Ok, so I've been wanting to blog about my thoughts on breastfeeding for some time but have not taken the time to sit down and really put down my thoughts. As I've mentioned before, my blog is for others to enjoy, but it also serves as a sort of journal for myself. I do want to say that this post is not anything necessarily factual, but it's what breast feeding meant to me, for our family, and what worked or didn't work for Jude and me in our journey together. This is Justin and my opinion of what worked best for our family.
First of all, before getting pregnant with Jude, I had a wonderful group of friends who went through breast feeding before me that were able to offer me a great deal of advice and support. Once we were pregnant, I knew that breast feeding was something I definitely wanted to attempt and my goal was to make it through the 1st year. From my research, I felt that at 1 year, Jude would be able to get his nutrients from food and organic cow's milk, hence why I made this my goal.
Before Jude was born, I read several books that I found helpful, including Baby Wise and Secrets of a Baby Whisperer. I also researched different "tools" to aide in breast feeding like support pillows, the "right" bra, and different natural supplements like certain teas to help with lactation. Justin and I also attended a very imformative and beneficial breast feeding class offered to us by our hospital. By the time Jude was born, I felt confident that we were as ready as we could be to try this new adventure.
Before I go on, I want to make a list of certain items that I found very beneficial during my time of breast feeding.
1. The right bra: I will say to anyone who is a new mother, DO NOT invest in an expensive nursing bra at first...I got a nice sports bra from Gap Body and LOVE it. It is easy to pull down and supported my new DD's, in which I am usually a B. To be totally honest, I spent nearly $80 in Medela nursing bras and wore them each maybe 5 times. I ended up buying good bras from Ross (Izod and Bali in my new size) and just pulled them over to nurse. They were much more comfortable than the nursing bras.
2. The right pillow: For me, the Boppy was wonderful for Jude and I as we both learned what nursing was all about. It fit around me just right and allowed the necessary support that we needed as he learned.
3. The right cover: I personally like Utterly Discreet cover up. They offer really cute designs but are also bigger than many other cover ups. If you have a wiggly baby like me, the extra fabric comes in handy in case they try to show your goods.
4. The right nursing pads: I did not like any disposable nursing pads. Not only are they not environmentally friendly, which Justin and I try to be, I found them itchy and uncomfortable. I liked the cloth, reusable nursing pads by Gerber found at Target. They were super affordable and I would wash them every night by hand and they would be dry the next morning. Of course, I bought enough to have extra in case I didn't wash them.
5. The right nipple cream: This was huge those first few weeks. For me, the only thing I will ever recommend is Medela brand. Lansinoh is much thicker and when you're as sore as you'll be, you want something to go on smoothly. I also had a friend recommend to me to start putting nipple cream on every night a few weeks before the due date to help get your body ready. I did heed this advice I personally think it helped. Compared to others who told me how long their soreness lasted, mine only lasted about 4 days.
Ok, back to breast feeding. Once Jude was born, I was very blessed to have a child that latched well from the get go. I went through the "extrememly sore, need to scream and grip the sheets every time we feed" for a few days, but thankfully, that time passed quickly. If I can offer any advice, DON'T give up. You will be sore, it may be hard and frustrating, but it really is worth it. I also greatly encourage having your husband on board. Justin was wonderful during this process. Because he went to the class with me, he new the different positions it takes to teach the baby and me what we're doing and he was great. I also encourage heeding help from a lactation consultant. We were blessed to have 2 available to us through our hospital, free of charge. The gave a lactation appointment before leaving the hospital as well as 3 days after leaving to "check in". We also had a weekly support group. It was great to have access to such helpful people.
During my time nursing, following the schedule of Baby Wise worked for us. Jude fed every 3 hours for the fist 6 weeks and we eventually backed it up as we needed it to according to his needs. Once Jude started sleeping through the night (9:30 pm-5:30 am) I needed to pump after even nursing because I was so full. This ended up being a huge blessing because I actually put an extra bottle's worth away every day and really stocked up on my supply in the freezer.
I can honestly say, breast feeding worked well for us. Amid the cross country move, going back to work, and the emotional wreck I often was, I found my sweet time with my boy was what I needed. I used my time nursing (especially those early months when it's SO often) as a time to pray, sing, and talk with Jude.
When Jude was 7 months old, I got a terrible stomach virus and spiked a high fever. I actually totally dried up within 12 hours of becoming sick and was so distraught. I cried and cried but thankfully, my stock was up. I pumped or nursed every 2 hours and finally after 2 full days, my milk came back. (I also took some supplements and drank a lot of tea.) However, my milk did not come back fully. At that time, I began to have to supplement with formula 1/2 the amount of milk for Jude every day. (By January, his milk amount had gone down enough that what I was producing was enough, so he actually only needed formula for about 3 months.)
I continued to breast feed (of course, I pumped while at work) to supply all his milk needs through his 1st year. I made my goal! At 11 months, I started mixing my breast milk with oraganic milk a little at a time so by his 1st birthday, he was pretty much completely on whole milk. Once Jude turned 1 year, I personally wasn't quite ready emotionally to stop nursing. I no longer pumped at work, but I continued to nurse Jude in the mornings and right before bed for another month. It was a sweet time for us to continue to snuggle and bond. At 13 months, I stopped the evening feedings (I honestly think he was probably only getting an ounce or so at this point any way) and only nursed in the mornings for another week. The last time I breast fed Jude, I knew it would be the last and I did cry. I loved the time I got to spend with him because it was something only I could provide for him.
I do want to emphasize that I do not think breast feeding is for everyone. I know that not all women have an easy time as I did nor are certain jobs as flexible as mine to allow for pumping and such. As I stated before, this is what worked for us. Justin loved the fact that I breast fed Jude to my goal date and was always supportive. He was great about feeding Jude with my milk in bottles throughout the entire 1st year of Jude's life and we found a system that really worked for us. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have a good amount of milk, as well as rich milk that gave Jude what he needed. My experience was one that I am very thankful for and I can only imagine how hard it is to want to breast feed and can't. I also do not judge those women who for whatever reason choose to go straight to formula. Every mother and child are different. Again, this is what worked for us and I hope that something I learned through my experience can be beneficial to others.