodder for my Natural Mom column.
Don’t give up. If you really have your heart set on breastfeeding, don’t give up. It’s not easy, but 99 percent of moms are capable of doing it. Commit to nursing for six weeks. If you still don’t think you can do it, then quit. The great thing about this rule is that, usually, by the time you reach the six-week mark, you’ve made it through the hardest part. It’s easy and enjoyable after that.
About bottle feeding:
There’s nothing wrong with it. My determination to breastfeed wasn’t based on an abhorrence of formula; it was based on my love of breastfeeding. There are benefits to breastfeeding your babies, but formula feeding is OK, too.
You can bond with your baby over a bottle. The bonding that happens with breastfeeding mothers and their babies isn’t just about the physical proximity. Bottle feeding moms can bond with their babies at mealtime, too. It’s about being present, ridding yourself of distractions and focusing on your baby while you’re feeding him.
How you feed your baby is up to you. If you want to breastfeed, you should do it. If you don’t want to breastfeed, don’t do it. And don’t feel bad about it. Make the decision that is right for you and trust that you’re doing the best for yourself and your baby.