Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Breastfeeding - Give It Thirty Days

To continue with a variation on a theme Rainy mentioned yesterday, allow me to provide for you the essence of no less than four books entirely about breastfeeding and easily three dozen books with chapters on breastfeeding. Here it is, stripped of the Madonna imagery, the propaganda, the drama, the guilt, and the science:

Try it for thirty days before you give up, because for a lot of people, it kind of sucks until then.

Oh, sure, there's a little more to it. For example, the basic latch. All the books emphasize how much of your dainty bits have to be shoved into the gaping maw of an infant, and you still won't do enough shoving without advice and help from either an experienced mama or a professional consultant. In the hospital I never ever fed him without calling a nurse to come check my latch. And afterwards I had Rainy help me, and I had 24/7 advice from another dear friend, and I still had trouble getting the hang of it.

And certainly the pain aspect gets underplayed. It hurts at first for a lot of people. It certainly hurt ME. The second week was the worst. He was constantly nursing in order to jack up my supply, but neither of us had the technique quite down, so I was chafed and tender and ready to sob whenever he wanted to eat. I DID sob more than once. Lanolin ointment helped, but not with the pain. He would take 20 minutes or more per side, and you know how the books say most new babies need to eat every three hours or more? That's measured from the start of one feeding to the start of the next. So if you feed the baby at 1 PM, he will again want to be fed at 3 or 4 PM. Never mind that he didn't detach until 2 PM.

Oh, and my good gracious, but the books are all so filled with lies about how fulfilling and romantic it is for every good mother. You can be a good mother but not feel like you've achieved bliss. I felt like a cow. A trapped milk cow, who had to sit in one posture in one place for most of my waking hours while an unappreciative unresponsive little squaller sucked my poor dainty bits into raw hamburger.

Because I have a job, I started using a pump relatively early so the baby would learn to take a bottle as well. That was week three. And I got darn little milk from it, with my sole consolation being that it hurt less than the baby's jaws of death.

This was all run of the mill breastfeeding stuff, too! I didn't get mastitis (like a virus with fever and pain, but for your boobs), I didn't have engorgement, I didn't have cracked or bleeding nipples, I didn't have supply problems either over or under. Once I had a plugged duct, but I just followed the advice in one of the books and it was clear in a day. Still, overall, I would have to say that on Day 28, I felt that breastfeeding sucked so hard it could have removed the paint from my car.

And the La Leche League people, well, they mean well, but with some of the groups, there's more than a little judging going on. And the last thing a new mom needs is judging. Also, their literature makes breastfeeding into a holy calling. I'm very suspicious of holy callings. Besides, no way could I make it to meetings in those first weeks. I couldn't figure out how to leave the house, let alone go to a meeting full of strangers. I was in pain, and tired of sitting up all night every night, and wondering why anyone would ever bother.

BUT THEN... Day 29 of the thirty day trial arrived.

I'm not kidding, Disney birds practically flew around us. He got big enough that we could nurse lying down, and Mama Cow suddenly started getting a lot more sleep at night. He got efficient enough to get a whole meal out of me in a few minutes, without my arms or behind getting numb. He figured out how to get the milk without gnawing, to the point that I see the pump now and cry because it hurts literally a million times more than he does. When I do pump I can get three or more ounces per side because my supply is so well established. We go anywhere, do anything with no fuss or muss or mess. He never has to wait for me to prepare his food, I just feed him the instant he's hungry. His food is free and I never worry about spoilage or bad ingredients. He's fat and healthy.

He smiles at me during feedings.

So... yeah. Give it thirty days. And get help from a woman who exclusively breastfeeds her baby. And if you give it thirty fair days, and decide that you want to use formula? It's not rat poison. Go for it. Save the guilty feelings for something really awful, like the fact that you're going to dress your baby in clothes too silly to put on a miniature poodle.


Boliath said...

Can I add?

Eat oatmeal - it helps your supply and gives you strength.

Try fenugreek, your sweat will smell like maple syrup but it also boosts your supply.

Pumping gets easier when your supply is established. After a few weeks at work I was the same as you, getting just a few ounces at firdt, but after a couple of weeks I could get 8 oz from each breast in about 15 minutes. I used a Medela Pump in Style, pumped every 2 hours at first and saved a video of the baby feeding on my work computer to watch while I pumped, it helped with letdown.

Good luck!

Sanya said...

Oh, excellent points, B. I also use the PIS - Rainy uses a hand pump, but I think she's insane :P

GNelson said...

I love your post and wish it could apply to me. I admire how patient you were with your son. Now that Olivia is here, I can't seem to get this to work out for us. I've been pumping and giving her the milk from that so that she gets the benefits of the milk. I know it can be twice as hard since you have to spend time pumping then feeding it to the baby, but it has helped us bond so much more without her fussing at the breast. Daddy also gets a chance to feed her too. We've had a series of problems that have kept us from exclusive breastfeeding though that have contributed to this pumping solution.