When I was pregnant the one thing that intimidated me most was the idea of breastfeeding. I only knew one person who was breastfeeding at the time, and I didn't feel like I had much support. I read everything I could find which mostly just added fuel to the fire. Cracked nipples, no booze, careful eating- it sounded like a huge miserable sacrifice. But I kept hearing ”breast is best”, and we were going from 2 full time incomes to one (formula is EXPENSIVE), so I was determined to make it work. I took a class at the local hospital which helped to alleviate some of my fears, but the biggest factor to my success was simply what I learned from experience! I want to share some of my new-found knowledge to help calm any fears you moms-to-be might have and maybe even get you a little pumped (pardon the pun) for breastfeeding. Here are the little jewels of wisdom I've picked up along the way:
What they don't teach you in breastfeeding class:
1. It is easy! If it weren't, we would have gone extinct long ago! There is a learning curve though. Find yourself a buddy who has breastfed successfully to help guide you while you're still learning.
2. The sweet buzz! Breastfeeding causes your body to produce oxytocin, the bonding hormone. You feel happy, lovey-dovey, and wonderful from it. This is one reason breastfeeding moms have lower rates of postpartum depression.
3. The awesome rack! Your boobs will look phenomenal due to the increased volume and bloodflow. I may just keep pumping forever just to keep the boobs.
1. Breastfeeding is painful. FALSE. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong. The most common reason for pain is a bad latch. This is what causes the cracked nipples, clogged ducts and the complications that go with them. My munchkin had a really hard time latching effectively at first. I discovered that if I pinched my areola so my nipple stuck out and waited for him to open his mouth ALL THE WAY, then stuck my entire boob in there (well, that's how it felt anyway) he got a good latch more often. Then I tipped his head so his chin pressed into my breast and his nose just barely grazed it. Latch first, position second. It's backwards from what they teach you, but it worked for me. I've never had a nipple sore enough to need nipple cream. I've had clogged ducts a few times, but Tylenol and a warm compress combined with frequent nursing got rid of it quickly.
2. You can't drink alcohol. False. A drink or 2 occasionally will not affect your breastmilk. The amount of alcohol from one drink that transfers to breastmilk is extremely small and won't affect a healthy full term baby. If you feel tipsy, wait until you don't anymore before breastfeeding just to be on the safe side. Once it's out of your bloodstream it's out of your breastmilk too.
3. It's hard to do in public, or illegal. False to the point of silliness. All you need for discreet public nursing is a nursing cover or shawl. I use a light cotton sarong with two corners knotted together. Most people don't even realize what you're doing under there. And most states have laws protecting a mother's right to breastfeed her child in public. In Indiana, a nursing mother has the right to nurse her child whereever they are both legally allowed to be- cover or not!
4. You have to watch what you eat. Mostly false. Obviously, you should try to eat right anyway, but you don't need to be fanatical about it. If you're eating a relatively healthy diet and filling in any nutritional gaps with a prenatal vitamin, you're good. Some babies do have sensitivities to proteins from the foods mom eats that are transferred to breastmilk, so if baby is fussy or extra gassy, temporarily eliminating a food can sometimes help. Common offenders are dairy, onions, beans and gassy vegetables. Most babies outgrow this pretty quickly though. You can probably go a couple weeks without ice cream, can't you?
The human body is incredibly adept at producing nutritionally ideal food for babies. Your body will take nutrients from YOU to make your milk perfect. If you don't eat right, it'll hurt you before it hurts your baby.
My little dude is now 8 months old and still nursing. It's been an amazing, fantastic experience for me and I want that for every mom!
That said, I do not judge women who choose to feed their babies formula. Formula is FINE. It's not poison, save for the occasional tainted batch. :/ It's such a small amount of time in a person's life that the breast-or-formula debate is even an issue. It's hardly something that will make or break how successful you're child will be in the rest of his life. But breastfeeding can be such a wonderful experience and empowering source of pride for a new mom- I just don't want anyone to miss out on it!