Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Real Thoughts on Breastfeeding

I thought since I birthed drug-free, that breastfeeding would be a cinch.  


Baby had a couple of problems that made it very difficult to breastfeed.  There were many times during those weeks that I was quite sleep-deprived and at my wits end; quitting would have been a lot easier--and I got a ton of bad advice too. 

Maybe Baby really just couldn't nurse - had I considered that possibility?  It wouldn't be the end of the world anyway if I had to give expressed milk in a bottle and then do formula 100%.  After all, other people had done it, Dave and I were formula-fed too as babies, and everyone turned out fine and happy in the end.  The important thing was that it had to work for me, right?  

The thought of discontinuing breastfeeding earlier than planned was painful but not for reasons most people assume.  Let me explain:  

Deep down, it just didn't seem right or fair to me that I, as her mother could quit whenever it was convenient, but push my daughter to not quit when things were tough.  I wanted to teach my girl to not give up on things that are worthwhile.  I wanted her to gain confidence in learning you can do something you thought you couldn't.  If I quit breastfeeding because it was so hard, what kind of message would I be sending to my child as she got older when she wants to drop out of a tough math course or learning a new instrument?  Not what I wanted to do as her parent!  

Plus I didn't want to risk wondering the rest of my life if I could have tried harder with learning to breastfeed.  I decided to continue to try to nurse because I felt that she was capable of learning and so was I.  

It was A LOT OF WORK to get it down and once I did, I was happy, stunned and amazed.  I couldn't believe how much confidence I gained as a result from that experience, along with an extreme amount of self-satisfaction.  Breastfeeding was now wonderful, not hard, stressful or painful. 

I want every mom to have the excellent support I had and none of the BS!

If breastfeeding is something you want to do and are having problems:

See a lactation consultant ASAP, don't delay 
We started going to one when Baby was 5 days old with several follow up visits for a little over a month.  I had the assistance of a wonderful lactation consultant (Lois at the University of Utah Hospital Outpatient Lactation Clinic).  She was very patient and understanding with me and my baby when I felt no one else wasn't.  And it was affordable. 

The majority of the feedback and advice I received from the LC revolved around something that is underrated: route repetition.  

In addition, we addressed one problem at a time per visit, not everything at once because that is how problems are overlooked.  Each visit it was pretty much: "I followed through with solving Problem X.  I now have a problem with Y and need to address that"  The lactation consultant helped address each issue per visit, and were solved by the time I went back for follow-up.  

Stick to the LC's recommendation plan.  
Follow the plan to a "T"  

Don't throw in the tips/advice your family and/or friends suggested in between the LC's recommendation plan.  I cannot stress this enough!  If a doctor told you to take a medicine at 75mg twice a day, you're not going to take a friend's medicine at 50mg once a day...even though it worked for her, right?  If the LC tells you to do skin-to-skin 20 minutes before every feeding, don't throw in the advice of a friend to use a nipple shield because it worked for her.  

I strongly believe you're more likely to be successful and less stressed out seeking UNBIASED feedback and EVIDENCE-BASED advice from a professional than from family and friends.  I am not putting down or judging family and friends, I simply did not choose to look to them for advice on nursing.  Anyone who hasn't helped a lot of moms and babies, will not help me with continuing to nurse successfully.  I think this is common sense!  

Other thoughts
I do feel a bit conflicted wanting to support women and their choices and not hurt feelings when it comes to breastfeeding advice.  I could say:

"I understand how hard it is to nurse.  I've been there.  Don't feel guilty if it doesn't work out.  
Do what works for you.  In the end, you are a good mom"  

But I really don't think that's good or helpful advice to give to a mother who desperately wants to nurse and is struggling. To me, that is giving the mother permission to quit, and that's bad because if she did quit earlier than planned, she may wonder later on if she could have done more or try harder with nursing.  

I believe the best breastfeeding advice would be to encourage the mother to keep going and to see a qualified lactation consultant because only they have the training and experience necessary to properly assess the problem and develop a recommendation plan for your specific case.  Seeing a lactation consultant was the best and most reliable help I got to make breastfeeding successful.  

Also, nothing is fun until you're good at it.  Things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where most people tend to give up.  A lot of people get annoyed when they're told "Keep trying"
Why not keep trying?  There's the chance it could work out and be surprised that you did better, way better than you thought you ever could.  

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