Jun 18, 2012

guest post: top 8 things every pregnant woman should know about breastfeeding

I'm going to start this post out with an admission and then a clear statement so there's no confusion...

Admission: When I was pregnant with Jane and met Moms who weren't breastfeeding, I TOTALLY judged them. If they didn't have a good reason, I completely disagreed with their decision not to breastfeed. In my defense, I also told myself my child would never drink juice over water, I'd never feed her KD, and that I was never going to bribe my child with candy. If THAT me were to visit THIS me, she'd be very disappointed. If THIS me could say something to THAT me, I'd say YOU'RE A CLUELESS IDIOT. :)

Statement: After successfully breastfeeding Jane for eleven months, I now tell my pregnant friends something different. My new advice re: breastfeeding is: If it's a priority for you, you CAN make it happen and it CAN be easy and it CAN be wonderful. If it's not a priority for you, don't stress yourself out about it.

Here's the other thing - this post is completely one-sided. Because I've only had ONE child, and I breastfed, I can only speak to experience with bf-ing. So, anyone who wants to chime in on formula-feeding, do so in the comments section please!

I have no idea why breastfeeding was such a priority to me but it was. I wanted it to work. I wanted to do it right. I wanted to follow all the "rules". I read about it. I learned about it beforehand. I asked questions to friends beforehand. It was just a priority. I think part of my reasons were for "health" reasons for baby. I think part was that I did NOT want to have to pay for formula cause it's $$$ insanity. And I think the last part of me held out hope that bf-ing was going to be the liposuction people claim it is. The last was not the case for me, unfortunately.

It was also one of the hardest things I had to adjust to, learn, struggle with, when Jane arrived. I cannot speak to how my experience would have been different if I was formula feeding - I know there are also struggles that accompany this (gas, which formula to use, having to do all that prep - between sanitizing, mixing, etc.). What I can say is that it definitely made the first 8 weeks of life with a newborn challenging... which, I think they basically are in general regardless of feeding choice. For clarity, what I often say is the first 8 weeks of bf-ing were HELL. Then, it was fantastic. Once I got it all down pat. Once Jane got it all down pat. Once my milk adjusted. Once I relaxed. It was the easiest thing in the world and I loved it. So, as I approach the arrival of my second little monkey... I have no choice but to hope that I can have the same experience as last time.

Of course, this has been on my mind for the past few weeks and coincidentally, in making an invite for a customer on MBD, I came by Gloria - a lactation consultant - who offered me help if I needed once baby arrived. I immediately asked her to write a post on the blog as, I know that I benefited from all the advice and research I did before Jane arrived.

As always, you know my RULE... this post is not intended to (1) sway you one way or the other or (2) judge you for your choice. My only RULE is: Do what works for you! But, if you're hoping to bf, I know you'll find the tips below useful as they were great reminders for me! Enjoy!!

Top 8 Things Every Pregnant Woman Should Know About Breastfeeding

1. LEARN THE BASICS BEFOREHAND. It has been documented that women are traditionally in a poor position to learn new information and new skills during the taking in phase. READ: Its really hard to do anything but panic and love the first days after the baby is born and NOT a good time to START learning about breastfeeding.

2. WATCH BREASTFEEDING WOMEN. If you know women who have breastfed or are breastfeeding talk to them, observe them (if they don't mind). Don't worry no one will think you are weird if you show up to a La Leche League meeting pregnant and ask questions about breastfeeding. They will be THRILLED that you care and HAPPY to share with you. If you have seen it before and have some idea how it normally looks you will likely fall into the appropriate actions and stance when you meet your baby.

3. SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT. THIS would be my number one piece of advice if those other two bits of advice didn't chronologically need to happen before the baby was born. Skin to skin contact means having your NAKED baby in ONLY a diaper resting belly down on top of your NAKED chest with a blanket, hospital gown or sheet over the baby's bare back. While I always explain this the same way I sometimes find my patients "doing skin to skin" while the baby is wearing a onesie, or the mother is wearing a bra - neither of which actually count as skin to skin. SKIN TO SKIN is ABSOLUTELY the very best way to spend THE MAJORITY of time with your newborn. It helps to elicit their natural instincts to open their mouths, root around and properly latch to the breast. The most important time of all to do skin to skin is in the first two hours after the birth. In hospitals sometimes skin to skin is delayed for the repair of a tear or episiotomy or because the nurse assumes you wouldn't want a bloody baby placed on your chest. This delay in the first skin to skin contact is INCREDIBLY detrimental to your chances for EASE and successful breastfeeding. It doesn't mean you won't or can't breastfeed however, it will likely mean that you will have more difficulty achieving the elusive "perfect latch". As a patient in a hospital let your nurse and Dr. know ahead of time that you absolutely WANT your baby put skin to skin immediately after delivery and for as long as possible. After this time try to spend AS MUCH TIME AS YOU AND YOUR BABY LIKE in skin to skin until you feel that everything is going PERFECTLY with your breastfeeding. If I could go back and do one thing differently with my first son I would throw away all his adorable "newborn" outfits and have him skin to skin with me for the first 4 weeks of his life. YES, it's that important. Yes, you should do it for at least 8 hours out of every day! Since mothering is the most important job you will have in the first weeks after birth imagine that topless is your uniform and baby's too!

4. FOLLOW BABY'S CUES. When your baby is opening her mouth, looking around the room, frowning, trying to eat or lick her hand or fingers SHE IS HUNGRY. It does not matter if she just breastfed for 10 minutes, 45 minutes or 300 minutes. It does not matter if she has eaten 12 times already today. IF SHE SHOWS SIGNS OF HUNGER.... SHE IS HUNGRY. That seems so obvious but I can't tell you how many people just don't believe the incredible frequency that breastfed babies need to eat with. PLEASE FOLLOW YOUR BABY... she will never lead you wrong. Baby's who are crying have passed the earlier hunger cues mentioned above and are already in distress. If you wait until the baby cries her attempts to nurse will likely be uncoordinated and less successful.

5. EXPECT EXHAUSTION.  There is NOTHING you can do to prepare yourself for the absolute exhaustion that will overtake you as a new parent but try to envision it and embrace the idea of being up to feed your baby. SLEEP as much as you can before baby comes, especially starting the 38-40th weeks of pregnancy. These are your last chances to sleep well so try to enjoy them even if you aren't exactly comfortable with the largeness of the baby who will inevitably wake up and kick your bladder while you are resting. Once the baby is born I want you to take a deep breath, look at his little face and say "goodbye sleep it was so nice to know you". Accept that it is NORMAL for a breastfeeding mother to sleep in SHORT segments of time (sometimes 15 minutes) several times in a day. This is NOT what we were used to and it will not feel like real sleep. It will not kill you but you may feel like it will. In the first few weeks after my son was born I used to repeat the mantra "it is my privilege and an honor to be able to wake up and feed you". I needed to remind myself that not everyone is LUCKY enough to 1. Get pregnant and have a baby and 2. breastfeed.

6. ASK FOR HELP. With everything and anything. Shamelessly. When your mother-in-law comes to "help" with the baby remind her that what you really need help with is dishes and laundry and fresh meals. If breastfeeding isn't going well seek the help of a professional lactation consultant or a La Leche League leader. Don't be afraid to say I need help, something is not right. Ask your husband or partner to help you with ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING. With breastfeeding they can help you by handing you the baby, removing baby's clothes for skin to skin, stimulating a sleepy baby, bringing you water.... heck, I've even seen dad's holding breasts for baby as mommy slept.

7. Buy AMAZING support tools. I HIGHLY recommend the pillow "My Brest Friend". This pillow snaps around your waist so it won't slide away from you like the Boppy tends to. It has lumps to help correctly position baby's butt and head. Quite frankly I can't say enough nice things about it... I loved mine and wouldn't have survived nursing without it.

8. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. The number one concern I hear from mothers is "I don't think I have milk" or how do I know the baby is really eating. Remember that our bodies are divinely created to provide for our children. It is incredibly rare that a mother MEDICALLY can not breastfeed or that a baby is actually incapable. BELIEVE that you are completely capable of sustaining your baby. Just the way you grew her when she was inside of you and your body provided what she needed - now you will continue to grow her as your body provides. 

 Namaste and good luck earth mamas =) 
 Gloria, RN and soon to be IBCLC


Anonymous said...

I wish I had had this advice to refer to when I had my children, the whole process was over whelming and I found there was alot of conflicting information/advice, which in turn made me give up before even really trying. Also think self confidence plays a huge part.

Angelene said...

Yes... patience. It took us a solid 6 weeks to figure it out the 1st time around. The 2nd time around was much easier. And, I would add... be forceful with your little one. I had no idea how much I had to "force" her little head around (obviously, because newborns can't!)