Breastfeeding | The Life of K: Breastfeeding

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Breastfeeding

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week I wanted to talk about my experiences breastfeeding, when it works and when it doesn't.

I had my son in September 2009. It was a relatively quick labour but a tough delivery in that I had to push for a long time and I was exhausted. I was a brand new mom without a clue about babies and Little J was a sleepy baby. We managed to get him latched on in the hospital with help from the midwives.

Every midwife visit we worked on breastfeeding and every time they were there, he latched on and ate well. Every time I tried to feed him by myself he cried or I cried. It was painful and exhausting and frustrating. We were supplementing with formula almost right away.

I tried a nipple shield and a supplementary system (pumping milk and feeding the baby through a tube next to my nipple trying to help him understand what to do). I tried homeopathics to get my milk to come in and then compress, homeopathics, and even cabbage leaves to help with painful engorgement. I tried different positions to help with an oversupply.

I spent many hours hunched over, trying desperately to get my baby fed, while crying in pain and frustration. I spent many hours hooked up to my breast pump, washing and sterilizing bottles. J and I hardly saw each other.

You can imagine that it was only a matter of weeks before I started pumping and bottle feeding exclusively. I did that for 3 months. I would feed Little J expressed milk from a bottle and pump while he slept on the bed in front of me.

Whenever we went anywhere I had to bring bottles of expressed milk and my pump. It was a huge pain.

That is when breastfeeding doesn't go well. When it does go well, it's an entirely different story.

When I got pregnant with Baby K I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed her. I knew that I didn't want to pump and bottle feed another baby so I was determined to get off to a good start. In February 2011 she was ready. Her labour was quite fast and I didn't have to push at all. We had a easy start and she was a hungry baby. No tickling her feet to keep her awake to finish a feed. She latched on well from the start.

We had some bumps in the road. I dealt with nipple pain and bleeding, engorgement, the same oversupply I had before that can cause trouble for little stomachs, but overall this breastfeeding experience has been so much better. I say that even though Baby K bit me every single time she nursed for 6 months.

She is almost 18 months old and I still nurse her. I don't know when we will stop because I'm waiting for her cues. It has been nice to feel needed and able to provide her with nourishment and comfort, but also sometimes a pain when I want to go out and she won't sleep because I'm not there.

So I've had two very different breastfeeding experiences. Breastfeeding is not easy and not the wonderful, natural thing you sometimes hear it is. It takes hard work and dedication. It can be tough when you don't have support from those around you (thankfully I have for the most part). Comments from family and friends and even strangers can be positive or negative and hurtful.

To breastfeed you really have to give yourself to a little human for the duration of the time you breastfeed and that's not a small thing. So to every woman who has ever nursed her child, cheers to you. And even if you didn't nurse, whether you chose not to or couldn't for whatever reason, you are a great mom too. We all are.

If you're looking for information or breastfeeding help or support, the La Leche League of Canada has lots of resources for nursing mothers. Midwives and doulas and hospital staff are also usually trained to some degree, plus lactation consultants are experts. Get help if you need it.

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