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 another...you'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 house...you 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 itself...it 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 it....it'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?
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
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