Way back in December, I asked my readers (all five of them) to help me get over some indecisiveness and tell me what to write about. It was a close race, folks, with a tie for first: Mundane details and BREASTFEEDING! You already get mundane details, so let’s talk about boobs. Again.
Before I gave birth, my knowledge of breastfeeding was basically that breastmilk is good for babies, that a baby sucked on your nipple, and if you were lucky, it could help you lose that baby weight.
Here are the top 8 things that I’ve discovered by living it. Why 8? Because a sideways 8 looks like Boobs. You’re welcome.
1. Choosing to breastfeed is not free.
I went into this whole parenting thing hoping to cut costs as best as I can. I focused on breastfeeding because I presumed it was free, or at least low cost. Not the case.
By the first 2 weeks, I spent $300 on an electric double breast pump, a $12 bottle of lanolin (sore nipple cream), $30 on nursing pads (both disposable and reusable) to keep me from leaking milk through my clothes, and close to $75 on nursing bras.
Now that I’m comfortable enough to nurse without special bras, I still had to go out and buy new ones because the girls are so enormous. So that’s another $120 for 2 bras at Victoria’s Secret (because if’ they’re going to be the center of everyone’s attention, they might as well look good), and $70 for 2 bras at Fredricks of Hollywood. Because they’re basically the only place that carries my size in the store (VS I had to order online). I’m not even going to talk about having to buy new shirts, jackets, etc. to accommodate them.
And once I went back to work, I had to buy another set of pump accessories (to avoid doing a ridiculous amount of dishes every day), and that was another $25 or so.
I still be that’s less than the hassle of paying for formula and figuring out what brand works best for your baby, but it is by no means FREE. Plus, in all reality, you’re the one that has to get up with the baby in the middle of the night – even if you have expressed milk, it’s just a lot easier to get it straight from the source.
2. There is a whole process to getting a baby to latch on.
I knew some of my friends had trouble getting their baby to “latch on”, but I had no idea what that entailed or why it would be a problem. Lips around the nipple and suck, right? Wrong. First, you have to line up the baby’s mouth so that the nipple is at an angle aimed at the roof of their mouth. Then the baby has to open wide and basically put its lips all the way around your areola. And make sure those lips are turned out, otherwise it’ll hurt like hell. If everything is perfect, the breasts will be entirely in the baby’s mouth, with the nipple in the back of their throat, hitting the soft palette. RIGHT? Totally crazy!
I found this video on YouTube which totally explains it. Would have been nice to see that ahead of time, eh?
3. Milk production depends on how full or empty your breasts are.
Ok, so I’m not entirely clear on the science, or how hormone interact, but I can tell you this: full breast = slower milk production and empty breast = faster milk production.
I had previously thought that your breasts made milk, the baby drank it, and then your body made more. But in fact, your body is making milk all of the time, it is just the rate of production that varies.
A lactation consultant told me to think of the breast like a glass of water with a straw. Someone else is standing there next to you pouring more water in at the rate you drink it. So if you’ve taken a few sips, and your cup is full, the person doesn’t pour anymore. But if you slurp it down to only a few drops, the person will be pouring fast to refill the cup.
When the baby empties your breast, it signals your body to make more milk. That is why it is so important to keep your breasts empty if you want to boost your milk supply. So on the days where I was paranoid about my milk supply (#7), I would pump in between nursing sessions, to get as much milk out of the breast as possible.
4. Pump and Dump does not get rid of tainted, alcoholic milk.
Some people do not drink at all while they’re breastfeeding. I am not one of those people. I recall my sister in law talking about “pumping and dumping” at a wedding a few months after my youngest niece was born. I assumed that the alcohol got into the milk, and once she was done drinking, she would pump the “bad” milk out and be good to go.
Not so! Alcohol gets into breastmilk the same way it does your blood. Only time will remove the alcohol from your blood, and so time will have to pass for your milk to be clear of any alcohol in your system. The pumping aspect is only helpful to keep your milk supply up (remember! Full breast = slower milk production!).
So on nights where I have had a few glasses of wine at dinner, and Viv needs to be fed later, The Man or I will give her a bottle (of previously expressed milk), and I will pump the milk I would have fed her had I not been drinking. And then I toss that milk.
5. Using a breast pump helped me understand what breastfeeding should feel like.
Vivian never had trouble getting milk, but it never felt quite right. My nipples were sore, and based on everything I had read, that meant I wasn’t “doing it right”
I was starting to have some pain in my right breast, which sounded suspiciously like a clogged duct or the beginning of an infection (more on that later). After an especially tearful nursing session (me, not Viv), I decided to suck it up and spend the money on a pump. I figured I could build up a store of milk and give The Man a chance to feed her (and no, you don’t get a break, because you need to be pumping during that time to keep up your supply).
Until I opened that package, I didn’t have a clue of how a breast pump worked, felt, or looked like. It’s not pretty. For your reference, I have a Medela Pump In Style Advanced, with is a double electric pump.
Ok, so whenever I say that, I think bubble. pop. E-LEC-TRIC! So here is your Gwenny Gwen Gwen for the day
But I digress….
You have what’s called a breast shield. Which is basically a funnel. The wide part goes around your breast so that your nipple is in the narrow tube.
(Source: PoshMums.com) (No, this is not my breast. Chill Out.)
There is a connector on the bottom, called a valve, which has a thin white circle attached (called a membrane). The membrane helps to keep suction. Then you twist the bottle on the bottom of the connector, connect this tubing to the connector and the pump, and away you go!
That first pumping session was a miracle. It didn’t hurt at all. I finally had a context for all of that “it shouldn’t hurt” nonsense. Sure, I felt absolutely ridiculous, and covered myself when the Man was anywhere near me. And fine, I have to wear a strapless bra with two holes in the nipple area to hold the breast shields in place. And ok, so I have to wear that at work so I can work and pump at the same time.
(Source: BabyDickey.com) (I WISH I looked like that at work!)
But until I first pumped, I doubted my ability to see breastfeeding through for the long hall. After, I realized that the nursing relationship just had to adjust a little. Which leads me to….
6. The traditional cradle hold may not work best for you.
I started looking into options. To that point, I had been working the cradle hold. That is cradling the baby’s head in the nook of your elbow, while the baby eats from breast on the same side.
There is also the football hold, (which I’ve never done) Side breastfeeding (which I’ve done a few times), and upside down feeding, where you lie on your back and put the baby on your chest face down. As the baby gets older, has more head control, and is better at eating, you can go ahead and experiment. Some people breastfeed while the baby is in a carrier or wrap! I’ve done that a few times, but I prefer to sit. But at this point, all I was looking to do was make it feel better.
I stumbled across an explanation for the cross-cradle hold, and I’ve sworn by it ever since. Instead of letting the baby’s head rest in your elbow, you cradle the baby’s head in your opposite hand.
For example, if I was feeding Viv from my right breast, I have her rest across my abdomen, with her body on my left arm. My left hand is holding on to the back of her head. I would then use my right hand to guide my breast to her mouth. My right elbow is sticking all out and weird, but it was perfect for us. I had control over where her head was going, and where my breast was going. And after that, it just clicked.
(Source: La Leche League International)
Now, I don’t have to do much to support her, but I still often go to that default position since it is familiar.
7. You will constantly worry about whether you’re producing enough milk.
The thing about breastfeeding is that you can’t really tell how much the baby is actually getting. Even pumping isn’t an accurate reflection of what the baby gets, since a baby is MUCH more efficient at getting milk out than a plastic flange! So for the first few days, between the time you leave the hospital and the time you have your first doctor’s appointment, you will be FREAKING OUT about milk. Is she gaining weight? How many wet and dirty diapers? (and yes, you will count. And keep track.). When did I last feed her? (to the MINUTE). In my case, she gained weight and was on the right track. And then the next month, she gained a LOT of weight, but I still was worried that I wasn’t making enough. Which obviously wasn’t the case, because at that point (and now), I have a stock pile of frozen milk in my freezer.
(I took this last night. There is also a full stock on one of the upper shelves.)
You will google how to increase milk supply, eat a ton of oatmeal, pump between feedings, and consider a nursing vacation. You will read KellyMom OVER AND OVER again for verification that you’re doing what you can, and curse KellyMom for not giving you a definitive answer to make you feel better.
My advice? It’s better to know you’ll freak out so that you can embrace the crazy.
8. Sleeping on your stomach is next to impossible.
I’m a stomach and side sleeper. I tend to fall asleep on my side, and wake up on my stomach. After the first trimester, I wasn’t “allowed” to sleep on my stomach, but wouldn’t have wanted to anyway – that stomach really does get in the way. I was so looking forward to sleeping on my stomach again!
Nope. Vivian is a great sleeper. By the time I returned to work, she was going 10-12 hours straight at night. Even if I pumped at 10pm before I went to bed, I was still going 8 hours. That’s a lot of time for milk to build up in there. And when milk builds up, the girls are hard as rocks! No, seriously; as hard as your stomach was during the last days of pregnancy, if not harder. Sleeping on my stomach with full boobs is just as uncomfortable as sleeping on my stomach with a pregnant belly.
So there you have it! Of course, there are a ton of other random things I learned in the beginning, and even more that I’m learning now (like getting your period back drops your supply for a few days! who knew?!) Is there anything else you want to know?