Feb 27, 2017

What It's Like - Breast Feeding

I want to have things to talk about that are not baby-related, but I'll be honest: it's a bit of a challenge to think of other things when I'm all sleep deprived and I have this little being who takes up so much of my time.  Not to mention the fact that I have literally done nothing else besides take care of him, run some errands, and visit the dog park a couple times.  (Edit: and client projects - I've done like 5 mini projects, so... kudos to me?)

We did visit some friends the other night and I realized at one point that the most entertaining things we had to say were all poop stories.  Oh well.  I'm sure we'll find ourselves again at some point when the newness wears off.

For now, however, I thought I'd share some of the things that I was super curious about when I was still in the family planning stage.  I don't feel the need to defend any of my choices here and I haven't even really felt judged necessarily.  I think the majority of the pressure I've felt to do things "right" or a certain way have come from myself.  And maybe that's because very few of my friends have made the motherhood transition thus far, or because I don't participate in any mom communities online or in person, or because I just have good friends, but I'm thankful for that.

That being said, breast feeding is WEIRD.  And hard.  And prior to Orion's birth I had no clue.  Silly me, I thought it was a natural process and we'd have a quick chat with the hospital's lactation consultant and be good to go!

So here's some things I didn't expect.

1. Neither of Us Knew How to Do It

Babies are not born knowing how to breast feed.  When you're doing your initial skin-to-skin contact, if they seem hungry you have to kind of poke their little mouth with your nipple and hope they latch on.  Even then, he was clumsy, I was clumsy and it certainly didn't feel natural (or magical).

2. Nipple Damage

I thought they'd get a little sore and roughed up for a couple days and just heal, but apparently A) You can legit damage your nipples pretty well and B) You don't have to suffer!  On the first note, yes I did have blisters and scabs and you can imagine it didn't feel too good having those things get mauled every couple of hours.  On the second point, if you have problems with this, get help!!!  It doesn't just go away on it's own.  I went to a breast feeding support group and they showed me how to latch Orion on properly and that greatly minimized the pain and let my nipples heal.

3. Magic? What Magic?

Obviously this is different person to person, but for the most part, breast feeding hasn't been a magical bonding opportunity for me and my son.  At its best, I've laughed at his silly, sleepy face, or enjoyed cuddling him when he falls asleep while eating (which he does constantly).  At its worst, it's been painful, upsetting, stressful, and I've definitely sobbed through a couple feedings, especially before we talked to a consultant and learned that he wasn't getting enough to eat.

4. Experts Aren't Always Right

I was reassured by several people that you "can't run out of milk."  Your body will always make more!  It's great how that works out.  Except it didn't.  I'd be feeding Orion for 2+ hours at a go, he'd be fussing and falling asleep, but waking up the moment I set him down wanting to eat again, and we were exhausted and had no idea what to do or if this was normal.  FINALLY I had a lactation consultant come out to the house and she watched the whole 2 hour process, weighed him before, during, and after, and concluded that he wasn't getting enough to eat.  A mere 2 hours after telling me that I can't run out milk, she admitted that maybe I did have a problem with my "letdown" and yes, we should probably supplement while we worked on that.  (And to verify, our pediatrician said the same thing after noting that it was taking Orion too long to get back up to birth weight.)

5. Formula Has Benefits, Too

So the best thing about that consultation was not that it magically solved all our feeding problems, but that it made me feel better about supplementing.  The moment I learned that my child was not getting proper nutrition, I stopped giving a damn how I felt about being able to provide food for him.  That didn't matter.  And in the weeks since, I've learned interesting little tidbits like the fact that it's recommended to give Vitamin D and Iron supplements to babies who are solely breast fed because they don't get those from mom.

6. My Own Emotions

This was probably the biggest surprise.  I didn't expect to be emotionally attached to the idea of breast feeding.  Prior to having a child, I didn't care.  I knew I'd give it a try, because I wanted to do the "healthier" thing for him if it was possible, but I really didn't think I'd put much emotional attachment on this action beyond that.  SO WRONG.  I cried so many times when we'd give up after 2 hours of feeding or when I'd skip a feeding in order to get 3 consecutive hours of sleep and let Ryan bottle feed him because "I gave up on him" or I wasn't being a good mother or some other bullshit.  And here's the thing.  No one had to say anything to make me feel that way.  I did that entirely to myself.  So, like I said in #4, getting more information was really the best thing we did because I realized the best thing for my child was to get those supplements.  And after that I stopped giving a crap about all the "shoulds" and "coulds" and other bullshit and started focusing on what worked for us.

So... yep.  That's the sum of my newfound knowledge of breast feeding.  If you've got baby plans for your future, hopefully some of this is interesting or informative and if you've already had children, I'm sure you can empathize.  It's been quite the adventure!

Side note, for those interested: Orion is over birth weight now and gaining steadily.  I'll probably continue to do combination BF and supplement, because it's convenient on the occasion that I want to go out or have Ryan feed him so I can sleep AND because I doubt my milk supply is going to improve without pumping after/in between every feeding and frankly, who's got time for that???

Have you breast fed and what was your experience like?  If you haven't, is it something you could imagine yourself doing?

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  1. Oh man, I relate to pretty much all of this. Literally all of it. I'm glad you guys found something that is working. I appreciate all the BF promotion that has been around lately, because I absolutely agree that women shouldn't be shamed for wanting to do it...but there is a LOT of (intentional and subconscious) pressure put on women TO do it also. And the idea that it is natural and magical makes it really hard when you realize...it's really hard.

  2. You already know all my feelings and struggles with breastfeeding. I had no clue I was going to be so emotional over it either. I am glad that you found a balance that is working for you guys and you are doing what is best for your baby...feeding him! It doesn't matter how.

  3. I don't have kids, but my best friend is on baby #2 and she's nursing for a second time around. (She breast fed the first past the age of 1. I'm not sure when she stopped with her.) The stigma attached to breastfeeding or not breast feeding is so intimidating. It irritates me when people make snide remarks about those who bottle feed and it infuriates me when people side-eye a nursing mother. I feel like the debate/discussion on breastfeeding is the biggest one out there right now.
    Good for you for doing what feels right and keeps your baby happiest and healthiest. That's what matters!

  4. Somehow before having a baby, I totally missed the part about breastfeeding hurting. I thought maybe it would take a little getting used to, but it seriously caused me way more emotional distress than I thought it would. I wanted to give up and didn't want to at the same time. Momming is so weird and confusing. Ellie is almost 5 months now and we just tried formula for the first time the other day, because now that I work full time, she basically is bottle addicted anyway and gets distracted at the boob. She was totally disgusted by the formula we tried (lol) but I'm finally at the point where I can give myself a break and not feel terrible about supplementing. I'm not sure why mom guilt is so intense. Ellie seemed to have a really strong latch right away, but it also felt like my nipple was gonna fall off any day so it wasn't easy. Lactation consultants can be really hesitant to agree you should supplement formula. I'm glad you finally found a less stressful way to feed him, for both of you. I'm sure you're both happier now!!

  5. I think letting go of all the "shoulds" and coulds" is probably the best advice you can take away from having a baby and raising him. I hope you keep that in mind. I'd heard of breast pain when feeding but scabs, blisters, and crying, oh my!!! I'm really happy you guys found a consultant to help but I gotta ask... was it weird BFing in front of someone? Anyway, I'm very happy that you guys figured out what works best for you and baby!


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