So, about breastfeeding. It's so easy and natural.
The natural part, maybe. Definitely is the best thing for baby if at all possible. Easy? Not so much.
I tried to research before lil K was born, I really did. Promise. I read most of the articles on La Leche League's website.
I didn't feel like I ever found any solid, real life information that was helpful in preparing me for the real thing. All my friends warned me that it was hard. The problem is, I didn't really understand what was hard about it! And not for lack of trying!
Looking back, the hardest things for me were fighting the myths that I read or was told by other people. Also the sleep deprivation. Oh, and did I mention the sleep deprivation?
1. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong.
Ugh. This one is SO ubiquitous!!!!!! I just want to bang my head repeatedly with a metal cookie sheet every time I hear this one. If only I hadn't believed this, I might have done something before I had a RAGING yeast infection!!!!!! The exclamation points are completely necessary.
It's not going to be comfortable, especially at first. BUT, it should get more and more comfortable as time goes on. Not more and more liable to make you curse. Seriously, I swore like a sailor for at least the first 12 weeks post-partum. At one point, I had to grab the armrest of the couch and yell every time she latched just so I could try to deal with the pain. I would rather be in labor again. It was like someone stabbing my boob repeatedly with a hot knife. Showers were torture. Heck, air was torture.
The sad part is, I'm not exaggerating.
Pain is NOT normal. Also, doctors may or may not be hip to the yeast infection buzz. I went round and round with my doctor trying to get appropriate treatment. I literally spent HOURS on the phone. I could sing you the terrible hold muzak. Combine that frustration + the pain + trying to go back to work + hubby being gone for the week + cranky baby = MELTDOWN.
Trust your instincts. If something seems wrong, it probably is. If you've ever had yeast problems in the past, suspect it as a culprit for nursing problems. It is way more common than I would ever have imagined. (Actually, I had no idea this could happen, until I googled breastfeeding pain looking for some sort of help! And I've done a lot of research about yeast over the years! Fail.)
2. The boob is always the answer.
Um, no. She's clearly not hungry every time she cries. In fact, feeding sometimes made it worse. (Now I know we were battling silent reflux. Hindsight...)
Lil K was a super long nurser. She would take upwards of an hour to eat. I really wish I knew better at the time how to tell when they stop swallowing and start non-nutritive sucking. I think this would have saved me hours of frustration. (Have you ever tried to pee while breastfeeding? Quite a feat.)
I think if I had been confident enough to stop a nursing session when she was done eating or soon after, I could have gotten more good sleep for both of us. I tried doing the side-lying position in bed a few times like a good attachment parenting mom, but her reflux couldn't handle it. So I sat up every time she nursed, trying desperately not to fall over asleep. This did not work well for us, since we would spend an hour eating, then an hour or so trying to get her back to sleep, then it would soon be time to eat again. Oh the memories... errr... mammaries??
3. A little formula won't hurt anything. No one can breastfeed exclusively!
I seriously was told that "No one I know has ever been able to produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed."
I had people (who shall remain anonymous) concerned for lil K's health when no such concern was needed. I had visitors on a day when she slept through the night for the first time (and it never happened again, for months). She ended up being hungry and cranky most of the day, both of our bodies just weren't used to that! So, while I appreciated the concern, it didn't help matters. In fact, it helped contribute to my complex of "Is she getting enough to eat?!" which then inhibited my letdown, which then did lead to some problems. Thankfully, once I got rid of some stress and made sure that I ate tons of food and drank a gallon of water every 5 minutes, that resolved itself.
Our doctor was not worried. Lil K was growing and developing right on track.
As for the formula thing, I was pretty bound and determined not to give her any. She clearly had tummy troubles, especially when I ate dairy. Why on earth would I willingly give her milk-derived formula??? And soy? You've got to be kidding me. Soy rips me up even worse than cow's milk. Not to mention the high levels of phytoestrogens. I haven't had soy in years.
If there was absolutely no alternative, then yes, many kids have tolerated it just fine. But given our history, and her possible propensity toward Celiac, I'm not taking chances with formula unless there is clearly no other option.
Thanks, but no thanks.
4. If you're worried about milk supply, do a "yield" with a pump and see how much you get.
This one really messed me up. I was somewhat pressured into doing this to prove that I was producing enough milk. Don't ask.
Though how we would have known how much "enough" is, I have no idea. I really didn't know how true it is that a baby is WAY more efficient than a breast pump. That's just how it is. Plus, the performance anxiety totally inhibited my let down. So I would sit there, pumping away, trying to relax, imagining rivers of breastmilk flooding from my body to little avail.
Of course, later, when there was no pressure, I got more. It still wasn't very efficient, though. The one time I pumped at work was laughable :)
Which leads me to another point that I've somewhat mentioned- Stress totally affects breastfeeding. I can't even tell you how much better it got when I finally started getting some sleep and wasn't constantly feeling hyped up just to stay awake. It sounds like pointless advice, because I have no idea how I would have implemented this, but try to get rid of as much stress as possible and get some sleep!!
5. The nipple shield has nothing to do with how much milk she gets.
Umm... it says so right on the package that it can inhibit milk supply and letdown. Unfortunately, I got one in the hospital and never saw the packaging.
I was told this numerous times when the lactation consultant said that it had nothing to do with her taking FOREVER to nurse, possible supply issues, yada yada. Good thing I didn't listen, worked on getting her to latch without it, and things have steadily gotten faster and better ever since.
And now, the most important one of all (and I almost forgot it, not intentionally saving the best for last...)
6. What you eat doesn't affect your baby that much.
Just stay away from the obvious no-nos, and everything will be great, right? Oh. So. Wrong.
I can't even begin to tell you how much I wish I would have started out on the right track with this one. See previous post about tomatoes.
I was obviously already gluten free, and as soon as I realized she had gut issues, I started looking into using probiotics. The trials of L. reuteri in colicky infants had both the placebo and treatment groups on a dairy free diet. So, I figured if I expected it to work, I'd go dairy free as well. I've only tested it once with a bit of cheese, but I have no idea if it mattered. I'm guessing the tomato sauce that went with it caused enough of the subsequent discomfort that I'll never know! Not worth risking it at this point. Poor thing has been through enough!
Seemed like garlic, onion, and broccoli bothered her, as well as other really green stuff (though that one is more of a guess). So I got rid of anything that tasted like anything.
The change I resisted the most would be the classic reflux foods. Tomatoes, citrus, and chocolate/caffeine. This one really hurt, especially when I was having so many low blood sugars from not eating enough. I'd just take a few swigs of OJ to feel better until I could get some real food in me.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I won't rehash all the tomato post here, but let's just say it has been painfully obvious since then that these were major culprits in K's discomfort. Poor baby.
So if you ever hear that line about how it shouldn't make that much of a difference, especially if you have had any experience yourself with food intolerances and the difference diet makes, just try making changes. It is SO worth a shot. I wish I would have trusted my instincts here waaaaaaaay earlier.
So that's my story. I'm sticking to it, for now. Until we start solids in a few weeks, and that's a whole new ballgame!
(Much of this post is for my own future reference, should I ever be brave enough to pop out another one. If it helps anyone else, great!! If it offends anyone, sorry, you should have stopped reading a long time ago :P)