The Ugly Truths About Breastfeeding
Shortly after launching the baby from the womb, I realize that most mothers are doing their very best to make it all happen, me now included in this professional juggling bunch. After I went through the trauma of almost completely ripping my perineum from vagina to rectum (thank god for stitches) while squeezing out my nine pound delight, they place her on my chest and make me completely responsible for keeping her alive with absolutely no experience. Due to a rapid decline in progesterone and a completely sleepless night, a good cry is defiantly in order. “What have I done?”
My post-birth shock and awe subsided quickly, thank goodness. I realize some mothers are not so fortunate. There were tasks to focus on like how to keep the baby alive. Based on the benefits, nutritional and otherwise, I wanted to give breastfeeding a try. After three babies and over four years of cumulative breastfeeding, here are some ugly truths, not to scare you, but to prepare you. Yes, it is a gift to be able to feed your baby, but initially there could be some ugliness that challenges your decision to breastfeed.
Colostrum comes first.
This is kind of nature’s dirty trick on mother and child. Nutritionally, colostrum is off the charts and the immunities it delivers to your baby cannot be matched. I guess this is the point. The tricky part is that it’s consistency is much denser than milk and your baby has to work harder for her meal. This means she is rarely satisfied for those first 24-48 hours of life. There may be lots of crying and questioning am I starving my baby?
Some lactation specialists are amazing. Some are not.
The worry that you are starving your baby is quickly pushed aside by the lactation specialist who assures you this is completely normal and your milk will be here in no time. They will also weigh your baby and she will inevitably lose weight as she figures out breastfeeding with you. She should be back (or close) to birth weight around her One Week appointment. The lactation consultant may remind you not to give baby a pacifier and keep the devil formula far from site. Screw that. Pop that pacifier in the baby’s mouth especially if you intend to breastfeed long-term. Otherwise you will become a human pacifier. It will also keep baby happy in between feedings. She will let you know when she is hungry and she quickly learns which nipple the milk comes from. If you are not feeling the love with your lactation specialist, ask for another one. Also, don’t forget that many of the nurses are certified.
When your milk comes in can be a complete shit show.
I had an over supply which caused my baby to gag and choke the first 30 seconds of feeding. Initially, I had to express milk before feeding to avoid this. Then came engorgement. It is when your breasts feel as hard as boulders and the only relief from the soreness is ice packs. Some women even get fever. If you experience this lovely truth, it will pass. Your boobs will not be boulders forever and your milk will eventually regulate. The only cure is to keep feeding baby from the breast because if you stop in the middle of engorgement, you have to dry up all that milk on your own. Some mothers experience and under supply; in which case they are not producing enough milk. The remedy for this is to also keep breastfeeding to up your milk production and even pump between feedings to let your body know to produce more milk. Do you feel like a cow yet?
This truth is something that people don’t normally think about, but as all three of my babies were learning to nurse, my nipples took a beating. The initial latch can hurt enough to make you hit the ceiling and then the rest of the feeding gets easier. This nipple pain does goes away after the first couple of weeks. There are so many good organic products on the market. I love this company because they are local to my home and use only the best organic ingredients. Have some good nipple cream on hand. You will need it.
Food sensitivities may come into play.
This happened to me with all three of my babies. Food sensitivities usually don’t show up for a few weeks. If you feel like your baby is cranky and uncomfortable shortly after feeding, you may want to tweak your diet. The biggest offenders are dairy, soy, nuts, eggs and wheat. Everything is broken down in your breast milk with the exception of the proteins, they are delivered whole and some babies guts cannot tolerate it. The best thing to do if you think there might be a pattern to your baby’s fussiness after feedings is to keep a log of what you eat, make an appointment with your pediatrician and make a plan.
Breastfeeding gets so much easier and more enjoyable once you get through the initial learning curve.
I eventually went on to breastfeed all three my babies well past their first year of life. Even with my special diets and initial hurdles to overcome, it became one of my most favorite things as the mother of a baby. It gives you an excuse to sit in a quiet corner and bond your little delight before they can talk back to you.
Breastfeeding is not for everyone and sometimes it simply doesn’t work for some mothers.
If you are in this category, don’t let anyone make you feel badly for your choice or your circumstance. We live in a modern world with high-end, organic formulas that will meet your babies nutrition needs.