If you would have told me 4 years ago that I would nurse TWO children for over a YEAR, I would have told you that you were crazy. To be honest, the whole idea of breastfeeding wasn't that appealing to me in the beginning. I am very modest (or I use to be) and the thought of having to whip out a boob to feed a child just seemed awkward. And uncomfortable. And scary. But there is a lot of pressure out there to give breastfeeding a try and I didn't want to look back and regret not giving it a go. So I did.
To my surprise, both of my children were excellent nursers. They took right to it and I was SHOCKED by how natural it felt. In fact, when Addie started having a little trouble nursing, I was SAD that I might have to give it up. I knew then how important it was to me. I never expected to go an entire YEAR, but that's just how it worked out for me. And since I gave her a year, I figured it was only fair that I give Blake that long if he took to it as well. And he did. That little bugger would still be nursing if I let him :-)
Now, this is not to say that breastfeeding was super easy for me, or any mom who has done it. Breast feeding is HARD! You have to make a LOT of sacrifices to breast feed. For one thing, you have to endure the pain of it all. Sore nipples, engorged boobies, the whole nine. And in addition to that, you have to patient. I figured you would just put a child to breast, they would eat until they were full, and then you would be done until the next feeding. Yeah...SO not the case. But every mom has a different experience. My kids had a tendency to fall asleep and then get up wanting to nurse again, even if had only been a half hour. I was nursing ALL. THE. TIME. And then my kids didn't want a bottle so I was the sole provider for a good 5 months until solids were introduced. That's a lot of commitment!
And because your body is responsible for ALL your baby's nutrition, you have to watch everything you eat. I had to be faithful about my vitamins and make sure I ate plenty of fruits, veggies and protein. I couldn't have more than a glass of wine on occasion and I couldn't take any medication except for Tylenol when necessary. This might not seem that hard, but after giving all this up for 9 months while pregnant, it was a lot to ask to give it up for another YEAR after that. But I did it for my kiddies. I did it because I wanted to breast feed and I wanted to keep them healthy. But trust me...there were many days I said to the kids, "PLEASE take a bottle. Mommy wants to drink and take some NyQuil". Haha!
But seriously, it is a lot of work. Any nursing mama (even a mom who only did it for a day) can tell you that. I just felt that if I had the ability to do it, I needed to. So many mom's out there wish they could nurse their kids, especially for that length of time, so I tried to be grateful for that every day. But with that said, I do have some advice for new mommies out there. I know everyone is different and my opinion may mean very little, but I always try to share my experience with others since breast feeding can be such a scary topic.
1. My biggest piece of advice for any new mama is to set realistic goals. I don't know if it is always a good thing to start out saying, "I'm going to nurse for a year" because that is a long time with a lot of hurdles to cross. I felt like if I set more realistic goals, I wouldn't be as let down if things didn't work out the way I planned. So in the beginning, I said I wanted to at least try nursing. Then, if I could get it to work, I wanted to go at least a month. And then if that worked, I would try to get to 3 months, and then 6 months, etc. I felt like every time I reached a milestone, I could assess how things were going. Was I too stressed? Was the baby getting enough milk? Did I feel like I could go on without crying at every feeding? As new mamas, we have ENOUGH to worry about. Forcing breast feeding if it is just not happening seems like unnecessary stress to me.
2. Remember that formula is NOT the devil. In fact, formula nowadays is quite awesome. When your child takes formula, they are guaranteed the perfect amount of nutrition and you can monitor how much milk your baby gets. Those are not guarantees with breastfeeding. When I was nursing Blake, I became anemic and his iron was also low as a result. I had to take more vitamins to compensate and if I were giving him formula, this wouldn't have been an issue. So really...if you go into all this knowing that formula is not the devil, you will feel more at peace if you make the decision to not breast feed.
3. Find support from friends, family members and lactation consultants. Have someone you can call when you have questions, concerns, etc. Like I said...breast feeding isn't always easy so have a support system to get you through. This will help TREMENDOUSLY.
4. Buy yourself a nursing cover. I had one by Bebe Au Lait and LOVED it. The reason for this is that although you say you will "never nurse your baby in public"...trust me when I say you will. Even if by "public" you mean your in-laws house. It's hard to always leave conversations and functions to go nurse your baby, especially if people are over visiting you. But when a baby has to nurse ALL the time, you need something a little more handy than a blanket. This is a nursing mom's must-have item in my opinion :-)
5. Prepare to hear the phrase, "The baby only wants YOU. If I had milk, I'd nurse him/her for you". If only we were coconuts...
It will get frustrating when your baby only wants YOU to feed him. I went through this with both kids. And when you wake up in the middle of the night, exhausted beyond belief, and you look at your husband resting peacefully on the other side of the bed, you might have thoughts of kicking him in the leg or pushing him off the edge. But don't. Then you will have two crying babies. Ha!
6. And finally, invest in some good nursing bras!!!!! I found Gap maternity bras to be reasonably priced and VERY comfortable and flattering. I had a few from Target that worked well, but fell apart very quickly. I was also not impressed with my bras from Motherhood because they made my boobs look like torpedoes. But again, every mother has their own preference so be sure to go try some on. And don't be afraid to pay a little more to buy good ones. It's worth it in the end :-)
Well those are just a few of my breast feeding tips for all you soon-to-be new mamas out there. For me, breast feeding was the best bonding experience ever and I wouldn't trade a single moment for the world.
But now that I am FINALLY done, it's time for me to reward my boobies for a job well done. I would love to treat them to a vacation in the Dominican Republic, where I could let them hang out freely to soak up some sun. But instead, I think I will just settle for some new bras that make me feel good again. The only other draw back to nursing is that even the greatest set of boobies WILL look like National Geographic when you are done. Just saying. Trying to keep it real here. So for now, I will get some great new bras, and then down the road, this mama may go for a more permanent lift. You know, when money starts falling from the sky :-)