Clearly I am FAR from an expert on either topic. My experience is limited to Bailey and I, however things have been going pretty good, so I thought I'd share what's been working for us.
(Warning: Pics in this post will basically be non-existent as I don't really want pics of my boobs all over the internet, even in the totally natural breastfeeding sense.)
Ok, so maybe what I should have said was not a lot of RELEVANT pics, huh? :) But, seriously... HOW CUTE IS THAT SMILE?!?!?!?
Before I had Bailey I thought breastfeeding would be a walk in the park, if I could get all the physical stuff ok. If she'd latch and take to it, etc.-- I thought I would be in the clear. It was (and still is!) very important to me to breastfeed Bailey. I can't really explain why and don't think there's ANYTHING wrong with formula feeding, but for me-- it's just something I very, very much wanted. And, I was willing to WORK for it. When B was in the NICU I got up every 2 hours like clockwork to pump. While I don't have to do this any more, it's still no walk in the park.
Overall, breastfeeding has been going really, really well with Bailey. Now, that's not to say it's EASY. It's not. It's actually incredibly hard. For me, it hasn't been PHYSICALLY hard. I've been lucky. But, it's definitely been MENTALLY hard. Being 100% responsible for another persons health and well-being is a whole different ball game when your body is physically responsible for her health. It's hard feeling like you spend ALL DAY on the couch with a baby attached to your boob. It's hard having to excuse yourself in social situations to feed the baby. It's hard having to watch a clock to either feed or pump before your boobs become so full they hurt.
It's definitely, definitely not easy. And, about a gazillion times harder than I thought pre-Bailey. I mean, before I had a baby I thought "It's breastfeeding! How hard can it be? Babies are built to do it!" Yeaaaaaaah. Newsflash: I was DUMB. It is TOUGH. There's supply issues and timing and latch and positioning and on and on and on. Way more to it than simply putting the baby by the boob. Who knew?!?!?
Bailey and I are still using a nipple shield, which isn't the most fun thing in the world, but it works for us and really isn't too bad. I actually lost-lost my first one today. Stupid thing is GONE and I have no idea where. One tip I would give any mom who has to use one of these is to have MULTIPLE shields in multiple places in your house. I have 2 in her nursery by the glider, where we feed at night and first thing in the morning and 2 in the living room, where we feed throughout the day.
The toughest part of breastfeeding for me has been cluster feeding. It's totally normal, and basically means she'll essentially feed like non-stop for a few hours. It's especially common in the evening hours, which is right on for Bailey. From 7-10ish, girl wants to eat almost non-stop. Again, it's more mentally tough than anything else. To have a baby attached to do and to be able to not even move to go to the bathroom, let alone clean up or eat dinner or anything, is harder than it may seem when it's hours on end day after day. Cluster feeding is supposed to lessen as the child exits the "fourth" trimester, so maybe this issue will be wrapped up soon. We'll see.
Another pain-in-the-ass part of breastfeeding is the dreaded pump. Some b-feeding mom's don't pump. SO LUCKY. I'm jealous. Since I started pumping because B was in the NICU and couldn't actually feed from the breast yet, I just kinda kept going. I don't pump every 2 hours like I was then (THANK GOD!!)... I just kinda pump whenever I can... maybe 3-4 times a day. It's been a good way to build up a freezer stash for when I go back to work and nice so the Hubs or whoever can give her a bottle if I'm not around (or so I can SLEEP!!). The pump blows. And, who would have thought that one small little pump could produce SO MANY things to wash like 12 gazillion times a day??
Yes. I hate the pump. I legit feel like a cow being milked every time. The sound of the motor makes me cringe. But, it's important to me to breastfeed B, so it's a necessary evil.
My b-feeding goals are ideally to b-feed her exclusively (no solids or supplements) for 6 months. We're almost half way there!! I'd LOOOOOVE to b-feed for a full year, if possible. I know as I go back to work that will be harder and harder. But, I also know me. And, if something's important to me (like this is) and if I CAN do it (ie: if I have a pump and a place to pump at work, both of which I do) and if my supply remains (that's a BIG if!!), I'm pretty confident I'll keep at it. I'm pretty stubborn like that.
Even when she's crying she's just so stinkin' cute!! PS- LOVE this shirt! Thanks, Auntie Jen!
A few things I'm doing now to help me reach my goal:
- PUMPING. Bleah. We just talked about how much this sucks. But, like I said, it's giving me a freezer stash and it will be ESSENTIAL after I go back to work so I can send Bailey with b-milk to daycare. I'd LOVE to be able to nurse and not have to pump, but that's not my reality.
- Speaking of pumping, here's a tip. Keep the dirty parts in the fridge between pumping sessions throughout the day, then just sanitize them once at the end of the day. The cold fridge stops bacteria from growing. Then, you don't have to lose your mind by washing, washing, washing, washing... :)
Ignore the beer in the background :)
- Having the Hubs give Bailey a bottle once a day right now. We don't do a bottle everyday, but most days we do. This may seem counter intuitive, but without this mental and physical break, I'd be sleeping less and I think overall it'd be WAY harder. It's just nice to have a short break.
- Going to a breastfeeding support group. While b-feeding has been around for... well, ever, many, many women do not do it. Without the support of this group to tell me to keep going and to encourage me and to tell me I'm doing a great job, I'm not sure I would have even lasted this long.
- Drinking Mother's Milk tea and eating oatmeal everyday to keep my supply up.
- Leaning on the Hubs. There's obviously only so much the Hubs can do to help with b-feeding... you know, since he's lacking in the whole boobage area. But, he is a huge help in other ways. He cleans my pump parts every night (without me asking!!!), asks if I need anything, constantly fills up my water glass (b/c b-feeding makes me thirsty like nothing I've ever experienced before!), and other little things which add up to being a BIG help.
- Just NOT giving up... especially during cluster feeding moments. Trust me, I want to. SO bad. It's HAAAARD and so, so, so tiring. I try to think of it like the marathon. Cluster feeding moments are like peak training weeks. FAR from easy, but you HAVE to do them so you can make it through the race. Corny? Sure. But, it helps me mentally get through.
So, yeah. Breastfeeding is freaking HARD. All those people who say it's the most natural thing in the world... well, maybe they're right. But, what they DON'T tell you is how much goes into it and how it's not all sparkles and unicorns. But, I firmly believe it's worth it for me and for Bailey.
So, that's that. All things boobs in one blog post. Sexy, huh?