Monday, March 16, 2009

Lessons in breastfeeding

It has been a rainy, dreary last few days in Charlotte. Perfect weather for 2 1/2 hours in a classroom learning about breastfeeding.

DH and I went to the hospital for our last class before the baby comes. We did the birthing class about a month ago, infant CPR earlier in the week and now breastfeeding. We're as prepared as we can possibly be at this point! Now we're just waiting for our daughter to arrive and teach us what idiots we are for trying to learn anything...

I had assumed the breastfeeding class would be similar to the other two we attended: at most 7 couples in an intimate setting. Instead we ended up in a room crammed with approximately 40 other people. The class was presentation style and the instructor decided that dimming the lights in a basement room on a Saturday afternoon was the way to go. Good thing I was so invested in the class and had no problems staying alert. Unlike a few classes from undergrad or MBA school I can think of.

I liked the class because it was wasn't extremely evangelistic. The instructor went over the benefits of breastfeeding but didn't demonize formula feeding. I'm very happy about that because people who talk in absolutes completely turn me off. I believe in the benefits of breastfeeding but don't need to be preached at about it.

Breastfeeding is probably the thing I worry about the most (aside from dealing with lack of sleep) about being a mom. Despite the research I've done which says breastfeeding is hard, there is still a big part of me that thinks it should be easy. It's natural after all, right? Breastfeeding is one of the things I can give to my child aside from my time, attention and love. I'd like to do it correctly with a minimum of fuss and be able to maintain it after I return to work through pumping. But I worry that my expectations are completely unrealistic and I will be disappointed.

The class itself didn't present anything new to me. I have been researching for a while and am about half way through The Nursing Mother's Companion. I am glad I waited to attend the class so close to my due date if only because it served as a "refresher" and will hopefully stick in my head long enough to be applied post delivery. Whether I end up delivering vaginally or via c-section, I am determined to have the immediate nursing experience (or in recovery) to establish good habits from the very beginning. However, many new mothers have shared with me their less than ideal experience, primarily because delivery nurses are not certified as lactation consultants. I've heard that a nurse will basically shove the baby on the nipple and not worry about a proper latch. The result is blisters right away. I'm going to be pretty out of it so it will be up to DH to help me ensure a good initial latch.

My hospital does provide hospital grade pumps in every recovery room and I can rent one for about $60 a month once I return home. I'm probably going to go that route until I figure out what I really plan on doing pumping-wise when I return to work. Depending on how breastfeeding goes I will then decide if I want to invest in my own pump which would be critical if I decide to pump after returning to work. I hope that I will not be using the pump in the hospital room and instead work with DH, the nurses, the lactation consultants and of course my daughter to breastfeed. I'd prefer to exclusively breastfeed while I'm in the hospital (not pump) because I know I will have a lot of support while I'm there.

For all the mothers out there who have tried breastfeeding, do you have specific recommendations for what I should be focused on immediately after delivery? What about for women who had c-sections? Or vaginal deliveries?


LauraC said...

My vote is initially after delivery, focus on the baby. Those first moments of wonder will only be repeated if you have more children.

I don't have any advice on the rest because
1- my boys went straight to NICU after c-section delivery
2 - breastfeeding both did not work out.

I can tell you how to fail breastfeeding :)

Neve said...

Hi! Mommy Esq.'s friend here. I have TONS of breastfeeding advice. We're going strong at 8.5 months and I had a c-section.

You will be given the chance to BF in recovery if you have a c-section. It's all kind of strange experience, but heck, watching liquid suddenly come out of your boobies is VERY strange. Just don't stress out about making breastfeeding work right away. Just be patient with learning about your little one and figuring out how to make it work for both of you. With c-sections milk doesn't come in as quickly, so you're feeding colostrum longer. I had her on a Monday, my milk didn't come in until I got home that Friday. She lost too much weight in the hospital (> 10%) and the pedi wanted me to supplement with formula, which for some strange reason which I still can't figure out, I was against. So I pumped. Alot. If I wasn't feeding her, I was pumping. And since I "needed" to pump b/c of her weight, health insurance paid for a $279 medela pump -- free! Look into that "perk."

At first I thought that I didn't need the help of a lactation consultant, but I noticed that all the nurses had different opinions and different techniques and stuff, so I finally got one and she was amazing. I'd try to arrange it so that if you get a lactation consultant, get the same one. Sarah, mine, saw me 2 days in a row, so we developed a relationship, she saw my technique improve, etc. I didn't have to retell the entire story to a different lactation consultant and learn what she thought was important, you know? No matter what, be prepared for the pain. Your nips have never been through that before, so it takes time to break them in. Plain and simple. You do want to focus on getting a good latch, which is basically getting as much of your boobie in that teeny tiny mouth as possible. A friend of mine said to focus on squishing your boobie with your hands so that you make a "U" with your hand, not merely a "C" shape. That helped me tremendously b/c I got more in her mouth. YOu don't have to worry about the latching technique for too too long. Soon enough, their mouth gets bigger and it's easier to get the necessary parts in their mouth. Plus, they just naturally open up really wide because they know what's coming :)

I could honestly talk about this stuff forever. If you want to talk to me, get my e-mail or telephone number from Mommy Esq. Happy to chat. You'll do great. Bottom line is try not to stress and do what's right for you and your family :)

Danielle said...

If you need ANY breastfeeding advice, please don't hesitate to ask me! I know it's not for everyone, but I'm still nursing B at bedtime and he's 16 months.

Like Neve said, try not to stress over it too much. I was lucky because Brady had a great latch and a good appetite starting about a half hour after her was born.

In the beginning it is frustrating just because it takes SO much of your time. But that doesn't last forever. The baby gets better at it and develops a routine and you develop a routine as well.

Honestly, message me on facebook or email me through my blog and I'd be happy to discuss. I think having someone behind you to support you when it's tough is the most important thing you can have. Whether it's your husband, your mom, your sister, a friend, it really really helps.

Good luck! Not too long now before you meet that baby!

Donna said...

Every woman that has every bf - has advice! So, I have some. I had two c-sections (one emergency, one planned). With both of the c-sections, my milk came in very quickly! Within two days my milk came in, so very much the norm. I was not able to nurse immediately following the birth. My hospital could not allow nursing in recovery. Which was fine for DS1, I was so out of it after laboring all day, I would not have been able to do it anyway. As for DS2, I was able to nurse him nearly as soon as I got back to the room.

As for some advice - BF hurts like Hell. One gal told me once that as soon as the baby latches on your toes will curl and your eyes will cross. Do NOT let this scare you. It is okay!! I don't care who tells you what, but even with the perfect latch the first few weeks will hurt. Get gel soothes, get the nipple cream. Air out your breasts so you do not get thrush.

I never had trouble with blisters. With DS1 I did have some cracking because I didn't realize when you BF you have to have the baby right up against you and the baby's head should be in line with her baby. Make sure of this, if the neck is bent at all - you will definitely have extra pain. DS1 hurt more than DS2 did. But DS1 didn't hurt as long as DS2 - but DS2 is tongue tied so that caused problems.

Formula is not evil. You can use it for a break. You do NOT need to pump AT ALL in the hospital. There really is no reason to. Baby baby baby - all the time. I did it with two c-sections, if it happens that way for you - you can too, I bet. As for renting a hospital pump, once you have one, you will NOT want to go back. Seriously, I rented one for 5 months! I loved it! It is so much better than anything you can get for a few hundred dollars.

As for BF and working, I am at 10 months, still BF. My supply has dropped, not really pumping all that much anymore. But DS2 is eating lots of solids so it is a natural process. There are lots of pointers to keeping your supply up, to exclusively BFing while on maternity leave. I did this and it was a joy! I won't go into that. When you are on maternity leave, I am sure you will be posting lots about this, I will definitely comment then! GL (by the way, had a dream you went into labor - strange how I am having dreams about people I don't know in RL!)

Anonymous said...

I have a ton of info I could share- Josh was BF for 15 months and Alex for 19.5 months. I went through the wringer with getting Josh to BF properly!

Have the hospital staff send an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to your room ASAP after the birth to help you get it right. Don't accept anything less than an IBCLC! The best thing you can do to successfully BF is to just nurse, nurse, nurse the baby as much as possible in the early days and weeks. And don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Also, if supplementing becomes necessary for any reason, I'd definitely try syringe-feeding or a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) before I'd supplement with a bottle.

Call or email me anytime if you need info or advice. Happy to help!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm also a Mommy Esq. friend and wanted to reach out and share with you in case you have an experience like mine, rather than the more positive experience of the other posters.

I just had a baby in December and planned to breastfeed. After a long labor, I ended up with an emergency c-section -- so, no Bfing right after delivery. I couldn't figure out the latch during the first "feeding" (nothing came out). My colustrum didn't come in for 24 hours. The hospital which supposedly had tons of pumps, couldn't locate one for me for 36 hours -- I finally sent my husband home to get our pump.

The c-section recovery made it really uncomfortable to nurse. They encourage football hold, but it wasn't cutting it for us.

My son had little interest in the breast, but pumping helped bring in my milk within 3 days.

The hospital's lactation consultant was one of most evil women I've ever met and made me cry. She has no business being around babies or fragile new mothers. (And her advice was opposite of what the labor and delivery nurses were saying -- each one of them manhandling me in a different way)

This was definitely not a smooth, natural or easy experience. We gave up the breastfeeding after a week. Then I went to pumping exclusively. After that, once I got to a point where I decided to taper off the pumping, it's taken me 7 additionl weeks of intense efforts to ween from the pump and I'm still not quite done. Oh yes, and add to that several bouts of awful mastitis.

I say this not to be a negative nelly or freak you out, but to share with you so that if you come across these hurdles you'll feel less alone.

There's an article that I think should be required reading for all mothers -- if for no other reason than to see an alternate view point that doesn't cause us to berate ourselves if we can't or won't breasfeed. I wish this article had been around for me before I gave birth.

Hopefully everything will go fabulously with your birth plan and you won't have the struggles (or breakdowns) that I had.

Stacey said...

Thanks for all the excellent advice, ladies! I will definitely be using this forum and others as a support network once the little one arrives and I start my BFing journey. I am lucky that DH is so supportive and will hopefully endure a few bouts of frustrating and crying as I figure out how to succeed :-)

Andrew and Connor's Mom said...

I do recommend breastfeeding as soon as possible. When I got my son, the lactation cosultant came right in with him and helped me through the initial breastfeeding. We breastfed solely in the hospital. Although, one thing I did not know that my pedi told me at my son's two week appt is that it can be more difficult to produce milk if you have a c-section due to shock. If you do experience lack of milk, get some Fenugreek (you can get it at GNC) and/or Mother's milk tea. Drink LOTS of water, that helps too. Just don't be too hard on yourself and most importantly, do not stress. If you are not relaxed you will have difficulty with let down. Best of luck.