Did you know August is National Breastfeeding Month?

August 22, 2012 at 10:44 am | Posted in baby, breastfeeding, life, motherhood | Leave a comment
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I thought I would take this moment to share my experience breastfeeding through the past eight months. Throughout my pregnancy, I knew that I wanted breastfeed my baby from the start. I didn’t think much about it, but picked up the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and only sort of thumbed through it. I didn’t believe I would actually need that much preparation and wondered how hard breastfeeding could be since it is what the female body was designed to do after birth. Looking back, before I had Jack, I don’t think I could have actually prepared my body for breastfeeding any better, but it would have been helpful to have a bit more information so that I could recognize the kinds of problems that commonly occur. During the first few days when waiting for my milk to come in, felt like an eternity. Right after you have a baby, you are supposed see your pediatrician the following day so they can monitor your baby’s weight. It’s common that babies lose weight after they are born. The by-the-book rule is that babies regain their birth weight within a week. Well, this can prove difficult because a mother’s milk takes several days (sometimes up to five) to come in full force. Jack’s weight stayed low and as a result, the pediatrician had me come back every couple of days for weigh-ins. From the start, Jack was a mellow baby, he would nurse on me and immediately fall asleep. I would try to rouse him, but as long as he was close to me, he was content snoozing. When I had gone back to the doctor for the weigh-in at one week old, Jack had only gained a couple of ounces. The pediatrician ordered me to start him on formula. I want to carefully say, I am not finger wagging at any mom who gives their baby formula, it just wasn’t the goal I had in mind. After going back and forth and watching Jack’s weight barely creep, I relented and gave him a three ounce bottle. From the start, I always feared that this was a slippery slope since breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis. In order to get Jack to gain weight, I needed him to nurse from me so that my breasts would make more milk. By giving him formula, I was teaching him that drinking from a bottle is much easier than from the breast since the milk flows very quickly; and also my body wasn’t told that it needed to make more milk. Well, Jack sucked down the bottles full of formula and along with breastfeeding, he re-gained his birth weight by the end of the second week.

By the time Jack was three weeks old, I began attending a weekly class at The Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington aimed to give new moms of 0-4 month old babies support and advice for common breastfeeding issues. This proved to be the number one greatest place I think I have ever found for community support. It was fascinating to see up to 30 mommas at a time, breastfeeding their babies. It was helpful because, I really didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Common topics of the class include issues like low milk supply, too much milk supply, pacifier use, co-sleeping, partner support and a variety of other common things. When Jack was so young, every single hurdle felt like it was so terrible and that I was all alone in my troubles, but at the Center, I realized that tons of other women had their own set of issues, and that I wasn’t the only one with low milk supply. I made an appointment with one of their lactation consultants to speak one-on-one. Our meeting was so helpful because the consultants at the Center are board certified lactation consultants; they live and breath breastfeeding far more than your pediatrician or nurse at the pediatrician’s office who took a 2-day seminar on lactation knows. Sorry, there’s a HUGE difference and I wish I sought professional help sooner. The lactation consultant acted like a detective; assessing how the baby latched, examined how the I held Jack, asked non-judgmental questions about how the baby sleeps (i.e. co-sleeping wasn’t a dirty word in their office), inquired about any medications I was taking/had taken, what kind of birth I had (cessarean or natural) — all of which can can play a role in milk supply. She recommended a pumping schedule after our daily (as opposed to night-time) breastfeeding sessions, suggested I try the herbal supplement Mother’s Milk with Goat’s Rue and to “wear” Jack around the house (i.e. Moby Wrap, etc.). The Consultant noted if my milk didn’t truly increase, I could get a prescription based medication that had a side-effect which increased milk supply — I wanted to use that as a very last result, and the Consultant wholeheartedly agreed. I found pumping incredibly annoying, uncomfortable and even disheartening because I would barely get anything extra after nursing Jack. I kept attending the weekly classes and wound up seeing a consultant two more times. Each meeting I tried a different herb like Fenugreek and later, Avesta Shatavari. Nothing seemed to really work, I was at my wits end, and ready to request the prescription from my midwife, when Jack and I reached a meeting point. His weight began to solidly increase and I cut out the two bottles of formula he was receiving daily, and he continued to grow. Our journey to being free from formula was a process that took 3.5 months.

Without the support of The Breastfeeding Center, I’m not sure I would have fought through the tough months dealing with low supply without the constant reminder that I could do it, that I wasn’t alone, and to keep trying. It helped strengthen my goal to breastfeed Jack which is at least through his first birthday.

Beyond the physical part of breastfeeding, I want to address the emotional part of it. It is hard to describe the intensity that I feel for it has given me a deeper closeness with my young baby, something that I never could have imagined. It’s a commitment that is not easily made. You have to get up in the middle of the night, pump if you aren’t going to be close to your child, breastfeed when you are out of the house and your baby is suddenly starving. And all of that is so personal. I breastfeed because this little baby needs me to survive and through it, I am directly helping him grow and improving his health. I find it fascinating that I grew this baby in my body and gave birth to him, I feed him and care for him and because of that, he’s learning, curious, growing and changing every single day. I know this all sounds so sappy, but in a way, through all of my accomplishments of work, school, my relationships, my marriage, everything I do is for the best intention of my child. He is my greatest creation of all.

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