Alternate titles: None of your boobs-ness! Breast-spectations – yours vs mine.
This is something that has come up a lot with my fellow young-ish moms over the past three years since we all started popping out babies. To breast-feed, or not to breast-feed? It astonishes me the amount of pressure there is out there to do one or the other. It also amazes me that once you have a baby people really do not hesitate to give their opinions about what you should do – because it is what they did and they of course know what is best for you and your child if they are a nurse, your mother, or a well-meaning busy-body in the grocery store or mall. Most moms get a clear message in the hospital after they have given birth that they must start breast feeding. This wasn’t a problem for me as I really wanted to breast feed as long as possible for both my girls. For the record, I fed R breast milk exclusively for 8 months when she was weaned on to formula until she was 1. I fed K breast milk exclusively for about 5 weeks then I started supplementing with two ounces as night for a dream feed to get her to sleep through the night. I breast fed her otherwise until she was 6 months old and then slowly transitioned to formula by the time she was 7 months old. It worked for me, butI know this might not work for others. That is my whole point.
Most new moms are well aware that the approved and most recent research all points to breast is best. The World Health Organization recommends breast feeding exclusively until 6 months and then continuing up to two years with the addition of solid foods. I know of exactly one person who has accomplished this. I think this is an incredible feat, but it is also not for everyone. There are many moms out there who experience such pain, anxiety and frustration when breast feeding that it IS actually in their best interested to try something else. If the pressure to breast feed is such that you make yourself sick over it and not being able to do it – who are you actually helping? A lot of moms just don’t like it and feel uncomfortable doing it. Many moms feel trapped and chained to their child because they know their boobs are going to be on call every 2 – 4 hours. That is a really stifling feeling for some people – I know it was for me. Moms need to know that they will be supported no matter what they try. I say give it a go – acknowledge that it can be physically uncomfortable for a week or so (and by uncomfortable I actually mean excruciating agony – for me anyways). Try as best you can. Access help (see links below). Ask trusted friends their advice. But, in the end, do what is best for you, your child, and your family. An anxiety ridden mom isn’t good for anyone.
Alot of tricks can help you along the way in trying to get breast feeding going if that is something that is really important to you:
Use lanolin on sore nipples – my daughters both chewed me to shreds due to shallow latches and tongue ties so I was cracked and bleeding within the first day or so and it lasted on and off for a few weeks. I had been told by a health nurse to let them air dry and heal that way which was hilarious. I was so engorged and leaking that I just walked around with my Dolly Parton-esque boobs dripping all over the place and creating a mess. Lanolin under a breast pad to protect your bra – thank god for oily sheep.
Get a good breast feeding bra. Don’t try to just shove your huge boobs in your old bra and move it out of the way or undo it every time a baby needs to eat. So annoying. Spend the money and your boobs will thank you. Less underwire to minimize the chance of blocked ducts and the accompanying pain. More support.
Get a breast pump. A lot of people say that introducing pumped milk in a bottle will confuse a baby. Maybe. That hasn’t been my experience – but I have only had two babies. I actually used it most when my boobs were so full I needed relief. I KNOW – pumping actually tells your body to produce more milk because it is in demand. I hear ya – but when I can pump 8 oz in a matter of 5 minutes – my boobs are in need of immediate relief that no amount of manual expression can give.
Manual expression. I know – I just said it wasn’t fast enough, but if you have specific hard spots and just need to get rid of a bit of extra cargo in the morning in the shower, go for it. Get in a hot shower or stand over the sink and use a wet, hot towel wrapped around your boob like a doughnut and squeeze your boobs. Place one hand over the boob and one hand under and twist your hands rubbing one hand over the breast and one hand under in opposite directions. It works.
See a lactation consultant. Here in Calgary you are required to follow up with local health nurses after you give birth. If you continue to experience trouble, one of them can set you up with an LC or an LC who is also a Dr. I had to see one three months in with K as I was convinced her ‘small, insignificant’ tongue tie was actually more of a problem than people thought. The Dr agreed and clipped it.
Call La Leche. I know they are the equivalent of breast feeding Nazis, but they actually have a lot of great info. One helped me over the phone to adjust my angle of placing R’s mouth on to my breast because my nipple was coming out pinched – or as the nice lady on the phone described it, looking like a lipstick. Genius.
My ultimate message for this topic is that mothers need to have information, support and help. Not judgement. If a mom chooses not to breast feed we must respect her decision and trust that this is a mom who made the decision based on multiple factors. If a mom really wants to breast feed and is having difficulty, she should feel like she has options and access to support.
Anyhoo ladies – keep your tits up and good luck. It wasn’t easy for me. It rarely felt natural and beautiful like it does for some but I am glad I did it as long as I did. I don’t feel guilty for adding formula or using a bottle or pump at times. I needed relief and for my husband to be able to feed my kids so I could go OUT! He also wanted the time to bond with them and feel like he was important to their survival too! He certainly was important to my survival at times!
Here are a few links that might come in handy – not an exhaustive list – just a place to get started.
http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/ – World Health Organization
http://www.lllc.ca/ – La Leche League Canada
http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/services.asp?pid=stype&type=28 – a list of programs and services offered by Alberta Health
Also – call your Dr! My OBGYN was amazing and so helpful with all things breast feeding related.