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I am a breastfeeding advocate. The one, maybe only, thing I was sure of as I prepared to have a baby was that I wanted to breastfeed. I had daydreams of my baby and me cuddling in a sunny corner, me gazing lovingly into his eyes as he nursed happily away. Those dreams have since become a reality, but it wasn’t without a lot of tears, hard work, anxiety, a super-supportive husband and the help of two amazing lactation consultants.
"The biggesst myth surrounding breastfeeding is that it is easy."
The biggest myth surrounding breastfeeding is that it is easy. It’s not. Sure, some parts are easy and it may come more easily to some women and babies than others, but every woman that breastfeeds will tell you that it is not always easy. It is, in fact, a lot of work.
There were many reasons I wanted to breastfeed and I will admit, some of those reasons were rooted in vanity (namely that you burn an average of 500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding… goodbye baby weight!). My main reason for wanting to breastfeed, however, was the opportunity to bond and provide for my baby in a way that only a mother can. It is what my body, and my baby’s body, was made to do.
Prior to having my son Henry, I read everything I could get my hands on about breastfeeding. I visited the La Leche League
website, I perused the KellyMom.com
site, I attended a breastfeeding class, I talked to friends, and I read the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
published by La Leche League International. Henry and I spent the first hour after he was born skin-to-skin. Everything I had read and learned about breastfeeding stressed the importance of spending that first hour skin-to-skin with your baby and within seconds of his being born Henry was nestled on my chest. I say this because I thought I did everything right to ensure the best possible outcome for our first breastfeeding attempt, but it didn’t matter. Henry was a tongue-thruster and as hard as I tried to guide him to the breast and get him to latch on, we just couldn’t get the latch.
"It was one of the hardest times in my life"
Two days later we returned home. At this point my husband and I were finger-feeding our son and I was pumping every 2 hours for a minimum of 20 minutes to establish my milk supply. It was one of the hardest times in my life. We didn’t want to introduce a bottle because we were afraid it would cause further problems as we tried to teach our son to breastfeed. Within 12 hours of being home we were back at our lactation consultant’s, having called her at the crack of dawn, me in tears, convinced my baby was going to starve.
Fast forward eight weeks: Henry and I were now achieving a good latch 80% of the time. We had introduced a nipple shield to help him learn how to latch and it was the best thing we could have done. We were able to nurse successfully with the nipple shield which did wonders for my self-confidence which went a long way towards helping me stay committed to making breastfeeding work. I was still pumping seven times a day for 20 to 30 minutes, including twice during the night. I had given up all romantic notions of breastfeeding. This was a job. The best job ever, but it was hard work.
Henry is now almost 10 months old. We exclusively breastfed until he was six months old, when we introduced solids. He is still nursing six times a day when I am home and when I am at work I am pumping twice a day for 20 minutes and nursing before and after work.
"Breastfeeding is a commitment and it isn’t easy. But it’s worth it."
Being a breastfeeding working mom is really hard. Just being a breastfeeding mom is hard. Sometimes I really miss my freedom. I love to go for a run in the evenings during the summer, during that twilight hour just before dark. This summer that twilight hour I love so much was spent nursing my son to sleep. When he and I are together he doesn’t get a bottle – ever. I think one of the most important things you can do to maintain your milk supply is to put your baby to your breast as often as possible, to feed on cue and not according to a schedule. That means when Henry wakes up in the middle of the night because he is teething, or because he wants comfort, or because he is hungry because he is going through a growth spurt, I nurse him. The first thing I do when I get home from picking Henry up from day care is sit down and nurse him. The first thing I do when he wakes up in the morning is nurse him. Breastfeeding is a commitment and it isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.
What was your experience with breastfeeding? Share your stories with us here. And we welcome you to pin a photo of your children to our “Healthy Babies” Pinterest