Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adventures in breastfeeding

Ahh, breastfeeding. Natural, beautiful, painful, peaceful, political hot button issue... when I look back on this first year, I imagine breastfeeding will be the best expression for my transition to motherhood. The loss of freedom and personal autonomy that comes from having your small baby so utterly dependent on you. The pain, the sacrifice, and the peace and joy of nourishing something so helpless. Seeing them grow and thrive and knowing that everything has come from you. Everything that was internal made external. Then slowly watching your baby grow away from you. One spoonful of food soon followed by handfuls and you're needed less. The first step in many that H is going to take away from me (if we do this thing right). I feel like we might be in the home stretch, so I wanted to write down some of my early memories before they're too faded.

In the beginning, we did everything wrong. Medicated birth, mom and baby separated in the first hour, unable to feed when baby show interested I gave him my finger to suck on and eventually he squirmed himself over and started to suckle my heart rate monitor. A sad start indeed. But we were lucky that didn't cause too many problems. H was a champion nurser right from the start. I have to say, I was so glad that I'd taken a breastfeeding class where they showed videos of the mechanics of breastfeeding and provided tips like that you should line the babies nose up with your nipple, etc. I don't know what I would have done without that knowledge since at first it feels incredibly awkward.

H was gaining weight like crazy, so I was never too worried if he was eating enough. But he had a bit of colic and in those early months and would fuss and fuss while trying to feed in the evening. It was incredibly frustrating wondering if I was doing something wrong, wondering if your baby was hungry, did you not have enough milk, too much milk? In the end it was just a fussy baby, and sure enough by 10 weeks he was pulling out of colic-y times and he was much calmer. H was also a fast nurser! At first he'd take 40 minutes or so, but by a few months old he would only nurse 5-10 minutes! I remember trying to keep him nursing for longer, thinking he must need more right? But nope, he just got it done quick, and I feel like I was so lucky. I never felt like I was trapped nursing all the time.

I also came down with a mild bout of mastitis early on, and this lead to weeks of living in fear of mastitis and thrush. Night after night, if H didn't nurse enough or decided to sleep longer than usual, I was up pumping. Oh and did I mention that H never took a bottle? Yeah, all that milk wasted. I also had a bit of ... not pain, but irritation for the first couple months. 6 weeks came and went and it still didn't feel easy or comfortable nursing H, and I was considering going back for help with his latch when I finally swapped out my lanolin for Dr Jack Newman's All Purpose Nipple Ointment. Seriously, amazing. A few days later pain/irritation was gone and everything fell into place.

We've been nursing happily ever since, but these days as H has ramped up his eating he's starting to ease off on milk. If we're out and about he will barely nurse, and even at home he's happy to go 6 + hours sometimes without it. As he's starting daycare in just a couple weeks, I really don't know how things will go. For now, I'm leaving it up to H to keep going or wean. If he decides he's done, I'm OK with that. But I am so grateful that we've had this year together to make breastfeeding work.


Bec Shulba said...

always good to get your thoughts down before they are forgotten and this was a beautifully written post. amazing that a different cream helped so much at that one point - good to know to suggest to friends! you have a great approach to mothering and i like your final thoughts on weaning - H will let you know what's going down. ;)

Alyssa said...

Yeah, I went to the doctor with the book with the cream 'recipe' and asked her to prescribe it to me. She'd never heard of it before, but her reaction was 'wow, this is so clever'. It is awesome, awesome stuff.

Art said...

Mother's milk has so many good ingredients. One of them isn't digestible but the bacteria in the guts of babies find it nutritious. By feeding beneficial bacteria, bad bugs are crowded out. The ingredient is called oligosaccharides as discussed in this excellent article by Florence Williams.

theRachel said...

You're doing a fantastic job!