What does breastfeeding mean to you?
Breastfeeding has been a natural extension of pregnancy for me. It has given me a tremendous amount of confidence as a new mom to know that my body can continue to nourish our son. I think the transition from pregnancy to having a baby can be a bit of a shock to our systems when we're so used to having this amazing connection that is just between mom and baby. I feel like breastfeeding has allowed me to continue to have that unique connection outside of the womb, something that is just between my son and I. He and my husband have other wonderful ways that they bond, and I like that we share different connections with him.
Who (or what) has helped you along this journey?
Amanda Ogden at The Mama'hood has been an incredible resource and support. I went to her breastfeeding groups when I was pregnant, which was an incredibly helpful experience. I was able to see all of these moms with various breastfeeding challenges get help and support and continue to feed their babies in the way they wanted. I really cannot express my gratitude for this local resource enough! I also read the La Leche League book "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" while I was pregnant, which was also very helpful. I referred to it multiple times in the early days of breastfeeding to troubleshoot issues and get reassurance about what was "normal" for newborn breastfed babies since we still largely live in a bottle feeding culture.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
Our son had a minor tongue tie, which caused a number of challenges in the very beginning. He was gaining weight, but not as quickly as he should have been, and I was in a tremendous amount of pain. I had a couple short bouts of mastitis, he was eating nonstop, and those first couple weeks were very physically and emotionally taxing. Thanks to Amanda at The Mama'hood, we found out when he was 2 weeks old that he had a minor tongue tie (in addition to a high palate) that was making it difficult for him to extract milk efficiently, particularly on my left breast as that nipple is a bit shorter. He would fall asleep nursing because it was so much extra work, and then he'd wake up *starving*. After our visit to Dr. Cathers at Pediatric Dental Group in Lakewood, things turned around very quickly! Dr. Cathers was wonderful, the procedure was very quick, and I was able to nurse Max right away in the exam room. One dose of Tylenol that evening and then we were on track toward a very healthy nursing relationship. After steady, but slow, weight gain before we found out about his tongue tie, he gained 4oz in 2 days after his frenulectomy--amazing how that thin band of tissue was hindering effective feeding so much! By 3-4 weeks, my pain was almost completely gone and Max was eating like a champ. It's been incredibly easy ever since!
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
Oh it's so hard to pick just one thing! I knew that I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn't realize how much I would love it. There are many things I love about breastfeeding, but I think the thing I love most is that it gives me multiple times each day where my only focus is on me and Max. Those are our moments to cuddle close, hold and kiss his little hands, make goofy faces at each other, and just enjoy the quiet closeness. Now that he's older and is so much more interactive, I've been making a conscious effort to try not to do anything else during breastfeeding (get on my phone, read, etc.) so that my full attention is on Max, and it's been an incredibly wonderful experience to have that connection. As they get older, they don't need to nurse as long because they are more efficient at eating, so I'm trying to soak it all up now because before I know it, this kiddo won't need this from me anymore, and I know I'm going to miss it.
Any advice for moms who want to breastfeed?
Pain is common, but it's not *normal*. Some tenderness in the beginning is one thing, but actual pain is not OK. It means something is "off", and it doesn't necessarily mean that breastfeeding won't work for you! It just means you might need some help. That's another thing I highly recommend--during pregnancy, find a qualified lactation consultant (preferably an IBCLC) and support group. You may not need it, but if you do, you *really* need it, and it's nice to not have to hunt for help when you're in the midst of newborn days and postpartum hormones. Also, it gets so much easier! The first few weeks are challenging, even if you don't have problems with latching, pain, etc. You will feel like you are doing nothing else but feeding the baby around the clock, and you pretty much are. It's exhausting, but it's a *good* thing. It ensures a healthy milk supply and gives you and babe lots of practice to get good at this new thing. I'd say somewhere between 4-6 weeks, I felt like I really had a grip on things and felt confident enough to nurse in public. By 8 weeks, I felt like a pro. I attribute my confidence to the support I got through The Mama'hood. Our culture is still largely a bottle-feeding culture (even if it's breast milk in the bottle), and it is extremely helpful to be around other women who are primarily or exclusively feeding their babies from the breast. It's a different way of feeding than what we're used to seeing (even though it's what we're naturally designed to do), and having that support is so helpful. Really think about what your goals are, and know that there is help out there to help you reach or exceed those goals.