Monday, June 30, 2014

9 Truths about Breastfeeding

There are a few things I wish I would have known about before I embarked on this crazy breastfeeding journey. I am proud and a little dumbfounded at the fact that we have made it this long. I remember at 6 weeks thinking I wasn't going to make it to 2 months, but here we are, at almost a year of exclusively breastfeeding. Holy cow, or Holy mom for that matter.

One could say I should have maybe read a book, then a lot of my questions would have been answered, but regardless, if you want to know some of the things I wish I would have known, please continue to read! I would love to live in a world where breastfeeding is not some strange act of savages and where we could stop thinking of breasts for their secondary purposes and instead get used to the fact that they were intended to feed our babies. They are amazing and do amazing things, it can just start off a little rocky, but don't worry you can do it!

1. Breastfeeding is f*ing hard.

I remember thinking about breastfeeding as some weird taboo thing where a lady just throws out her boob, not caring about who sees it and feeds her baby. No rhyme or reason, just whenever. I also thought it is as simple as here's my boob. I also thought, I will never breastfeed when my baby has teeth, we will just stop. Hahahahahaha. How naive I was and judgmental for that matter. It is not that easy, it takes a ton of work and practice and requires patience, I personally never thought I had. It also requires serious support from the people around you. It hurts, makes you feel like a crazy lady, and requires time, so much freaking time. But honestly, once you make it to 8 weeks, it gets so much better. And easier. And almost peaceful because at that moment, there is literally no where else on the planet you belong, except there feeding your baby. I wrote this post about it. I would tell myself, just make it one more month, on bad days just one more day, and on the worst of days, let's get through this one feeding. Use your resources and internet, that is what saved me. My husband, my family, and the internet. It was so nice knowing I was not the only one going through what I was feeling at that time. I also got a lactation consultant to come to my house and that helped so much as well. I would send her email after email about the problems I was having and she always responded quickly and reassured me. But yeah, its f*ing hard. But stick with it!

2. Mastitis.

Less than a week we were home from the hospital, I started feeling bad. Tired. Achy. Extremely moody. I thought it was the norm of having a new baby and my body trying to get back together again, like Humpty Dumpty. I was wrong. My nipples were cracked, raw, and ever so painful. My boobs were hard, engorged, red, and the right one was about to need its own postal code. I was trying to sleep and decided to take my temperature because I kept getting the chills, 103 degrees. Shit. I immediately started crying, honestly I think it was out of relief because there was no way this was how someone normally feels after having a baby. I called my OB and was able to get in that day and she said I had mastitis. What. In. The. Hell. Was. Mastitis? I didn't even know that was a thing. But indeed, it was and it is. If I can help one person avoid this terrible infection, I will be happy. So this is what to look for once your milk finally comes in. I knew the moment mine did and I wish I had known what to look for and what is not normal. Here it goes, another list :)

I am by no means a certified lactation consultant, or a doctor, or a nurse. This advice is from my own personal experience. Talk to your doctor about taking anything while nursing. When in doubt, call your OB!

a. Watch out for engorged breasts. Of course there is going to be a little, but once you notice it either breastfeed or take warm shower and express milk until it goes away. Or at least until it doesn't feel like someone punched you. Hot Warm showers were my best friend for months.
b. If one breast is noticeably bigger than the other. That might be the side that will need attention. Also, if that more engorged breast is red and warm to the touch, you've got a problem. 
c. You start feeling a little run down. Of course, that is a common feeling after having a baby, but you will feel just completely wiped out. If you feel this way check both boobies.
d. Know where you milk ducts are. This is a little weird but if you get familiar with where your milk ducts are on your nipples, you will have a better idea as to which one is blocked. I have about 3 on each side that are pretty obvious, you find this out by, well squeezing slightly, wherever milk comes out is where your duct is. I had problems with my right side and one duct in particular, it took months for me to figure that out. Another case of know your body.
e. Once you figure out which duct is clogged, you have all of the above symptoms, and no milk is coming out where it used to be you can start trying to fix it before it gets infected and turns into mastitis. 
f. I had a little white, sand like, blockage in my milk duct. In a warm shower, I was inspecting and noticed the white spot, with the tip of my finger nail, I gently put pressure on my boob and flicked the white sand blockage, it flew out and immediately milk started pouring out of the duct. It was crazy. I got out of the shower and pumped until my breast was empty. You can also breastfeed.
g. If no white dot is present, the it might be blocked somewhere deep in the abyss. Once again, take a warm shower and look and see what is going on. Gently message your breast in circle motions, if that doesn't release it, it never did for me, as soon as you get out of the shower have your baby ready. Lay her down on the bed and breastfeed upside down. Weird, I know, but affective! 
h. If upside down acrobat breastfeeding doesn't clear the clog, try warm epson salt water and place your breast in there for 10 minutes.
i. As a final measure, if nothing else has worked. Cabbage. Yep, cabbage. I always had a head of cabbage on standby. I would tear a piece off, wash it, and place it in my bra. After a while, check it and it will be wilted and wet. Crazy. I would do this until the block seemed to be gone. I never had an issue with the cabbage lowering my supply.
j. If you have all of the symptoms and develop a fever, it is time to go see the doctor. Blah.
k. Per my lactation consultant's advice, I took a daily supplement of lethicin to reduce the number of blocks that I had. It seemed to work really well. After about 4 months, I stopped taking it, my milk decided to stop giving me trouble and we have been good ever since.

3. You will have the appetite of 16 vikings.

Holy shit. I can't even begin to tell you how much I have eaten this past year. I was not ready for this type of appetite, at all. My husband has also finally gotten used to getting out eaten at the dinner table. I was unfortunately not one of those pregnant ladies who loved food. For the first 3 months, nothing tasted good. I would literally cry as I was eating because the food was so gross. That went away, slightly. The only craving I had was milk and the only thing I could eat a lot of was salad and cantaloupe. I guess that technically is not a bad thing, but I was excited to love food being pregnant. Skip to 1 week after I had Delilah and my milk came in. Food was delicious! And I craved everything. I wanted apple pie, potatoes, steak, mmmmm steak, chocolate shakes, italian subs. So many sandwiches! Luckily, I was able to eat my way to my pre-pregnant weight and even lost a few after that. I owe everything to breastfeeding. I burned those calories like nobody's business. I did have to get used to eating so much, I act like this is a bad thing! I now love eating breakfast and make sure we always have a dessert at dinner ;)

5. Weaning. I feel like this is never going to stop and we will be breastfeeding

I am at a point now where I am really ready to be done with breastfeeding. Like I mentioned before, I thought it would be as easy as snapping my fingers and we would be done. Not. The. Case. I thought for a week that she was getting tired of it, apparently not and she was going through a "nursing strike". Once again, information that would have been useful to know. She is now back to nursing quite a bit, since that is how I put her to sleep. There are some days I want to scream and yell "stop it" and there are some days where it is the most relaxing thing we do all day. A balance of sorts. I have tried formula, milk, chocolate milk. Mixed in my pumped breastmilk. You name it, I have tried it. And nothing works, she wants me. I should not be complaining since I will look back and wish I had more time with her, but for right now I am definitely ready for her to wean. I have however, prepared myself for another 6 months of breastfeeding, if that is what Delilah wants. I am sure this independent baby will let me know when she is done. ;) On a side note and listen up, if you want to exclusively breastfeed, get ready, because there is no going back. I have talked to a lot of moms whose babies won't drink formula or anything from a bottle for that matter. I wish I would have given her a bottle of formula or pumped breastmilk at night, that way she would have developed the taste for it and gotten used to having someone else put her to sleep. I will definitely do that for baby #2. Silver lining: my little 11 month old can drink from a sippy cup like a champ! She loves the cups with straws and loves water!

This should be considered another truth, but the reason I was so against bottle feeding is because I did not want to disrupt the natural balance of supply and demand. Looking back, I was a little crazy about it and giving her one bottle would not have ruined anything. But I was determined to breastfeed and I didn't want one bottle to turn into four a day. The complicated dance of feeding your baby is as simple as this, the more your baby nurses and eats, the more milk your breasts make. The opposite is true, the less milk your baby drinks, the less your breasts make. I am in awe how my body has kept up with Delilah's erratic eating schedule, it truly is amazing.

I have had a couple of, well negative, thoughts about the fact that I am the only one who can feed Delilah. I wish it wasn't the case, but it is the truth. I would sometimes get mad at my husband when I would get up for the 5th time in the middle of the night to feed Delilah. He felt helpless and I was not helping the matter. The point I am trying to make is, enjoy the time with your baby, the time where she wants you to hold her and rock with her. When she wants to be close with you. I know there is going to be a day, hello teenage girl, when Delilah wants nothing to do with me and I will most likely cry about how I wish I would have enjoyed and savored the time I had with her. Your partner can do a lot of other things while you are breastfeeding, clean the dishes, get the baby when they wake up, play while you are taking a shower, go out and get the butterfinger blizzard you have been craving. Lots of things. There are also going to be times where your partner id going to bond with the baby as well, I know Byron was worried about that, but Delilah loves her daddy, there is no denying that. I have had to slow down like I never have before, but I am ok with that now and I am ok with being the one who feeds and comforts Delilah. 

6. Say goodbye to your perky boobs. Say hello to a good bra.

This is a sad one. It really is so hard to say goodbye. I never knew how perky my boobs were than before I got pregnant. And now, a year of nursing later, they will never be the same. I am not completely heartbroken about it. These saggy things have fed, nourished, and comforted my baby for her first year of life. Selfishly, when we take her to her checkups, I silently celebrate the fact that I have been the one to put the weight on my baby. It really is fulfilling, however I wish it didn't cause such havoc on my body, in particular my boobs. My husband always told me to go get a new bra, but being the good martyr that I am, I always persisted that we needed to spend that money elsewhere. My mom looked at me one day and said, "That's it, we are getting you a bra." I was at the time alternating between 2, no wire, jersey material bras. Yes, they were hanging low and I could throw them to and fro. They were comfortable, and I wanted to stay away from the underwire because of the problems I was having with the clogged ducts. But what a difference. I propose something to all of you new, breastfeeding, non breastfeeding, mommas out there. Instead of spending that extra money on a new baby toy, that super cute baby outfit, or fresh socks for your husband, take that money and go to a fancy bra store, sorry Vicky but this is a secret you can't handle, and get fitted and lift those girls up! You, in return, will have your spirits lifted as well and I promise your baby won't miss that new stainless steel cup this month ;)
I am a proud owner of the sexiest, milk stained, lacy nursing bra out there.

7. A good latch on is the most important thing. For real.

Looking back, I can say that a bad latch was most likely what caused a lot of our problems. I was lazy and nursed her laying down so I wouldn't have to get up, I don't know how you mommas that get up for bottles do it. Hats off to you! Also, when Delilah was born, the nurses noticed she had a "heart shaped tongue" and after meeting with our lactation consultant she said Delilah was definitely "tongue tied". We decided to take her to a children's ENT and did the quick frenulumectomy procedure. The doctor basically nipped the bottom part of Delilah's tongue to release it. I debated whether or not to do it, but it took 5 minutes and after they brought her back in the room I nursed her and she was good. A couple days of tylenol and TLC my little baby could stick out her tongue! After the procedure, breastfeeding became a lot easier for both Delilah and myself. However, like I mentioned before, due to some laziness on my side, we have had a couple bouts with latch related problems. Blisters and now that she has teeth, scratching issues. All of which were worked out as soon as I made sure to get a good latch.

8. You can have a drink while you are breastfeeding.

You can and you should! I am not promoting taking 5 shots of whiskey and drinking a bottle of wine. I am however, saying a glass of wine won't hurt anything. I have even read that sometimes having a beer will help with supply issues. I remember once I was waiting tables and a new momma was breastfeeding her baby, I was so freaked out about the fact that she ordered a margarita. I really didn't even want to serve it to her, silly me. I should have offered to pay for it ;) I now know what a glass of wine will do for the soul, especially a tired, stressed, sore, new momma soul. As a rule of thumb, if I have more than one drink, of course after the baby is asleep, or is being watched, I will do the ol pump n dump. Have you ever been so sad to watch something as good as gold go down the sink? Well, I guess it is not as good a gold, it has been tainted with alcohol, that probably saved your sanity for the day, but you catch my drift! Cheers, relax, and kick up your feet for 7 minutes, you deserve it!

9. Accessories you will want around the house in the beginning. It will save your loving partner multiple trips to the store, asking "What? A nipple shield? Where is that?"

My husband has been a super hero in the breastfeeding department. He has been so supportive and stuck around on my worst of days, those fueled by hormones and not knowing what the hell Im doing 97% of the time. He made countless trips to all of the baby stores around Austin. Maybe this list will help your partner and save a few bucks on gas, for that aforementioned glorious bra!

a. Lanolin - have it ready to go. 
b. Triple Nipple Ointment - this is a prescription, compound cream that saved my life. Maybe I am being dramatic, but seriously, ask your OB for a prescription and have it by the lanolin. It is amazing and I am still finding uses for it a year later.
c. Breast Pads - it is inevitable, your boobs are going to leak, a lot. Mine did for a good 4 months until everything regulated, I always had these in my bag and an extra shirt just in case.
d. Breast Shield - when I was about to give up breastfeeding, due to the amount of torture my nipples were enduring, my mom mentioned the nipple shield. My husband ran out to go get some,  he bought two when really we only needed one. It provided the relief needed to keep trucking on, they are a little weird to use, but at this point your boobs are not the fun, happy parts of the body they once were, they are now feeding machines that need a second to heal. The shields will help.
e. Cold Pads - oh what sweet relief these are. They are little sticky pads that you put in the fridge and when you feel like your nipples are about to burn up, put these on and you will feel better. Have these ready to go.
f. Bebe au Lait - or any nursing cover for that matter - I am all about freeing the boob, but after you have had your baby and your belly is a little softer than usual, your boobs feel like, well hell, and you are working on such little sleep you may just hit the next person who talks about how much their baby sleeps or how easy breastfeeding is, the last thing you want, or I wanted, was some weird look because I was breastfeeding my baby. I was also a little awkward with getting Delilah latched on and I didn't want anyone to see Delilah fishing around for my nipple. I used this when we were shopping and at restaurants mostly, I never knew when she would want to nurse, but I knew it would happen and I was ready. I am happy to say we are old pros and I can nurse without any cover, this just helped in the beginning, the first couple weeks or so.
g. Snacks & Snacks & more Snacks - see #3 - I had tons of fruits and nuts laying around, also had some in a container for on the go fuel. Oatmeal Muffins were a staple as well. I had some serious cravings and went with those ;)
h. Cute Water Bottle - it is so important to drink a lot of water when you breastfeed, it makes it a lot easier when you have something cute and fun to drink out of! This was my favorite!
i. Nursing Bra - see #6 
j. Heating Pad - it doesn't have to be fancy, it just needs to get warm. It will feel so good to relax with one of these over your chest, especially when you have some engorgement going on.
k. Massage Book - this one is important, because you are going to be sore the first few weeks, I know I was. For whoever is going to be lucky enough to message your shoulders and back, knowing how is a must. If that special person starts giving you a hard time, ask them to hold an 8 pound kettle ball in their arms, while looking down, for 45 minutes. They should lay off a bit ;) Those muscles are going to have to get used to holding that baby! This one should do just fine.

I hope this helps! Breastfeeding is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. Just remember you are doing great and are not alone. Hooray for boobies!

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