Friday, May 22, 2009

Breastfeeding: Way Better Than I Expected

I thought breastfeeding was going to stink because I'd heard such bad things about it. I did have a problem or two during the first week, but I got help on day 5 from the lactation consultant at the hospital and she got me back on track.
There is a lot I could say about this subject, but I'll summarize and say that I've been surprised at how I've felt about breastfeeding.

For example, at Baby Q's two month appointment, the nurse said, "You're breastfeeding?"
"Yup!" I said.
"Any supplements?"
"Nope!" And I was surprised by the rush of pride I felt at telling her, it's just my milk. It's just my milk that's making this baby grow.

I was also surprised at how angry I was- just a flash of anger that I quickly tamped down because I knew it was unnecessary- when my husband suggested giving Baby Q an ounce or two of formula one night when Q was being cranky and wanting to eat and eat and not fall asleep. This was about a month ago.
Me (tired, at end of rope, approaching 11pm): "I don't know why this baby won't go to bed!"
Corey: "Well, do you want to give him some formula?"
He had heard that formula makes babies sleep, and I think he was also thinking I was tired of breastfeeding Q.
Me (feeling really pissed for a second, then realizing that was a crazy way to feel): "Mmmm... No. I'll just keep feeding him."

I forget how the rest of the conversation went, but I felt inside me a renewed determination to trust that my baby was hungry and just needed to eat, or needed me to help him go to sleep, or just wasn't tired. I let my husband make the bottle in case I did lose it, but I kept breastfeeding Q, and he fell asleep.
And actually, I wasn't angry at my husband- I was angry at myself for getting frustrated with my baby. And I was very, very tired. But being told I had a way out reminded me that I did not want that way out. Rationally, I understand that formula is fine, but I didn't want to open that avenue for fear I'd rely on it, lessen my milk production, and be unable to breastfeed my baby.

I don't mean to make my husband look bad. Several other times, when Q was being cranky and wanting to eat and eat, the conversation went like this:
Me (tired, at end of rope, approaching 11pm): "I don't know why this baby won't go to bed! He just wants to eat and eat. Maybe I don't have enough milk."
Corey: "He's just a growing boy."
This happened more than once: me questioning if I had enough milk, and my husband saying, sure you do.
And I think I do. The baby is growing, so... it's all working out.

Breastfeeding is hard because you really have to trust yourself and your baby. You have to trust that you have milk, and you have to trust that your baby is hungry if he wants to eat. (Even though it's like, the 6th hour of breastfeeding that day. Believe me- I kept track of the minutes the first few weeks.)
There is a big learning curve with breastfeeding. The first couple weeks are hard because you're tired, you're sore, you're worn out, you're hormonal. It really smooths out after the first month though. And I'd say, from the beginning, it went well for me, because I headed off the couple of problems I encountered the first week by visiting and calling the lactation consultants. I love them.

You've also got to have the right supplies for breastfeeding:
1. Brest Friend nursing pillow
2. Medela lanolin for your sore boobs (that goes away after a few weeks)
3. Boob pads- I prefer disposable bc I haven't found washables that I like
4. Good nursing cover so you can feed your hungry baby when your husband's friends are over
5. Trashy magazines, laptop, iPhone, so you always have something fun to do while baby is on the boob (TV is OK, but I don't like my baby to hear TOO much crap while he's eating- plus our TV is downstairs and that couch is too deep to breastfeed comfortably)

I will say, here is what is stressful about breastfeeding: you're the only one who can do the job of feeding the kid. Frankly, I take great pride in that. I want to be the most important person in my kid's life. I'm selfish and obsessive like that. Plus, on a more practical level, I'm not working: breastfeeding is my job. I want to do that job. I think I'm good at it, so I feel good about doing it.
But it is hard being the one who has to get up every 2, 3, or 4 hours at night- you simply can't sleep if the baby wants to eat. That hasn't been a problem for me yet. I'm not working, and I'm not going to work until he's 10 months old. I don't feel stressed about getting him to sleep through the night yet. I'm perfectly fine feeding him whenever he wants to eat. It would be so shitty if I had to go back to work at 8 or 12 weeks. That would be really, really hard. My friends who do that have had to work harder at getting their baby on a better night schedule. It's not easy.
I do get tired. I do crave sleep really badly sometimes (right now, at 930 pm Friday, I'm fine. This morning at 6:30 am, I made my husband get up and change the baby, then bring him to me to feed in bed- and I swear, I slept during the three minutes my husband changed him. And yesterday morning around the same time, I vaguely recall saying, "Take him away so I can sleep." And I got a full 50 minutes of "don't have to worry about baby waking up because I'm not in charge of him right now" time.
If I do get worn down, I take action. I don't make plans for the day, and I make it a priority to get Q to sleep during the day (not always a guarantee). In the first month, I'd even skip dinner to sleep if I needed to, because I know how TERRIBLE I can be if I'm tired. I did have a rough week last week- I had trouble getting back to sleep at 1 am, then 4 am... and I did get worn down. But that's when you stop and reset: cancel the plans, stay at home for a day or two, get recharged.

But in general, the best advice I got, which wasn't advice, but it was how I set my mind after a billion people told me, "Sleep now while you can." That wasn't good advice. What 10 month pregnant lady can sleep? DUH!!! But that made me think I'd better treat infanthood like I was a Navy SEAL. You know, go in expecting hellish sleep deprivation, then be surprised at it being only a little worse than those college all-nighters. Or, maybe easier, but with added challenges of breastfeeding, hormones, and the insane thing that is the post-pregnancy body.

But I think maybe my baby's just easy. He's not colicky. He only cries if he's hungry or tired. If I take care of those two things, he's fine.

But oh, the boy does not like the car. He screams and shouts, I think because I often put him in the car when he's tired, because I've learned I can stay home for 6 hours trying to get him to nap, or I can go out, endure a car ride of crying, but then have him fall asleep in his sling while I'm shopping or walking. I'd be stuck at home all day if I didn't hear him cry. But oh, he gets hysterical in the car. It's bad. His crying makes me skin crawl.

God, I'm kind of boring myself. I just wanted to say that breastfeeding is pretty cool.

PS- you are allowed to drink while breastfeeding. Just don't drink on an empty stomach, or your body WILL use that to make the milk. Baby won't get drunk, but he may be irritable. So only drink if you have eaten and/or are eating. And don't get totally plastered.


Anonymous said...

Aside from a bunch of blocked ducts and a really nasty dose of mastitis, I really loved breastfeeding. I was so sad when I gave it up with my second and knew it was going to be my last kid. It's such an amazingly close feeling with your baby.

Neither my mom or nor my mother-in-law breastfed, and my son was really colicky so I had both of them telling me I was starving him to death. I wanted to murder them both. But I persevered and didn't give him anything other than breast milk until he was over four months old.

And a week from today the kid is going to turn 16 and he's taller than me. Enjoy these moments, even through the haze of exhaustion, because it passes SO QUICKLY!!

Michael said...

You're turning into quite a mom, Kristine. Keep up the great work.

Julie said...

I am so glad you had your baby first so you can help me through this whole thing when the time comes! And that you will still be on leave.... You're doing great! Keep up the good work :)