Monday, December 19, 2011

By Request: Update 2 "The Ugly: Breast Feeding and Mother Guilt"


*Warning: Grown-up language and a nursing picture*

You may or may not remember the struggles with breastfeeding that little man and I had at the start of outside-adventure together. A few of you definitely do because I've been asked recently for another update.

The reader's digest version: I like breastfeeding. PJ likes breastfeeding. The struggle was worth it. I am proud of us. To all new and about-to-be mothers, I recommend giving nursing a damn good shot.

The longer version is somewhat more complicated:

PJ was exclusively breastfed for about 6 weeks before he started stealing food and we introduced solids. He still nurses anywhere from eight to ten times a day and is gleeful (seriously, he giggles and wiggles around with joy) when he starts to nurse. Breastfeeding doesn't hurt anymore - it should NEVER hurt after the initial soreness and once the relationship is established - and I enjoy the spike of relaxing hormones during and after each nursing session. I love the growing weight of my little man in my arms and I love dosing off while he wraps his tiny fingers around my thumb. I love how when he is finished he dramatically smacks off and then cuddles his head against my breast with a satisfied smile. I even like when he wiggles and giggles through an entire meal. I love how convenient and simple nursing has become for us both. I'm looking forward to the day when PJ starts to reliable sleep more than three hours at a time - and Lord knows there are times I wish I could unscrew one of my ladies and hand it to the Mr so that he could take over the 3 or 4am feeding - but I'm extremely thankful that our nursing relationship works.

As the weeks somehow fly by, I become even more grateful for the love from the Mr., the real information and foundational support from the La Leche League, and for the encouragement that I got from a myriad of people, both in real life and over the Internet. I kept going because I am incredibly stubborn and strong willed but your back-up and support as well as your permission to turn to formula made my stubbornness a little less than insane. I don't know how to say thank you enough.

But I am also becoming even more pissed off for the shitty information and treatment I got from the "established" medical community. Some of that treatment included:
  • smashing PJ's face so hard into my breast that he got scared of my breast ... as well as holding my breast so tightly while smashing my infant's face against me that I literally had a bruise the shape of said "professional lactation consultant's" hand on my breast for a number of days.
  • hurtful statements that broke my confidence like "well, I guess you just aren't cut out for nursing" when sore nipples are pretty normal for a first time mom
  • alarmist and untrue statements like "he isn't getting enough to eat!" while he was gaining weight just fine
  • retarded statements like "wait 1.5 hours so that he is really hungry" when he needed to suckle for more milk and comfort and I needed him to demand more milk AND "you need to pump to stimulate more milk" when I didn't need to pump I needed my baby on my breast
What I really needed was to hear "this is so normal" and "it takes a little bit of time and skill but you two will do this" and other informed and true statements. Thankfully I did, finally.

In the end it took us about 10 weeks for our relationship to really get established (the pain completely gone, his latch regularly successful, I aware of his early hungry signs, etc). With a good support system and without horrible advice at the beginning, I think it may take less for others. So, yeah, I recommend giving nursing a damn good shot. But even more I recommend doing what is right for you, for your child, and for your family. And only you know what that may be. For us that was breastfeeding with supplementing and then breastfeeding exclusively and now breastfeeding while introducing little man to solid foods.


At 6 weeks, when nursing just started working.


Just yesterday at 23 weeks




xo
Oh, and I still fucking hate that damn pump.

3 comments:

Anna Eaton said...

I don't understand why everyone says breastfeeding shouldnt hurt. Maybe that is true once its established and maybe that caveat should always be mentioned.

Everyone I have ever talked to mentions the period of time (a week-2 weeks, in my case 4 weeks) where it does hurt incredibly. I mean this little vulture has an incredible sucking power and since that is all he can do, you can be sure he's gonna do it with gusto. Then your nipple is going to be pulled 2 inches out and held there with a suction for 10-15 minutes. I mean c'mon it sounds painful. I get upset because LLL told me it shouldnt hurt and I was frustrated because it did. It would have been 10X more effective and comforting to tell me, it hurts in the beginning, but it goes away. Thank goodness I had my own mom and sister-in-law to reassure me that the pain is normal and it will go away.

If people would just say it hurts for a short time compared to the extent of breastfeeding, I think more people would continue. But this pain for a couple weeks could really turn off people, especially when they are constantly told it shouldn't hurt. That is frustrating and really hurts the mom's morale.

I really despised my lactation consultant. She made me hold my baby for 45 minutes on one breast. Ended up injuring the nipple which lead to mastitis with the first. The second time around, I ignored them and asked them to not come to my room. I need to blog about this as well...The more people the better!

Pickles and Onions said...

Anna - you are so right and my text was not clear. I'm going to update it a bit so that it reflects what I actually meant.

YES! Please do blog about it. We have lost that generational family that was the source of so much support and information in the past - awesome that yours was there!

Mary Craig said...

The view of you and PJ around the six week mark is a familiar sight, and I love picturing you now based on the new photo (breastfeeding may be part of what has slimmed you so nicely).

I wonder if the guidance about the presence or absence of pain gets confusing because moms and babies are all so different and no one can really predict another person's perception of what "pain" is.

When I recollect my own experience, I can remember using Lansinoh for cracked nipples (=pain), a few bouts of mastitis (=pain), nursing my daughter without a proper "latch" until we got that worked out (=dull or bruised-feeling pain), and intense pain for about 30 seconds after latch on when nursing my toddler through pregnancy number two (like being pierced by a nail, but then subsiding).

None of these pain situations caused me to question whether or not to proceed with breastfeeding. I aimed for child-led weaning but ended up, finally, initiating the change in both cases: child one at 38 months and child two at 45 months, with a nine month tandem overlap. Worth every second, although my husband often wished I was less "touched out" and more open to his advances. I do think breastfeeding affected my overall "intimacy quotient" and made me crave time when no one was touching me. I'd be curious to know how that is for other women.

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