Breast is Best

I once scoffed at the notion of a “lactation consultant”.

How is this a real profession? How hard can it be to breast feed? This is how children have always been fed for eons and eons. It should be the most natural thing. After going through labor, breast feeding must be a cake walk.

And in fact, I didn’t worry about bf at all. I read copiously on the baby’s development and the labor and delivery process. But nary a thing on bf.  Ah, how foolish I was.

Labor wasn’t easy, but that’s for another day. When they handed the lil guy to me so that we can bond skin-to-skin and he can feed, I was too exhausted to notice really what was going on. And there were so many nurses moving around, checking this and that, that when one told me he latched on perfectly “like a natural”, I just nodded and didn’t think anything of it.

For a regular (non c-section) birth, you stay in the hospital for two nights. The nurses came in to check on many things around the clock, one of which was the status of the breast feeding. No issues. Then I went home. And I knew your milk supply doesn’t come in til a few days later, but no one really prepares you for the stress you feel. Is he eating enough? How can I tell if I’m producing anything? WHEN will the damn milk come in? But the hardest part of bf was bar none the amount of pain you feel if the baby’s not latching on properly. Imagine my surprise when I read online that bf should not hurt. Light bulb moment! It’s not???

Boy, was a lactation consultant a godsend then. I bit my lips each time he fed and dreaded the next time.  It was a sore and (literally) bloody mess.  Finally, I knew I couldn’t hold off and wait for the free breast pump to arrive. I asked CS to go (quickly) and buy a pump. I couldn’t imagine putting the babe to the boob even one more time. The pain was so excruciating. It got to the point where it hurt to even shower or have a bra on.

This was the start of my education of what being a mom means. You really just have to let it go sometimes. Flexibility is your friend. When you join the ranks of motherhood, there are so many “I’ll never do” this and that’s floating around in your head.

Yes, you’re not supposed to introduce the bottle that early (week 1). You’re supposed to wait until bf has been established and then intro a bottle at four weeks. But there was no way in god’s green earth I could wait that long. I was so nervous about him preferring the bottle to the boob (“nipple confusion” they call it) because then I’d be stuck expressing milk for the entire next year. But you know what? He didn’t care where the milk came from as long as he had it. And you know what I learned? Babies really are adaptable. Don’t kill yourself trying to be this perfect image of who you think you should be. Like I said, in those early days and months, it really was about survival. And after just a couple days with the breast pump, I healed enough to offer the boob again, this time with success. Thank the heavens.

And now? Fast forward eight months…

I didn’t realize that the amount you bf decreases throughout the year as they intake more and more solids. Baby Ollie will be 8 months soon and while he feeds at the boob throughout the day, his desire to focus on feeding is highest only in the AM when he first wakes.  The rest of the time he wants to play and explore and wiggles and squirms until he’s off my lap. I do miss seeing his big milk belly throughout the day. And boy do I miss the milk-only poops.

A lot of people stop bf early on and I totally get it. The time it takes to bf is truly staggering. You can’t have alcohol whenever you want. You always have to be close by. And if you’re not, you spend an ungodly amount of time pumping. You really are tethered… to either a baby or a pump. And to commit to doing it for a whole year really is… well, just that, a commitment.

And what about returning to work? I would literally jump from meetings to pumping to meetings. Half my time in the office was spent in the lactation room.  I didn’t know how hard it would be to return to work and bf. Having gone through it, I really do commend anyone who does. It is the most harried, imperfect, anxiety inducing experience.

But you know what? Breast feeding, like so much of what we experience in the first year, is so fleeting. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t WAIT to trade in my nursing bras for a regular one, but until then, I do feel a little nostalgic for those quiet moments when we’d just cuddle and he was just an itty bitty little thing in my arms.

My list of bf must-haves:

  • Co-sleeper – having the baby sleep in the same room with me was really a no-brainer. I thought a bassinet would get the job done so we did that for the first few, but I really wish I got this sooner. Game changer.
  • Gliding chair – this one in particular is great because it not only rocks, it reclines. For those days when you’ve been up all night, nothing feels better than kicking back in this. It made the middle of the night feeds bearable too.
  • Nipple cream – for soothing sore nipples and great for baby’s chapped face especially in the first few weeks/months.
  • Medela breast pump – insurance companies now provide free breast pumps (thanks Obamacare), but depending on your insurance, you may not be able to choose which one you get. Doesn’t matter though, you still save $300 on what you would’ve spent.
  • Breastmilk storage bags – if you’re one of the lucky ones who had a strong supply and have extra to spare, these are great bc they freeze flat so they take up less freezer space.
  • Nursing bras and tanks – I love this brand. It’s so soft and comfortable. And as eager as I am to pack these away and wear regular bras again, I know that when it’s time for Baby #2, I’ll be turning back to these again.

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