June 8, 2010 § 2 Comments
I suppose it’s best to begin at the beginning.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. It just made sense to me. Not to mention that my mother breastfed me until I was 4.
I successfully labored for 12 hours without so much as a Tylenol to take the edge off, and my baby boy was born on September 1, 2009, at 6 pounds, 14 ounces. He dropped to 6 pounds, 2 ounces, within a couple of days, and he’s been a tiny guy ever since. At his nine-month well baby visit last week, he was 16 pounds, 3 ounces.
(His middle name is Gustavo, which has earned him the nickname Goose, so that’s what I’ll be calling him on this blog!)
Breastfeeding was very difficult for me at first. It was terribly painful, and the little guy would eat for an hour or an hour and a half — every other hour! Now I know that serious latch problems were causing the pain, and Goose probably wasn’t getting enough milk. He wasn’t actually eating for a straight 90 minutes. Picture someone trying to drink out of a straw, but the straw is being pinched, so only a little liquid gets through; that’s what was happening to us, and that’s why he was trying so hard to eat and not having much success.
Instead of getting help, as any sane person would have done, I just pushed through the pain. It took a solid six weeks before I was able to nurse him without pain. I lived on lanolin and ice packs. We’re talking 10 to 12 hour-long feedings in a 24-hour period, for something like 45 days straight. Each feeding was hell.
Now I ask myself: what the heck was I thinking?
I felt a little better, though, when I went to church and talked to other ladies who breastfed their kids, and it seemed that everyone had problems. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. Breastfeeding is biology. The new mom and the newborn are both learning how to make it work, and it takes patience and diligence.
Now, nine months down the road, we’re pros. I can breastfeed standing, sitting, lying down, at home and out in public. Goose loves to nurse, and he loves solid foods. He’s tiny, but he’s a big eater.
My plan is to keep it up until he’s a year old, and then we’ll see how we both feel. I like the idea of extended breastfeeding, and the benefits are substantial, but it would be nice to be able to dress however I want, without having to worry about easy-access clothes; and to be able to leave him with my parents or my in-laws without toting along bags of frozen milk; and not to have to pump every night before bed in order to stock up.
These are small issues, though, when you consider that the American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are at increased risk of illness, and their little immune systems aren’t fully mature until around age five. And, as Dr. Jack Newman says, “In fact, some immune factors in breastmilk that protect the baby against infection are present in greater amounts in the second year of life than in the first.”
I’ll certainly miss the closeness when it’s all over. Because even when I was in agony, I can honestly say that I loved it. I loved the small warm weight of his body against my body; I loved listening for his breathy swallow and tracing the blue veins in his eyelids; I loved how small he was; I loved how much he needed me. I love it still.
That’s still a few months off yet, thank goodness. For now, I’ll share with you a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past nine months.
1. Expect breastfeeding to be uncomfortable at first. You’ve never done it before, it might feel strange! But it shouldn’t be painful. If it’s painful for more than two or three days, please, call a lactation consultant or a La Leche League leader to do an assessment and fix the problem. Don’t give up!
2. It’s probably a latch problem. Those newborn mouths are so small! Fix the latch, fix the problem.
3. If you can make it through the first two weeks, you can make it to a month. If you can make it to a month, you can make it indefinitely. Don’t give up!
4. Just remember, when you’re up at 1 am feeding the baby, bleary-eyed with fatigue, overwhelmed with new responsibilities and surging hormones, that millions of women all over the world are doing the exact same thing, at that exact same moment.