I wanted to jot down my breastfeeding experiences – … again, more for my own records than anything… It has been about 7 months since C2 was weaned but, I think it’s always good to share — especially for new moms looking for encouragement, support, and/or advice feeding choices, the perils and the joys of breastfeeding.
I was certainly on top of the “breast is best” literature… attended a breastfeeding clinic at the hospital where I was going to deliver. My plan: see how it goes – try for a week or so; if not good, switch to pumping; if not good switch to the bottle. You can safely assume that I wasn’t 100% commited to a plan to breastfeed. And, if all did go well — I figured I’d hang in there for about 6 months. Frankly, the thought of breastfeeding really freaked me out — I just couldn’t get my head around it! It was literally a day or so before C1′s arrival (he came 3 weeks early… definitely a testament to his personality!) that I made a firm decision to stick with breastfeeding — seriously, how hard could it be?
C1 took about 30 hours to latch well enough to get some milk… the most frustrating 30 hours of my life! I had an emergency C-section, so fortunately we were in the hospital for about 3 days and had the support of a wonderful, persistent nursing staff (at St. Joe’s in Toronto if you’re interested) — by the time the Lactation Consultant got to me to check out our technique, C1 was happily nursing. Yay! But, was I happily nursing? On about day 4 when my milk came in…. arrrgh! The agony began! Engorged breasts (bigger than my newborn’s head), cracked nipples, pain, pain, pain!! And he was a hungry little boy (strange — he hardly eats now!) – frequent feedings about every 2 hours…. lasting about 20 minutes. (Although I will never forget the time he held my mom & I “hostage” in the nursing room at Chapters for almost an hour!). Lansinoh eased the pain – and it took about 6 weeks for the discomfort to completely subside. There was definitely one side that was always more painful than the other. Oh — and I have to mention… I hated wearing breast pads. Yuck! From an OT, posture perspective, the breastfeeding pillow (I had a Boppy®) is essential to maintain reasonable posture while breastfeeding (again another OT-related blog!). I bought Bravado nursing bras… and they were great — nice closures…. variety of styles, colours, and materials… in fact, I wore them through both breastfeeding experiences.
C1 maintained the 2-hour frequency, but by the time he was 3 months, reduced the time to about 10 minutes… very efficient little dude! Breastfeeding was easy… and I quickly got over any modesty issues that I might have had… breastfeeding is so in vogue – everyone does it everywhere. (That said, I’m happy I don’t have to do it in public anymore! Lol!) Somewhere around 5 months, I fed him almost exclusively lying down — and, despite the experts opinion about nursing babies to sleep… I pretty much always nursed him to sleep.
I had a few clogged ducts. First time it happened, I experienced the chills, fever, achiness, and then unbelievable rock-hard, sore breast – fortunately, my mom was visiting at the time… it was brutal! I tried the frozen cabbage remedy — ummm, it just left me smelling like cabbages. Blech! Hot compresses and advil… firm massage to work out the blockage. After that, I had a few more, but could anticipate them by the tenderness I would start to feel, so was more pro-active…. never had a full-blown case of mastitis.
Attempted pumping a few times in the first 6 months — but, as many of you have experienced, barely got any milk from pumping — and on top of that, C1 would not take a bottle. So, we were stuck together… joined at the boob! Which, of course, on hindsight was not the most horrible thing — he was the most adorable baby boy.
Then the question of how long? Nursing was really a comfort for C1 and I didn’t find it overly burdensome. I planned to nurse for a year. At the year mark, when I had planned to return to work, I thought I would keep nighttime feedings indefinitely. It turned out that it was just a bad season for stomach bugs… so every time C1 would get a bug, I would boost his nursing schedule to increase his fluids. (By the way, as far as I’m concerned… and this is just anecdotal… breastfeeding did nothing to boost their immune systems – both boys still got bad colds, stomach bugs in their first years – and they continue to pick up virtually every bug that comes their way when in contact with other children – to be fair, I suppose neither have ever had an infection that needed to be treated with antibiotics – but, I do know of many other breastfed babies who did.)
Finally, at 18 months, it was time to end our breastfeeding relationship! Afterall… I was 4 months pregnant with C2… I would need a break!
I thought that breastfeeding the second time around would go much more smoothly – it had only been about 4 or 5 months since I had stopped, so I figured my nipples would still be ready for pain-free latching. Wrong!!! Another 6 weeks of the same agony of latching! C2 did latch within 4 hours of birth (we had an elective C-section this time and again, same amazing nursing support) – but, I was a bit lazy (my friend warned me about this!) – assuming that I knew exactly what I was doing, I wasn’t careful with my technique and allowed him to have a poor latch – resulting in the painful, cracked nipples once again.
Overall, C2 had virtually the same feeding schedule – every 2 hours, 10 minutes at a time. He was a heavier baby, so holding him was a bit more challenging… tendinitis set into my shoulder and elbow the same way it had set in with C1. A few more painfully clogged milk ducts along the way. I never even attempted to introduce a bottle – nursing was all too convenient. Both boys started their “sippy cup training” at around 5 months — although it would take about 4 months to master. My intention was to wean at 12 months. However, with C2, I could tell that he could really take it or leave it. Although I had a 12-month end date in mind… he didn’t. His latch deteriorated significantly by 11 months to the point where he was just biting and tugging on me. *OW*! I couldn’t go any longer. Weaning was easy and seemed completely natural.
The net result? My experiences with breastfeeding were extremely positive, in spite of the pain and tears… I think there needs to be more said to prepare new moms for how uncomfortable it can be in the beginning… it’s not 100% glamorous and persistence is necessary! But, there are lots of supports in the community to access. I am not fanatical about breastfeeding — I admit that I really liked it for the convenience more than anything… Did I feel that I bonded with my boys? Sure… but, I think their individual personalities were strong contributing factors — I would say that I bonded far more with C2 than C1 through our breastfeeding journey, even though he weaned earlier — he’s just that kind of a guy.
Wow… so that’s my essay on breastfeeding! Let me know if you have any questions!