Thursday, October 15, 2009

I wish I would have known!

Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding, Readers!
This month's theme is "What I Wish I'd Known."
Please visit the other carnival participants, listed at the very bottom below my original post.

When my 1st child, Claire was born, I thought breastfeeding would be a piece of cake. I had read the LLL book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, attended a breastfeeding class one Saturday morning where we practiced different holds with plastic baby dolls, and attended about 3 LLL meetings in person. I knew everything. What could possibly go wrong? I was also naive enough to think babies woke up only once at night to nurse. What could be so bad about a midnight feeding? Or a 2am feeding? A baby slept all the time, right?

I wasn't prepared for was the exhaustion. I was prepared for missing 2 nights of sleep just getting the baby out...followed by 2 nights of "sleep" in a loud, disruptive hospital setting. (I had never even thought about a homebirth, even though I saw my younger sister born at home when I was a child!) I thought after the baby was born, I would have all sorts of free time since I wouldn't be working. I could get her room painted, even (to this day, it remains white!). I wish I would've know that a successful breastfeeding relationship means HOURS planted on the couch, nursing.

When I came home from the hospital, we had a houseful of guests. I wish I would've known this was a very bad idea. I've heard now that you should never have any overnight guests for the first 6-8 weeks who you would not feel comfortable having sleep in your own bed with you. For most women, this would limit overnight guests to mothers, sisters, and only other very close family and friends. It's just that when I was at my "weakest" state, I did not want a house full of people that I felt like I should have to entertain or would be holding my baby when I wanted to be holding her. Dang it! I waited 9 months for her. NOW GIVE HER TO ME NOW. I wish I would've known that having her away from me means by the time I got her back, her early feeding cues such as rooting or sucking her fists would be missed...she would be full-on screaming by the time someone was ready to hand her back to me to FINALLY nurse. No wonder it took my milk 5 days to come in.

I wish I would've known that I wouldn't feel good. I had no idea. It makes sense though. If you figure a very short labor is still probably at least 5 hours or so with at least an hour of pushing a baby out...that's going to make you pretty tired! But somethings I did learn at an early LLL were helpful...keep your shoulders dropped and RELAXED! I had been using a Boppy Pillow to help position Claire. I wish I would've know that the very pillow designed to HELP nursing, can often contribute to sore nipples, which was very true in my case. I put the pillow on my lap and put her on top. It wasn't high enough, especially because I am so tall, so I was leaning over her to nurse her. This was causing some of my issues with soreness. I even had a scab on my right nipple for about the first three weeks. I found using a thick blanket was much easier and more supportive than the hard Boppy. The Boppy was great from about 2 months - 6 months when she was a bit bigger and had more head control.

I wish I would've known that the painkillers the doctor prescribed me weren't really safe for breastfeeding. I mean, my doctor prescribed them...I TOLD HIM I WAS NURSING....They had to be safe, right?! Wrong. I found that the day I stopped taking the painkillers, my "sleepy/slow-weight-gaining baby" woke up a little bit. Stupid me for not thinking things through and realizing that these painkillers that were making me fuzzy and tired would do the same thing to my little nursling. I also found that sitz baths for my bottom area, ice packs, and ibuprofen much more effective than any prescription that made me feel "out-of-it."

I wish I would've known that MORE weight loss is NORMAL and in an infant with an induction and fluid bags of antibiotics, etc...being pumped into the mother. Of course, with having an OB, he pretty much freaked out when my water had been broken for more than 24 hours and my labor hadn't started "naturally!" Just like the mother is filled with extra fluids, so is the infant, so sometimes the baby will "weigh" more at birth and appear to lose a lot more weight that was actually lost. Claire was at 7.15 and dropped to 6 1/2. The ped. doctor freaked out at her one week check. We were going in for weight checks EVERY OTHER DAY for the next two weeks. I wish someone would've told me that it wasn't really needed. I later found out that "well-baby" checks are usually just based around immunization schedules.

The other thing I wish I would've known was "real" breastfeeding supplies to have on hand. For example, we had a crib. For the early and often feeding, the crib is the worst thing in the world...especially in a house like ours that requires a 5 minute walk from one side of the house to the other (the only time I hate having so much square footage...trying to get to my DD *Dear Daughter* quickly!) I continued to kill myself the first week trying to have her sleep in the crib. By the time she would cry loud enough for an inexperienced new mom like me to hear her, she was already past the point of hungry and be harder to get latched on. I had made arrangements with my husband that he would get her out of the crib, but he wouldn't hear her on the monitor (he has a better excuse than most, as he is HI *hearing impaired*!). So by the time I would shove him enough to wake him up and get her, and then wait for him to bring her to me in the bed, it just was so not worth it. So, in retrospect, now I wish we would've gotten a long guard rail installed and ready on our bed prior to bringing her home rather than messing with a crib. So I sent my DH *dear husband* to buy a guard rail that first week.

Luckily we had a King-Sized Mattress. I would strongly advise anyone who wants to breastfeed, to instead of buying a crib, invest in a King bed. You don't need the frame and box-spring. JUST GET THE MATTRESS ON THE FLOOR! Your kids will end up in bed with you, even if you formula feed, at one point or'll enjoy the extra space! The crib...even if they will sleep in it...won't be good much past 2 years.

What a waste of money! Then skip the toddler bed and go right for a twin mattress on the floor for the toddler or you'll have yet another transition to do. Of course the whole point of having a big bed is so that the baby can sleep with you and nurse at the same time. This way you don't have to get out of bed to fetch the baby, waking up yourself more and the baby more as well. I was happy to nurse Claire throughout the night, as I knew the frequency of night nursing would stave off colds, ear-infections, etc., etc.! It worked too...she never had an ear infection until 13 months, and I swear it was from when we went swimming and the dirty pool water got in her ears. Her only other ear infection was at about 18 months, again, after swimming. It may or may not be related, but frequent night nursing certainly didn't hurt anything.

I also wished we would've had a baby monitor. I thought I wouldn't need it because I would be able to hear her crying. Well, again...I'll be the first to admit that I can be really FREAKING stupid sometimes. He also had to buy a baby monitor. So here we were trying to figure out how to open and unpackage all this new stuff that we should've already done! We have a 2-story definitely don't want a tiny newborn screaming loud enough to hear her across the house or other household noises (ie:dishwashers/washing machines/etc!) I guess SOME people might not mind the screaming, but I quickly realized it was much easier to nurse a mildly-hungry rooting infant vs. a red-faced full-on-screaming infant.

Oh and all the things we didn't have...I did not have a pump. I thought I wouldn't need to buy a breastpump until I went back to work. I thought that was a large expensive that could wait. Well, I became so engorged when my milk finally did come in, that my poor tiny infant could not latch-on to my solid, rock-hard breast tissue! I had not heard about manual expression at this time. Of course, it's in the LLL book that I had, but since I wasn't planning on expressing milk until I went back to work in 6 months, why would I need to learn that now? So, my mother-in-law and her husband were sent on a mission! Find a breastpump! Guess what? Wal-Mart was out of breastpumps. Since dual electric pumps are large ticket items at $150 bucks/pop, they only stock 2 of each type at a time. And they only had 2 types. And they were all gone. And all the manual ones were gone. Did I mention that the local hospital was FULL when I had Claire? Well, it was. They had 18 rooms. I got the last one that weekend she was born. My room didn't have a rocking chair or a DVD player. Seriously...who steals a DVD out of a hospital room. I guess they were really trying to get their monies worth!

Oh, and speaking of hospitals, I wish I would've known that it is not needed to put formula on the breast to tempt the baby to eat. And sometimes, babies are VERY SLEEPY that first 24 hours. Thank goodness my mom came back after sleeping at my house and chucked that little bottle of formula into the trash.

I also quickly learned that some nurses were much more helpful with getting the baby latched on than other nurses. I started asking how long they nursed their babies. Not surprisingly, the one who had successfully nursed 4 was the best at getting Claire on! I've now learned that instead of trying to force the baby on the breast, the best thing to do is hold the breast still for baby, and let baby "bob" for it and attach will do it! It might just take awhile.

I don't know exactly one thing that was particularly rough about breastfeeding...I just wasn't prepared for any of it...the frequency, the soreness, the constant drain and demand. I also did not have a sling! Thankfully, a local LLL group leader, Francesca came to my home with a large box of slings to choose from. I immediately fell in love with my Over-the-Shoulder-Baby-Holder and still use it for my 27 month old while being 14 weeks pregnant! It was also great for nursing. I found I could nurse Claire and eat food myself! It was the best thing ever. I could also nurse her in the sling in a restaurant and while out and about and nobody could see my early weeks of fumbling to discreetly remove my breast from my nursing bra so she could latch-on.

Every second of struggles was completely and totally worth it. Sometimes I think that maybe her not latching-on, being so sleepy, me being so sore, were completely over-exaggerated in my memory...I'm not sure...sometimes I think it's easy for nursing moms to blame breastfeeding as being the bad guy. I know several times in the early days, Josh said that he'd support me in whatever I decided to do (AKA...adding formula to her diet). But fortunately, I did have the foresight to see that adding formula would not make mothering any easier, but it might make it harder in the long run.

See, I grew up allergic to milk. I had to drink this disgusting powdered milk substitute if I wanted milk or I would break out in crazy mad hives. I had done a significant amount of reading about allergies and knew that exclusive nursing for 6 months would dramatically lower her chances of having a milk allergy. I had also read we should avoid 100% of all dairy products for the first year, which we did through the end of her 12th month before introducing yogurt (VERY CAREFULLY) somewhere in the middle of her 13th month. And I am so thankful that we did this, because she is not sensitive to dairy now in anyway. I just wish she wouldn't have had any formula exposure at the hospital with that old nurse trying to get her to wake-up and latch-on. I wish I would've known it was OK to tell that nurse "NO! And get the heck out of my room with that stuff!" What does starting formula have to do with milk allergies? Well, even formula is milk-based! So milk allergies could be aggravated by that!

Anyways, as I start to think about my 2nd baby coming in April, I sometimes get a little terrified about how nursing will go with a newborn this time around. Actually...very terrified! I am happy that Claire is still nursing now at 27 months and plan on letting her self-wean, although she is of course, already weaning.

I've heard 50/50 stories of tandem nursing but I plan on doing's either a love or hate relationship. I plan on tandem nursing because breast cancer has killed women on both sides of my family, and for every day longer that my breasts lactate, I am directly reducing the chance that I'll get breast cancer. Also, Josh has very bad allergies and asthma. Every day that Claire nurses, she reduces her chances of that. So those are just a couple reasons why I plan to let her nurse as long as she keeps asking for nummies.

I've also heard that when having a newborn, some people quickly resent the newborn for "interrupting" things, and that some people resent the older child for "being in the way." It seems 50/50 in that area too. I'm not sure how I'll feel about either of these things, but it also seems like nursing Claire will help with the breastfeeding of the new baby as she can help bring in the milk. She'll be a few months shy of being 3 when the new baby comes. I think that no matter what, I'll be prepared to expect the unexpected. Any tips on nursing two? Please do tell as well! What do you wish you would've know about nursing in the wee weeks?

Other Carnival of Breastfeeding Posts!

What I Wish I'd Known Back Then About Breastfeeding - by Christina at Massachusetts Friends of Midwives

If I'd Known Then... - by Whozat at Lucy and Ethel have a Baby

What I Wish I’d Known Then – My List For Next Time - by Rebekah at Momma's Angel

You Don't Have to Grin and Bear It - by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite!

What I Wish I Would Have Known About Breastfeeding - Birth Activist

4 Things I'd Known About Breastfeeding - Three Girl Pile-Up

I wish I had known then…that it wasn’t up to me alone - Happy Bambino

What I Wish I'd Known Then - A Poem - My World Edenwild

When breastfeeding begins badly, and what I should have done about it - The Milk Mama

AP Principle #2: What I wish I'd known when I started breastfeeding - Hobo Mama

Trust Yourself and Your Body - Breastfeeding 1-2-3

Nursing Wisdom - Cave Mother

When Breastfeeding Feels Wrong - Fighting Off Frumpy

15 Breastfeeding Facts I Wish I'd Known as a First Time Breastfeeding Mum - Breastfeeding Mums

Wish I'd Heard More Good Things - Fancy Pancakes

Breastfeeding is Life Changing - Blacktating


Joshua Starr said...

Great posting Maria. You have done such a great job with your boobies!

I know Claire's good health is directly correlated to how long she has been nursing. There were definitely some trials and tribulations in the beginning, but like with anything, we learn what works and go from there. I am unsure what to expect with our second one, but we'll figure it out.

The support network you found with LLL was able to offer you quite a bit in the way of shared experiences and friendship -- I'm glad you're a part of that.

Thanks for doing what's best for Claire and being such a great mom and wife.

P.S. That Ham/Swiss Quiche you made tonight was out of this world. Thanks ;)


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Maria!

Nursing two: I wish I had known that the toddler would wake me up to nurse at night more than the newborn. Night weaning the toddler became a necessity for me to get ANY sleep and was not an easy road to travel. This time around, night weaning happened before the arrival of the newborn and it went much easier and was mostly led by her.

Setting boundaries on nursing can be good, especially during pregnancy and while nursing two. Between sore nipples and feeling touched out, sometimes it's everything you have to just nurse for 10 seconds, and that's okay! You'll be a better mommy for respecting your own needs (even if the toddler isn't so happy about it.)

Patty said...

Great post Maria!! I have heard tandem nursing is one of those things you cannot plan on doing or not doing, as your toddler will determine that...But being prepared for that possibility is wonderful!! I hope that breastfeeding your second goes as well as it has for me...MUCH easier than the first time around!!

Kelly said...

Great post Maria. I'm hoping that you have an easier time w/ your second. This time you wont be a nervous first time mommy, and to me at least, that alone has made a HUGE difference in how things have gone.

Whozat said...

We didn't have anyone come stay with us after Peeper was born, but I totally understand that "GIVE ME MY BABY!" feeling.

By the time she was a couple of weeks old, I felt like I should call up anyone I'd ever visited when they had a newborn and apologize!

Melodie said...

This is a fantastic list of things for new moms to know and all so true! I tanem nursed for five months because my then 2 1/2 yr old was NOT ready to give it up. But some do. You'll just have to follow your dd's cues. It's not bad and I was surprised how sweet my 1st dd was with my 2nd at the breast. She really loved sharing mommy with her. They rarely nursed at the same time though.

Rebekah said...

Love this post, sounds a lot like myself except that my daughter is almost four, weaned just after three so she won't be nursing when we have another, she'll be a big sister. I was wondering, did you ever find a railing for a king size bed? For the first few months we had mattresses on the floor but then we got a normal king size bed with box and frame. I still want the security without being up against a wall or something.

Fancy Pancakes said...

Totally with you on the best advice for new moms being "sit your butt on the couch, don't have visitors for a week unless you are comforatble being topless in front of them with huge nipples and engorged boobies, and make your husband or mom do everything like feed you, bring you water, charge your phone, and adjust your pillows."
It is just not worth it to please other people when you need to be nurturing the breastfeeding relationship.
Luckily I knew that from seeing my sister not move from the couch for a week with her first. Thank GOD she had kids first, and let me be a big part of their births.
Plus I am totally selfish, and said, "No visitors the first week, sorry, just me and my husband." That was an awesome week, actually, despite how sore I was. He took very good care of me, and that still means a lot to this day.
I hear from a lot of people that having visitors messes up their ability to breastfeed (and nap!!!) as much as they need to. You don't realize, until you breastfeed, how important that first week is, and how much work and time it takes.

Elita said...

Yes, yes and more yes! I don't understand why we invade the space of news parents when what they need most is to bond with their baby. I get that some moms relish company both for the adult conversation and the chance to sneak away for a shower, but I think for most of us, we just need some time to settle in with our new role as mom and sole source of nutrition. I felt like such an anti-social jerk after I had my son because I just didn't want anyone around.

Rita/Fighting Off Frumpy said...

I can totally relate to the crib thing! Our middle son had JUST transitioned from our bed to his own when our youngest was born - and I was so glad to finally have freed up some bed space that I VOWED the new baby would sleep in a crib, even though I was breastfeeding. But you know what? He hasn't slept for even one night in there. It's so much easier to just cosleep and nurse him throughout the night - and I've gotten tons more sleep. :)

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post and so full of truth! My early days of nursing (and he's only 6 months now) were full of ups and downs and frustrations.

I can especially relate to having people holding him when we came home and he was first born. I felt sooo possessive, it was so instinctive... and got me so emotional.

Thank you for sharing all of this! So much of it resounds with me and is so important.