Disclosure :: World Breastfeeding Week is recognized August 1 – 7, 2015. This year, World Breastfeeding Weekcalls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed. Our World Breastfeeding Week series is sponsored by Touro Infirmary.
Breastfeeding … what seemed like it should be the most intuitive and natural experience of my life just simply wasn’t. It was a time filled with a lot of confusion, tears, self doubt, but above all worry. I was in awe of my body during pregnancy – it seemed to know exactly what to do to grow a perfect life and deliver that life into the world. It was as if that same body that I was in awe of turned on me in my attempt to feed my son. I felt broken, and it was a very dark struggle. I’ve written about my breastfeeding journey before, but now that my husband and I are starting to consider number two, it made me realize that I would do a few things differently the next go around.
Find a support group early
My preparation for breastfeeding before having my son included listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, reading articles, and attending a class at a baby friendly hospital. After I started having trouble feeding my son, a friend added me to a private Facebook support group. I learned more from these women than all of my other preparation combined. So much of being successful with breastfeeding is surrounding yourself with a good support system because giving up is too easy! They offered real time troubleshooting and understanding, and there was inevitably someone who was having a similar experience who could relate. I wished that I had known about all the things I learned from the very beginning. So, whether it’s attending La Leche League meetings or receiving virtual support, the next time I will seek out support while I’m still pregnant.
Don’t let a sleeping baby sleep
I got some advice early on to not wake my sleeping baby to feed him. I also got the advice to sleep when my baby sleeps. The problem was, my baby liked to sleep … a lot. I took the opportunity to get some rest myself, but what I didn’t know was that all that rest, especially in the early weeks, was destroying my supply. I know now that the first two weeks are critical to establishing supply. I also know that babies are much more efficient at emptying the breast than a pump. Because I know that I am prone to low supply, I will wake my sleeping baby every two hours the next go around, at least for the first few weeks!
Throw modesty out the window
Breastfeeding my summer baby under a cover was a logistical nightmare. Covers are hot and awkward, plus simply looking at your child can trigger hormonal responses that help with let down. I couldn’t see him because I was keeping him covered! Even when friends or family came to the house, I felt like I needed to go in another room or cover up. I know now that breastfeeding without a cover doesn’t have to be graphic, and if someone views it as sexual or obscene, that’s their problem!
Try to relax more
This may be easier said than done. My supply issue was a vicious cycle. First, I worried that my baby wasn’t getting enough, but being wracked with guilt just seemed to make the supply worse! It surprised me how psychological breastfeeding can be! Perhaps instead of hooking myself up to a double electric pump for 20 minutes to do some “power pumping” to boost my supply, I should have eaten some chocolate and taken a bath.
At the end of the day, while there are things I would do differently, I will be ok if I experience the same outcome and decide to formula feed my baby. I was TERRIFIED of formula with my first. I sobbed when I fed him his first bottle, and I worried about how it would affect his health and development. Fast forward, and my 22 month old has been sick less than a handful of times and he impresses me every day with how smart he is.
While I hope to be able to breastfeed my next with less difficulty, I know now that choosing formula is not the end of the world.