Breastfeeding

I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding. I try not to be too “in your face” about it, but I also know that one of the biggest obstacles to successful breastfeeding is lack of education and support. I want to do my part to normalize breastfeeding and to help other women succeed.

Why do it?

Why not? If that isn’t enough, here are a lot of really great reasons to breastfeed:

Breastfeeding Links

The best thing I can do is direct you to people who have devoted their time and effort to promoting breastfeeding. They know a lot more than I do!

Quick Tips

I breastfed Addie for almost 20 months. We had some struggles at first, but it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot along the way! Here, in no particular order, are my tops tips for a successful breastfeeding relationship:

  • Don’t put baby on a schedule!  At least not at first.  Babies need to be fed on demand.  This is the AAP’s recommendation and the advice of all breastfeeding experts.  Plus, the more you nurse in the first few weeks, the higher your supply will be the entire time you’re nursing.  Women often worry about their supply, so give yourself a boost at the beginning and nurse all the time!
  • Your supply will fluctuate.  You will have days (maybe even a week or more) when it feels like you have no milk and baby must be starving.  Barring some serious problem, your supply will come back.  It’s sensitive to baby’s needs, so apparently baby just wasn’t that hungry.  Just make sure you’re drinking enough water, eating enough fat (now is not the time to go on a diet) and not stressing out about it.  Give yourself a couple weeks and you’ll be bitching about how hard your boobs are all the time because you have too much supply.
  • Please, for the love of god (or more importantly, your baby), do NOT get breastfeeding advice from books or websites like What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Baby Whisperer or On Becoming Babywise.  Just don’t do it, ok?
  • Before or after a nap is a great time to nurse.  When baby is really little just nurse her to sleep.  You’ll both love it.  And she won’t need to do it forever.  Trust me, you will move past it when she’s ready.  And when she gets older, before or after a nap is the easiest time to nurse because she’s the least likely to get distracted and refuse to eat.
  • Learn how to nurse side-lying in bed.  It’s wonderful.
  • Get comfortable nursing in public.  It’s natural, it’s beautiful and it’s best for you and baby.  Honestly, most people hardly notice and if they do they’re not going to sit there and stare at you.  If they do stare at you, give them the death eye or start making loud comments about how some people can be so rude.  You have a right to nurse your baby wherever you need to.
  • If baby is spitting up a lot and seems to have reflux, consider cutting out dairy.  When I did that, Addie stopped spitting up almost immediately.  I kept dairy out of my diet until she was over six months and she never really spit up again.  But you have to really cut out ALL dairy, and beware, because dairy is in everything.  So you have to read labels and be careful – you won’t be eating many baked goods or packaged food, but hey, that’s probably better for you anyways, right?
  • Remember that many (if not most) doctors are NOT lactation experts.  If your doctor gives you breastfeeding advice, take it with a grain of salt and then check with the real experts.  Lactation consultants are certified by the IBLCE.
  • The best time to pump is in the morning – that’s when your supply is highest.  And even if you can’t get much when you pump in the morning, don’t freak out!  Baby is much more efficient and can get much more milk.
  • Don’t be lured by formula companies’ claims that you need to supplement with formula.  It’s incredibly rare that a mother actually can’t make enough milk.  Especially if you’re nursing all the time from the beginning.  Just remember, formula companies want you to fail: that’s how they make money.

Advice on Night-Weaning

Adeline has never been a great sleeper, so I’ve read all the baby sleep books.  One piece of advice that really helped us was to night-wean. She was completely night-weaned by about 9.5 months and she started sleeping better immediately.  So here’s what we did:

  • Around five months we started to put her back to sleep without nursing some of the time.  That was challenging at first, but after a few weeks she started to get the hang of it.
  • By about six months she would wake up at pretty regular times for her night nursings, so then we decided to slowly eliminate the nursings, one at a time.
  • By seven months she was down to three nursings, so I just cut out the middle one.  That was probably the toughest part.  She was into a schedule so she didn’t want it changed.  It was a rough couple of weeks but finally she stopped waking for that nursing.
  • Once she was down to two nursings we took it even more slowly.  She was waking at about 1:30 and 4:00 for her nursings, so I followed Dr. Ferber’s advice on cutting them out: when she woke at 1:30 I would put her back to sleep without nursing and wait at least 30 minutes to nurse.  If she wouldn’t go back to sleep at all I would keep trying until 2:00 and then nurse.  If she did go back to sleep, I would just wait until she woke on her own and nurse her then.  Same thing with the 4:00 nursing: I would wait until at least 4:30 to nurse.  Then each night we would push it back another half an hour.  We kept doing that until the second feeding dropped out into the morning feeding.  So at that point she was nursing just once at about 4:00.  Then we did the same thing until that nursing dropped out as well.  It took about a month total (we took a break when we were on a vacation and just kept the nursings where they were).  But it really seemed to go well – at no point was she overly upset about what was going on.  It was slow and gentle and everyone was happy.  Yay!

 

Adeline nursing at one week old

Nursing in bed at 11 months

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3 thoughts on “Breastfeeding”

  1. I love this and all of the followers. I am a huge advocate. I breastfed all of my children, they self weaned. Shortest time breastfeeding 6 months, longest 3 1/2 years.

  2. Okay, so I’m reading this now that it pertains to me… How long did the non-stop nursing last?

    • to start giving her baby food at 6 ohtnms, and as a pediatric RN, I knew that was absolutely not necessary and would probably interfere with the whole supply and demand thing, so I held off, and I believe all nursing mothers should hold off on introducing baby food until the child is much closer to 1 year old).I LOVED nursing. I hoped/planned to nurse Ava at least to her first birthday, well beyond, if possible. But then something happened. She hit that developmental milestone where suddenly she was more interested in the world than in having her face buried in my chest where she couldn’t see anything behind her. And she began to self wean quite quickly, well before her first birthday. Although I was already pumping milk several times a day to make sure she could have my milk, exclusively, but still have the occasional bottle when I needed to sleep a bit more (and to keep my supply way up), she just didn’t seem interested in me or my milk anymore. It got to the point where my supply dropped dramatically due to the lack of nursing even constant pumping didn’t keep it up. So then we had to start giving her some formula mixed in with the pumped milk, which made me angry/feel like a failure/confused about why this was happening/feel like a bad mother. I did continue to attempt to nurse her many times a day, every day, and she would nurse for maybe 3 minutes or less, and then she just wouldn’t sit still to nurse. So my original goal, to nurse her for a few years, if possible, changed to Give her my milk until her 1st birthday, even if it’s only via bottles. It got to the point where she just REFUSED to nurse, and I would sit with her in the rocker in the nursery and cry and beg for her to nurse. Finally, one day I gave up on getting her to keep nursing as she would actually cry and scream when I tried to get her to latch on, but I did continue to pump, even though very little came out. I missed my goal by 1 week we ran out of pumped breast milk 1 week prior to her 1st birthday, and I wasn’t able to pump any more even though I tried. I was devistated and felt like a complete failure that I couldn’t even make it to her 1st birthday. Especially when it seemed all the other mothers I knew had babies that were happily nursing well into their 2nd or even 3rd year of life!So shortly after that, I decided since I was no longer making breast milk, it would be ok to go for another IVF cycle since the fertility doctors had told me I could not do so (due to the hormones) as long as I was nursing or pumping. So the upside to her self weaning so young was that I was able to get pregnant again (the IVF worked on the first try this time) when she was still young, so my children are only about 21 ohtnms apart, which I love as they are the best of friends because they are so close in age.With my second child, I had a scheduled c-section due to medical issues on my part. I thought, This is great, no 3 days of failed labor this time, I won’t be exhausted when he’s born, it’ll be so much easier to enjoy those first few days. Well, unfortunately, when my son was pulled out of me, he never took that first breath. Apparently there is a fairly common phenemenon with scheduled c-sections (which, again, I had never heard of) that when the baby is not exposed to the hormones from labor, it doesn’t know what to do when it’s born, so it does nothing, including not taking that first breath. So there I am, lying on the table in the OR, feeling the doctors tugging on my uterus, but all I could do was listen for that first cry. And it didn’t come. Instead, what I eventually heard was the pediatricians say something about needing to start CPR. So here I am, strapped down to the table, cut wide open, but if I could have, I would have lept off that table and run over to my brand new son and done the CPR myself! I have to tell you, that lack of a first cry was the most deafening silence I’ve ever experienced in my life. And when that first cry did eventually come after they’d worked on him for a while, it was very weak, quiet and un-reassuring. I’m thinking, Please don’t say you have to take him to the NICU, please let him be able to room in with me, but sure enough, the next thing I know they are whisking him off to the NICU. Neither my husband or I got to see or hold him. So as they carried him past me to take him to the NICU, I asked them to at least show me his face, which they did for a split second. I remember thinking to myself for the day after that, I wouldn’t even be able to recognize my own son if I were to see him. My son, who we named Joey, ended up needing to be put on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine due to the fluid in his lungs, and he needed IV glucose due to low blood sugar. So even though I didn’t have to go through the trauma of 3 days of failed labor like I’d gone through with my daughter, at least at the end of that I had my baby with me in the recovery room and in my hospital room, and all her relatives got to meet her and hold her in the recovery room. This time, I was alone in the recovery room no baby with me. Again, I felt like a bad mother and a total failure, like this was somehow all my fault. And I was in mourning over the loss of the perfect birth I’d been anticipating, over the loss of the chance to meet and hold my newborn son, over the loss of the chance to nurse him right away, over the loss of the chance to have him room in with me. To make matters worse, since I’d had an operation, I was not allowed to leave the maternity unit to go to the NICU until I was 12 hours post-op, so for TWELVE AGONIZING HOURS I just laid there, crying, wishing I could be with my son. I asked for a breast pump and began pumping immediately, and luckily the colustrum came out from the first pumping session. And it only took about 1 day for my milk to fully come in so that I could pump whole bottles of breastmilk for my son. I was determined that he would get my milk, no matter what. So they gave him my pumped colustrum, but until my milk came in, they insisted on also giving him formula, which (again) made me feel angry/sad/mad/like a failure and bad mother. But as a pediatric nurse, I knew the most important thing right then was his health, and he needed all the calories he could get to heal and grow.I was finally able to meet my son around midnight the next day. I didn’t care that it was the middle of the night. All I cared about was being with him. So I went down to the NICU in a wheelchair, and I finally got to meet/touch/hold/kiss my baby for the first time. It was such a bittersweet moment. I immediately tried to nurse him, but he wouldn’t latch on. I panicked and worried he might never nurse, might not be a natural nurser like Ava had been. But the next time I visited him in the NICU and tried to nurse, he did latch on and nurse. And he nursed every other time after that. I continued to pump every couple of hours, and when they released him from the NICU the next day, they wouldn’t let him room in with me as they felt he still needed close monitoring, so they admitted him to the nursery on the maternity unit where I was. So then, at least we were on the same floor. I would go in there and attempt to nurse him as often as possible, but they still had to give him my bottled milk to make sure he was getting all the calories he needed to heal fully. Finally, 2 days after the c-section, they let him come to my room. He then roomed in with me for a couple of days, and I was in heaven. His big sister finally got to meet him. His grandparents finally got to hold him. I finally got to snuggle with him in bed and nurse him comfortably in bed. And then it was discharge day, and I was all packed and dressed, and I’d just dressed Joey in his special going home outfit when the doctors came into my room and said they needed to re-admit Joey to the nursery because his bilirubin levels were getting dangerously high, so he needed to be under the purple bili lights for a few days. At that point I think I just lost it finally everything was better, and now it was all falling apart again. To make matters worse, they had already discharged me officially, so I couldn’t stay at the hospital in that room to continue nursing and pumping frequently. And I lived an hour from the hospital. But I was determined to keep up with the nursing and pumping, so I told them, I’m not leaving. You find a place for me to stay. Ultimately, I was able to sleep on a small pull out chair (5 days post c-section not fun) in what they called the nursing lounge on the floor. So I lived in this room, which had a bathroom with a toilet and sink but no shower, and no bed, and I continued to pump every 2 hours and to nurse him whenever they would let me. Even though I was only 5 days post-op, I had to fend for myself now had to walk all the way to the outpatient pharmacy to have my pain medicine perscription filled, had to go down to the cafeteria to get food, had to totally take care of myself. But I did it, all of it, for Joey, for our nursing relationship.I feel what I went through to get out nursing relationship established, under the difficult and unfortunate circumstances we kept facing, was really a huge accomplishment. For in the end, not only did he become a natural nurser, but all that pumping I’d done had made my supply spike, so I had a ton of milk, and I kept pumping and freezing the milk for future use, giving him some of it in bottles when needed, but ultimately getting to the point where he got about 90% of his milk directly from the breast. That lasted for about 8 ohtnms and then he hit that same stage my daughter had hit at 9 ohtnms, the I want to look at the world and not have my face buried in your chest stage. And, honestly, it made me livid. I thought to myself, After everything I went through to make sure you could and would nurse, you’re doing this to me? You’re pushing me away, rejecting me? All those old feelings of anger/confusion/sadness/resentment came back to me. WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME AGAIN? And, of course, once he wouldn’t nurse much, despite constant pumping, my supply dropped dramatically. It was the same thing I’d been through with Ava, all over again. But this time, I was more prepared. I knew about a medication that would probably increase my milk supply drastically as it has a side effect of increasing prolactin levels (domperidone), but it’s not legal in the United States, so I had to get it from another country and pay full price for it, many hundreds of dollars. But I was willing to do anything, including paying that money and risking getting in trouble with customs if they discovered I was bringing illegal medication into the country. Once it arrived, I took it religiously, and I found my supply basically doubled within about 3-5 days of starting it. So I continued to pump like crazy, determined to have Joey receive milk to his first birthday, at least, since I hadn’t quite been able to meet that goal with Ava. So I took the medication, pumped, froze my milk and thawed out the older frozen milk, as needed, for Joey to get in bottles because he absolutely just would NOT nurse at all anymore. As the supply of frozen milk started to dwindle faster than I could replace it, I decided to bite the bullet and start giving him bottles that were half milk, half formula. Same old feelings as before came back (anger, sadness, failure, bad mother, etc ). But doing that made the frozen milk supply last longer, and as my body’s supply dropped despite taking the medication, I realized that eventually it wouldn’t be worth it to keep pumping since very little was coming out. So, eventually I accepted the situation and gave up stopped taking the medicine and stopped pumping. But, guess what? I had enough milk that Joey actually DID get breast milk to his first birthday in fact, he even got it for a week after his birthday before the last of the frozen milk ran out! So, despite the fact that I was mourning the loss of the nursing, I was very proud and happy to have met, in fact to have passed, my goal this time. Of course, my original goal had been to nurse him well into toddlerhood, as I’d hoped to do with my first child, but he had other ideas. Just like his sister, he was a self weaner way before he was even one, much to my dismay. When I hear about women being able to nurse their children well into toddlerhood, I have to admit, I am very jealous. It reminds me all over again of what I lost. I was one of those women who just absolutely LOVED nursing and would have done anything at all to make it last. I know I did everything I could, and that my children being natural self-weaners wasn’t my fault, but a part of me still feels like I must have done *something* wrong to make them both self wean. I know, I know, that’s unrealistic and unfair to myself, and yet I still find myself thinking that sometimes. I am very glad for those of you who have children that did not self wean, glad that you were able to nurse for as long as you wanted to, whether it was 6 ohtnms, 1 year, or 2-3 years. I wish I had been one of those women, a woman who could choose when to stop nursing rather than to have that choice/time forced upon me by my children.I don’t think I’ll ever quite get over the fact that both of my children self weaned at such a young age. I still look at the photos of me nursing them and have this bittersweet pang in my chest. I miss it so much. I LOVED nursing like nothing else I’d ever experienced (except for pregnancy, which I also loved). So when I hear about women being able to nurse for years, or to tandem nurse, yes, the green monster in me comes out, but I keep it in my head and smile and encourage them to keep up the great work. We all know how wonderful breastmilk is for a child’s body, how amazing the bonding experience of nursing is for the mother and child, and how good it is for the mother’s body to make breastmilk (it helps the uterus shrink back to its normal size more quickly and helps her lose the pregnancy weight ).I honestly wish I had been able to nurse my children well into toddlerhood, but that’s not the plan God had for us, I guess. I don’t know why, and I do believe that the whole feeling like a failure because my children won’t nurse thing lead to what ended up being a pretty severe post-partum depression, ultimately. It probably didn’t help that I’d been loaded up on hormones for 3 IVF cycles, 2 pregnancies in 2 years, and 2 years of nursing, including artificially raising my prolactin levels with the medication. I’m sure the hormonal craziness I went through is what ultimately caused the PPD. And yet, I don’t regret any of it, and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat because I now have two beautiful, wonderful, smart children, and I got to nurse for close to 2 years total, which, although it was a lot less than I wanted, is still a pretty good amount of time in the grand scheme of things. And if I had anything at all to tell my younger self about all of this, it would be to let go and let God since it all turned out ok, despite the fact that NONE of it went how I wanted/planned for it to, from how and when I got pregnant to how the pregnancies went (I had gestational diabetes both times), to how the deliveries went (2 c-sections, definitely not my first choice), to how they self-weaned. But, despite ALL of that, in the end it’s ok better than ok, it’s great! And it all worked out exactly as it was supposed to, I believe. Although having to go through IVF and gestational diabetes and 2 c-sections and Joey’s NICU/nursery stays and both kids self weaning were all huge emotional and physical traumas for me (and my husband), now that they’re in the past and I’m a mommy to two amazing toddlers, I can see that it all worked out how it was supposed to.And my advice to all new mothers who hope/plan to nurse take a breastfeeding class when pregnant, have a breastpump in the house before the baby is born, buy nursing bras that have front panels that you can open easily (and bring some to the hospital with you when you go to give birth), don’t be afraid to pump and let someone else give the baby a bottle of your milk when you need to sleep, hold off on introducing baby food until much closer to 1 year old than 6 ohtnms, and be prepared for it to be hard and possibly painful at first (think cracked, bleeding nipples and breasts that are so full of milk you think they will explode so also have lanolin and/or nipple cream in the house, and nurse or pump well before you let yourself become engorged and in pain). Lastly, know that nipples will leak milk, so have some of those nursing nipple pads in the house to put in your nursing bra every day for the first few ohtnms after giving birth so, even if you do leak, no one will know. If you can get through the rough parts of nursing, it gets really easy and really good. Eventually it doesn’t hurt at all, you feel so completely bonded to your baby in a way that no one else ever can or will, and nursing, even in public, becomes second nature. You just lift up your shirt, unhook the front panel on your nursing bra, and let the baby/child latch on. No biggie. And never be afraid to nurse your baby in public. There is NO SHAME in nursing, no matter what some cynics who think breasts are purely sexual will say to you (and you will, at some point in time, have some idiot come up to you in public and ask you to stop nursing or to go do it in some hidden area like a tiny dressing room or a bathroom!!! stall). Just politely remind them that the law gives you the right to nurse in public, and ask them to please go away.Feel free to use any part of my comment, if you’d like.[]

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