Wednesday, February 12, 2014

To Breastfeed or Not to Breastfeed, That is the Question

Throughout history, breastfeeding seems to cycle in and out of popularity.  Presumably breastfeeding started with the first baby, and in ancient times was the only option a mother had for nourishing her baby. However, somewhere along the way breastfeeding came to be looked at as a practice for the lower classes. Instead, the wealthy often hired wet nurses to nurse their children. This practice lasted until the bottle was introduced in the early 20th century. When my mother was pregnant with me she was discouraged from breastfeeding by my father and many of those around her. My father was not too keen on me being tied to my mother’s breast. I guess that he thought this would hinder her (and maybe him) from having a full social life after baby. When I became pregnant, I felt that there was pressure on the other end of the spectrum. If you do not want to breastfeed, and are brave enough to say so out loud; you can often feel judged. I am a big believer that moms should support each other and should not be so quick to judge others. Motherhood is the hardest job, especially during the first few weeks and months of a baby’s life. Women need the support of others in their same situation, and not the judgement that they so often receive.

With that being said, this post is about why I chose to breastfeed. I hope to outline to you my thought process when deciding to breastfeed. I also hope to shed some light on what that first month of breastfeeding is really like. I don’t want to scare anyone away, but I do want to be honest.

Why I Chose to Breastfeed Baby P

1.     Bonding
When I was doing my research on breastfeeding in the early stages of my pregnancy, I read a lot about how breastfeeding helps you bond with your newborn baby. I remember feeling slightly skeptical of how breastfeeding could really bond you closer to your baby than motherhood in general. Is that to say that a mother who exclusively formula feeds her baby will not be as bonded with her child? I think not. Does it mean that her child will be less bonded with her? I also think not!

What I will say is that breastfeeding does require an incredible amount of closeness with your baby on a whole other level than bottle feeding. In the first days of your baby’s life you will feed them on demand. It can seem around the clock. What I found, once breastfeeding was well established, was that I yearned for that time with my child. As good as it felt to sometimes get a break from Baby P (if only for my nipple’s sake), I found myself counting the hours till it was time for her next feeding. I fell in love with her scent, her warmth, and the sound of her sweet wheezing as she nursed at my breast. Therefore, I am no longer so skeptical.

I have also read that babies who have been exclusively breastfed will wake more throughout the night when their mother is away from them during the day. They do this in order to get in that one on one breast time. This seems like a good indicator that it creates a strong bond between baby and Mom.  I do not doubt that breastfeeding leads to a strong bond between mother and child, but I do not think that not breastfeeding will mean that the bond is any less strong.

2.     Immunities and overall health of the child
There are countless studies confirming that breast milk can help reduce childhood illness. This is a fact, and not something that should be overlooked. For me, this was the number one reason that I wanted to breastfeed Baby P.

I was formula fed. I was also a very sickly baby. I had multiple ear infections that resulted in two sets of tubes. I still get ear infections. I also had gastrointestinal issues that have followed me ever since.  I am not saying that the sole reason is because I was not breastfed. I am not even saying that they are related. However, when I thought about my unborn child, I thought that I would do anything to save her from the possibility of having these same issues. If breastfeeding her for 3,6, 9, or  even 12 months could prevent pain for her, then I would certainly bite the bullet. It seems like a small price to pay for the comfort of your child. This was my line of thinking.

3.     Benefits to the mother
Studies have shown benefits to the mother when breastfeeding. Perhaps the most awesome benefit is that it helps your uterus return to it’s pre-pregnancy size much quicker. This means that it will also help you lose that pregnancy weight and get your sexy back! I should mention that this is not a reason alone to breastfeed. I have heard many a friend say that they wanted to breastfeed just to lose the weight. What they don’t realize is that breastfeeding is really rough. If this is the only reason you are doing it, then I fear that you will be setting yourself up for failure.

There is also evidence to suggest that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s chances of getting breast cancer. I think we can all agree that this is a win-win situation. If it lowers the risk, then that is certainly a plus in my opinion.

Financial Reasons
I will never say that I chose to breastfeed Baby P because I wanted to save money, but this is the reason that my hubs got on board with the plan. He was not always so excited about the thought of me being tied down to the baby to the extent that breastfeeding requires. However, now he is all about it. When he saw how much cheaper this baby was then my stepson (formula fed), he was very supportive of my feeding plan. 

The Truth About the First Month of Breastfeeding
            Here is the awful truth; Breastfeeding is HARD. I mean, it is really hard! It is especially rough in the first few days. Here is why. You are exhausted after just giving birth, you are inexperienced, your baby is inexperienced, and your milk has not come in. All of these reasons are reasons that many mothers stop breastfeeding before they even leave the hospital. Here are some things that you can expect in the first few days and weeks of breastfeeding:

1.     You nipples will be sore, and I mean SORE.
They will get dry. They might crack and even bleed. It will get to the point that the thought of letting your newborn suck on them will bring a tear to your eye, and actually letting them nurse will bring them streaming down your cheeks. Here is the good news, you get used to it. Once your mature milk comes in, baby doesn’t have to suck so hard to get their meal. Then, you start to feel some relief.

How do you bide the time until the milk comes in? Buy some nipple cream and use ice packs or heating pads depending on which feels better for you, Always remember that it is totally and completely okay to cry.

2.     Your baby will lose weight.
This fact was very hard for me while in the hospital. My nurse made a huge deal about how Baby P had lost 7% of her birth weight (they like you to stay under 5%). Here is the scoop—all babies lose weight while in the hospital. Also, since the baby weighs such a small amount. Just an ounce could be the difference between 5 and 7%. Therefore, I shouldn’t have been too worried. I was almost pressured to give Baby P formula because of the nurse’s remarks, and for nothing. Within 7 days of birth, P had regained all of her weight!

So what do you do? Stick to your guns! Once you get home, start to watch your baby’s output—count their dirty diapers. At four days old, your baby should have 3 to 4 dirty diapers and around 5 wet diapers a day. This is after your milk has come in. If your milk has not come in by 7 days postpartum, then you should contact your doctor and consider some kind of supplementation for your baby. There are some women whose milk just never really comes in.

3.     You will feel like you are nursing all the time
In truth, you kind of are! In the first three weeks you should feed your baby when they are hungry. This does not mean waiting until they are crying. Early signs of hunger include lip smacking, rooting, and hands near and in the mouth. In my case, Baby P naturally wanted to nurse about every 2 ½ to 3 hours. I knew that I wanted to get her on a schedule pretty quickly, so this was perfect for me. Starting at week 4 I worked on getting her to follow my schedule. I woke her in the morning at a time I decided on, and she ate every 3 hours throughout the day.

So how many times will you feed a day in the first few weeks? 8-12 feedings. Until your milk comes in, try to get your baby to nurse 20 minutes on each side (BTW—this is hell, and why your nipples will be so sore). Once your milk comes in, try to get them to nurse 10 to 15 minutes on each side. If you are doing the math that is about 160 to 360  minutes daily that you should be feeding your baby. I can never get Baby P to nurse longer than 20 minutes total. This is because she is able to empty my breasts fairly quickly. Every baby is different, so just do what works for you.

4.     Your baby will be very sleepy
Newborns are very sleepy, and this causes a problem when you need them to eat. I have a hard time getting Baby P to stay awake long enough to take a full 10 minutes at each breast. This is very common for babies in the first weeks of life. However, if you are wanting to establish a schedule, it is important that your baby takes full feedings. There are several things that I have found to work with my babe.

1.     strip them down to only their diaper.
2.     Change diaper in between breasts
3.     Burp after each breast or if baby detaches before taking their 10-15 minutes.
4.     Swivel or rotate baby’s head while nursing. This rubs your nipple along the roof of their mouth and stimulates the sucking reflex.
5.     Compress/massage the breast while nursing. This squirts milk into baby’s mouth and stimulates sucking reflex.
 You will be extremely hungry and thirsty
            This is because you are using extra fluid to produce your breastmilk. You are also burning calories like crazy. You should drink about 8 ounces of water every time you nurse. This will replenish what is being taken. Do not drink too much, though, because that has been shown to reduce your milk supply.
            Make sure that you watch what you eat while breastfeeding. You should limit caffeine and spicy foods. There are some foods that are linked to stomach issues in infants. They include: milk products, peanut butter, peanuts, and onions. Try to limit these things until you are sure they do not affect your baby.

6. Your baby may develop reflux
            Reflux is characterized by spitting up a good amount after each feeding, and painful passing of gas and stools. Baby P would arch her back and be very fussy after eating. Your doctor can prescribe medication for your baby, but may recommend you cut out some of the above mentioned foods from your diet.

For those of you who are on the fence about breastfeeding, I recommend that you do your research. The hospital where I delivered Baby P had a free online breastfeeding course. I learned so much about holds, latching, breast milk storage, and countless other things in this course. I also read countless breastfeeding blogs and Pinterest articles. You really do not want to go into breastfeeding unprepared. I know a girl that did not have any idea about breast milk storage. She had absolutely no stockpile after three months of breastfeeding. This made her very tied down to her little one. I also am a BIG fan of Mommy and Me groups. It is a huge comfort to talk to other Moms who are going trough the same things.

I hope that this post has shed some light on breastfeeding. My goal is that you all use it to make an informed and educated decision for yourself and your child.


P.S. Here are some pics of Baby P...You know, just because she is beautiful!



  1. I just read your post about breast feeding on Caitlin's page. Girl we are in the SAME boat right now! All the emotions you felt about not being able to bond with your little girl after bf is exactly what I'm going through. I've been debating to stop BF because I had mastitis and was so sore for the first few days that I just pumped but I missed nursing her. I realized she was doing better with bottles then nursing because for whatever reason she hasn't seemed to be getting full and grunts and strains for hours after I was done feeding her. I've felt like a failure the last few days as I've tried to keep nursing but realizing it may not be the best thing for her. I'm meeting with my LC on Monday to discuss what she thinks I should do to help her. Thanks for your post and making me realize I'm not alone going through this! xoxo

    1. I am so glad that my post helped you! That was the exact reason that I shared. Mastitis is the worst! I am so sorry that it has plagued you. I have come to terms with the bottle, but I still make P nurse once a day (first thing when she wakes up in the morning). I also try to offer it at her 8:00 feeding, but she usually cries the whole time :( . It is really hard! Hang in there, and always know that you are doing a great job!