I believe that breastfeeding is the absolute best nutrition for your baby. Before my first child was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed her. My mom breastfed my brothers and I. I was always around it and it just seemed like the best way to feed a baby to me.
Introduction to breastfeeding
I was born in 1971 and at that time, breastfeeding was not widely accepted and not very many women breastfed. However, before I was born, my dad was taking a class and he learned that breastfeeding was the best for a baby. He asked my mom if she would please consider breastfeeding me. She was not breastfed nor did she know anyone who was or who breastfed their baby. She told him she would consider it and when I was born, she tried breastfeeding me and we both caught on quickly. My mom breastfed me until I was 9 months old. I am very thankful she did this for me, even though everyone at that time wasn’t “doing it.”
As I learned more and more about breastfeeding before Emma was born, I made up my mind that when she was born I would breastfeed her. I had heard that some babies and moms catch on right away and others have to really work at it to get the process down. I read anything I could get my hands on about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding immediately after my baby was born
Before Emma was born, I made it clear to my midwife that I wanted to put her on my breast right away after she was born. They cleaned her up and she was on my breast trying to learn to breastfeed within 20 minutes of being born. It seemed that she was really catching on. I remember the lactation consultant calling the colostrum “liquid gold.” Colostrum is the thick, yellow first breast milk that your body makes during pregnancy and just after your baby is born. It is very rich in nutrients and antibodies that protect your baby.
I also remember the lactation consultant telling me that breastfeeding my baby helped to shrink my uterus back to it’s original size more quickly. I can attest to this as I felt this happening every time Emma would nurse.
Before we left the hospital (two days after Emma was born which I think is way too early for a newly nursing mother), I made it a point to take a breastfeeding class at the hospital and to have the lactation consultant come to our room quite often to help us. Emma was doing okay with nursing but I felt very insecure about it since I had never done it before.
Going home with a new, breastfeeding baby
When we went home, Emma was the kind of baby who had her days and nights completely mixed up. She slept all day and was up all night. I was trying my best to get on her schedule so I would be able to get enough sleep. She would eat every 1 1/2 to 2 hours, on the dot. I was exhausted and not doing well with nursing Emma. I called the lactation consultant and we went to see her a couple of times. She was so helpful but we were still struggling.
I knew about all of the health benefits such as how your breast milk changes as your baby grows providing the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein to insure your baby’s growth. It is the absolute best nutrition for your baby and I was privy to this information.
I knew that breast milk is the easiest for your baby to digest, especially for premature babies. Emma was considered premature since she was born at 36 1/2 weeks. Even though her weight, length and lungs were fine, she was still considered premature.
I also knew that breastfeeding was setting her immune system up to be able to fight disease and illnesses and I wanted her to have the best chance against ear infections, obesity, asthma, type 2 diabetes and lower respiratory infections.
My complications with breastfeeding
Armed with all of this knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding, I forged ahead. I am really stubborn and once I know get something into my head, it is very hard to convince me otherwise. Sometimes I need to change this, but in this particular situation, I was very grateful for my stubbornness.
I am not going to lie to you. I found breastfeeding to be very hard to do. It took Emma and I three months (almost to the day) to get the swing of breastfeeding. During this time, I developed a yeast (thrush) infection in my breasts. Emma also got it so we had to give her medicine each day and I had to put cream on my nipples. I constantly got blocked milk ducts and eventually got mastitis. None of these things were fun but again, I knew of the benefits of breastfeeding and wanted what was best for my child.
Breastfeeding success… finally!
I was vigilant and kept going. I was unstoppable even during all of the nightly feedings every 1 1/2 hours, feeling like I had glass in my breasts from the yeast infection, and getting sick from the mastitis. But, I will tell you, once that three-month mark hit, breastfeeding was one of the easiest and most enjoyable things I have ever experienced in my life. The bonding you feel with your baby while breastfeeding is beyond what I can put into words. I felt like I had climbed a mountain and succeeded! I was so very happy and thankful that my husband and I got through this very challenging time with our beautiful baby girl.
Was it worth it?
You may ask if all of the ups and downs for the first three months with Emma was worth it? Was it worth my sleep-less night? Was it worth and pain and sickness? I can honestly say I would do it all over again because I feel that I was able to give Emma the absolute best start in life. I am happy to report that she is a very happy and healthy 6 1/2 year old today. She rarely gets sick, does not have any major health conditions and has never been on antibiotics. I attribute a lot of this to breastfeeding her for 20 months.
Not only are there incredible health benefits to your baby and yourself when breastfeeding, but there are other benefits as well. The convenience of grabbing your baby when he/she is screaming and putting them up to your breast immediately is bar none. Another huge advantage to breastfeeding is the amount of money you save because you do not have to buy formula. It is so expensive! Between diapers and formula, they could break the bank. So glad we only had to do diapers.
Acid reflux misdiagnosis for my breastfed son
My son, who is now almost 3, also had a very hard time with breastfeeding. He was misdiagnosed with acid reflux around 1 month. He had a very hard time latching on and when he did, he would scream bloody murder. The pediatrician never talked to us about food allergies. He said he had acid reflux and gave us a prescription for Prevacid. I did not feel comfortable giving my baby medication at such an early age. But, I thought the doctor knew best.
The pediatrician said to pump milk for Evan and put it in a bottle with rice cereal to make the milk heavier so he would not spit it back up. That seemed to work a little bit but he was still spitting up all the time. I was also doing double duty – pumping milk all the time and then putting it in a bottle to feed my son. This was very taxing and took a lot of patience. I did this until Evan was 14 months and then stopped. I used a hospital grade Medela pump, by the way, for both children because of the tendancy for me to get blocked ducts. This type of pump was a lifesaver for me! I also used the Medela Pump in Style for my daughter and that was a great pump as well for traveling.
When my family and I went to a chiropractor, who also practices naturopathy, last year, she was able to tell within 10 seconds of doing muscle testing on my son that he has an allergy to dairy. After telling her that he had acid reflux when he was born and that the Prevacid did not seem to help him very much, she said he has had the dairy allergy all along. Had I known about his dairy allergy, I could have easily cut dairy from my diet and I believe he could have then breastfed. Hind sight is always 20-20, right?
Most women can breastfeed, but not all
I know firsthand that breastfeeding can be a big challenge. I don’t think a challenge should be a reason not to breastfeed your child. I truly went through hell and back to breastfeed both of my kids (yes, my second child, Evan, had major issues with breastfeeding, too, but we eventually figured it out). When I hear someone say that their milk did not come in or they just didn’t have enough milk, I cringe. I think many people give up because it can be very hard to breastfeed. I think our society wants instant gratification and if something takes work, many times people just give up.
For most people, breastfeeding is something every woman’s body is made to do. Yes, it may be hard to get your milk supply up but that is what a breast pump is for. A good lactation consultant can help you with this. 99% of women can breastfeed. If they couldn’t, the human race would have died out generations ago.
But, there are certain reasons a mom truly cannot breastfeed. One is if she has had breast surgery. Sometimes you can still breastfeed even if you have had breast surgery and other times you just can’t.
For a very small percentage of women, the physiological changes that need to occur to breastfeed just do not happen. This is a very small amount, though, and not the norm.
Some women feel that if they are on certain medications or have an illness, they can’t breastfeed. Make sure to talk to your ob or midwife about this and also the lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding advice before your baby is born
My biggest piece of advice about breastfeeding is to call a lactation consultant before your baby is born. Tell them you want to breastfeed and will need their help while at the hospital and afterward. Also, join your local La Leche League and call them with any questions you may have before and after your baby is born. Here is their website: http://www.llli.org/