What They Don’t Tell You…

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Ok, so, on my whole, “creating a family” journey it seems like a lot of crap is left out and other stuff is over emphasized. I’m not going to get in to the whole “Natural Birth vs. Interventions” argument although I would like to point out that I was actually able to sleep in between contractions with Zane. Yes. Sleep. Wake up, moan through a contraction, and back to sleep. Just food for thought.

But anyway, this is how I feel like birth and breastfeeding had/have been presented to me:

Labor and delivery is the most excruciating, horrible, terrifying experience you will ever go through. But the medical staff will help you through it, so don’t worry. If you want an all natural birth you’re a weirdo.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural, special way of bonding with your child that can benefit him/her for years to come. If you formula feed you are essentially handicapping your child.

My issue with the birth stance is just too exhausting to get into at the moment, but let me take a few moments to explain some of the things I’ve learned about breastfeeding that the medical community seems to be awful reluctant to share (or maybe just don’t know about?).

Myth 1. “If it hurts, you’re doing something wrong.” Nope. Not only is a little nipple soreness normal for that first week, if you have babies with tiny mouths and recessed chins (like mine) then accomplishing a latch that doesn’t hurt like the dickens is neigh on impossible at first. It isn’t your FAULT. It IS something to continue to work on because babies do get better at it with practice and a good latch doesn’t hurt at all-but I can’t make Zane’s mouth physically open any wider at this point, it’s just the way it goes.

-also, some babies have lip ties, or tongue ties, or you may have flat nipples, or inverted ones, or any other list of possible issues that can lead to difficulty getting a comfortable latch. My point is, this is NORMAL to experience at the beginning. It needs to be addressed and corrected, but it isn’t as rare as it’s presented. If your nipples hurt, find a lactation consultant, and know you are not alone.

*also know that the soreness doesn’t magically go away with one good latch. It might take a week or more for baby to figure out how to latch consistently and your nipples may (will) hurt until that is figured out.*

Myth 2. It is a wonderful bonding experience with your newborn.

Ok, so, maybe this is true for a lot of women, but it isn’t for me. It’s a heck of a lot of work and pain. It is my absolute least favorite part of newborn care. This go around I ended up with thrush within the first week home with Zane. Ever had your nipples tattooed with flaming needles that stab up into your armpits? That’s what thrush feels like. Yeah, great bonding experience there… I also had a clogged duct during week 2 and a friction blister that is STILL healing. Breastfeeding is a lot easier around the month mark, and then I can truly start appreciating the unique experience with my child, but as a newborn-it sucked with Cade and it sucks again with Zane. I much prefer the snuggly moments when he sleeps on my chest for bonding.

*You aren’t a horrible mom for feeling this way. You aren’t somehow deficient for struggling with nursing your child. Mothering isn’t easy, our bodies aren’t perfect, you aren’t alone. It does get better.*

Myth 3. It’s natural.

Ok, this isn’t really a myth, but the statement still irks me. Maybe because I feel like saying something is “natural” means it should be instinctive and easy. I heard so many stories about babies being born and placed on their mom’s bare chest and doing cute little squirms and wiggles before seamlessly latching on and having their first meal…I was totally unprepared for how clueless Cade was about nursing. He couldn’t figure out what to do with a boob no matter how many times I squished his little face to it. He licked it, and mouthed it, and got all kinds of ticked off when it dripped in his face. It’s a learning process for the mom AND the infant, no matter how “natural” the process is. Zane gets so mad sometimes when trying to latch I have to put my pinky finger in his mouth to remind him how to suck (and to calm him down a little) and then when I re-present my breast he latches on like, “Oh, right. This fixes the hunger issue. I forgot…”

*Every woman and child is unique, which means your experience is unique. Take comfort knowing you aren’t the only mom and baby to go through a breastfeeding learning curve, and don’t try to hold yourself to some fabricated standard (which you’ve most likely compiled from all the nursing stories you’ve heard and merged into an unatainable state of perfect mother/child experience….not that I’ve done this or anything. 😉 ).

Lastly, a little bit of bottle or formula won’t necessarily permenantly destroy your attempts at breastfeeding. I had to supplement with both Cade and Zane because of latch issues and then high bilirubin. I just had to get them fed with something to flush out the bilirubin, BUT we still nursed as often as possible and kept working on latching. I also pumped on my right side for a day during the thrush madness because I was in tears when Zane latched on that side, I had to give it a break. I pumped off and on for three days, and then once the thrush cleared was back to exclusively breastfeeding. Sometimes you just have to find what works for you and your baby, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So there you have it. I am a proponent of breastfeeding, but I think the reason some women give up on it is because it is presented as this easy, natural, painless process and they are completely unprepared for the reality of that first month of nursing. A good lactation consultant is extremely helpful- and that is NOT the same as a nurse who works in labor & delivery. Some of those nurses may be just great, but in my experience with Cade I ended up with a boatload of conflicting breastfeeding advice. With Zane I actually got in touch with a lactation consultant from the LaLeche League and she has been fantastic.

It does becomes an easy, painless thing- which is why I’m pushing through the discomfort with Zane. It is so nice not to have to worry about warming a bottle or buying formula. I can be outside playing with Cade and Zane gets hungry so I just pop him out of the Moby wrap and place him on a boob. It cuts down on my “awake” time at night, it makes travel easier, it makes soothing fussiness easier, it really helps with keeping the baby healthier, there are so many great things about breastfeeding. But that first month can be difficult, really really difficult, and I wish someone had told me that before I had Cade.

***On a side note, I have no issue with babies that are formula fed. I only nursed Cade for the first 6 months, and given the exact same scenario I would wean him again at that time. I am hoping to breastfeed Zane for longer this go round, but I do believe the overall health and well being of the MOM should also be taken into account during the breastfeeding relationship. 🙂

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