I've probably mentioned before, I was so surprised to discover that the feelings and discussion around breastfeeding in New Brunswick were so different (negatively so) than I had encountered in Nova Scotia, where I began my parenting and breastfeeding journey.
I just want to pipe up on the issue to encourage new moms! I often see new moms breastfeeding and just want to say, "Good job, and keep going!" It's a skill to learn and then it gets easy! It really does. Beyond the health benefits I knew breastmilk provided over formula, I feel breastfeeding improved many other areas of my mothering in ways I didn't expect - spending more time with my babies, holding them, soothing them easier and quickly, relaxing my attempts to schedule their sleep and eating, co-sleeping and touching base with them throughout the night, just generally appreciating how they forced me to 'stop and smell the roses'.
I feel often like I should be quiet about breastfeeding, that I sound like I'm bragging and being judgmental. I'm really not. I am proud of breastfeeding successfully and I feel I may have a bit of experience that might be helpful. Four babies in I might even be an expert, if I can say so myself. But I'm certainly not trying to alienate and judge my friends. Mothering is hard, I know you don't need guilt over what you think I think about you if you quit breastfeeding laid on top of it all!
Sometimes I do find it hard to believe that people, very smart ladies I know and love, decide to not even try. But I also realize that I am lucky to have received those supportive pro-breastfeeding messages - a husband who saw the benefits and was supportive, a mom who breastfed and valued it (at a time when few others did), and sisters who had been there and got it too - and I want to pass it on. (Especially before it's long enough ago that I forget the details!)
So here goes, my big breastfeeding tips to encourage those new moms out there:
1. Relax. And learn to nurse lying on your side.
It can start out hard and it can have bumps along the way. I think back on parenting our first babe - how concerned I was with having him sleep in his own crib at night and attempting to feed him on a schedule, with a certain amount of time between nursing - and in retrospect I realize we only created unnecessary chaos and discontent for ourselves (and him!). I thought you couldn't do everything that a baby wanted, that you would spoil the baby. You can actually. It makes for a very happy baby, with their needs met and their own schedule established. With Thane (our first), I would sit up and rock and nurse him and be sooo tired, trying to get him to sleep in his crib. Then, I learned to nurse him lying on my side and stop worrying about him developing a habit of being in our bed. Ahhhh. I rested, half-slept, while he nursed and snuggled. That would be my biggest tip for new breastfeeders - to learn to nurse lying down.
2. Get the latch right. Then give it time to practice, get better and find your rhythm.
In my experience, the first 1 - 3 weeks are difficult. The baby and you need to learn how to latch on properly. It's a skill. When they latch on wrong, it hurts. But I've found once we get it, we've got it. When you nurse latched on wrong, it makes it hurtful and very daunting to attempt the next time. Doing it wrong causes a few grin and bear it days. If baby doesn't seem to know the way, ask for help right away to avoid that altogether. There are amazing women who know, ask the right one. I also think I'm lucky that my firstborn seemed to just know what to do. It was my third baby who didn't seem to know how to latch on, and I'm not sure how I would have made out if she had been first! The first two to three months are a learning curve - things like how to remember what side you nursed on last and not to wait too long between feedings. Finding your rhythm with baby. Get a nursing tank top that covers your belly (that was a favorite discovery for me). Every new skill learned needs practice. Then you're off to the races, and each baby gets easier. In my experience.
3. Don't complicate it. Just Nurse More.
My last big tip - I think I really only have three - is to not over-complicate it. With my first and second, I would express milk for when I was away and try to have someone else give them bottles occasionally. I found expressing milk VERY HARD and soon gave up and supplemented with formula. Thane nursed until he was 10 months old. With Seth, when he was 5 months old I started working part-time and all of the sudden I found he preferred the bottle! The easy flow over the cheek muscle workout needed for breastfeeding? I wasn't sure, but I didn't like it. I bottle fed him from then on (and that I certainly found difficult and just too complicated!). Not to mention expensive, and I felt bad about giving him formula. I was only starting to be as conscious of what we were eating as we are now. I didn't realize how much I valued breastfeeding until I couldn't go back.
With Claire and Max, I had enough experience under my belt to realize I didn't need to go anywhere they couldn't go with me, and just how fast that year or so goes. I would be able to attend those adult only functions next year. I worked as a freelance designer instead of leaving. We were a unit. I realized any difficulty breastfeeding threw at me, it was best to just nurse more. Blocked duct? Nurse more. Apply heat. Mastitis? Nurse more. Get my butt to the doctor if it felt like the flu. Growing baby? Never seem to be enough milk? Nurse more. Enough/more would seemingly magically produce.
So there you have it, my big tips.
Actually, I think I have one more.
4. Decide to do it.
In most of my life decisions, working through something challenging was easier if I wasn't comparing it to the thing I decided not to do. University was tough, especially with an unplanned first baby. But it would have seemed tougher if I was constantly comparing myself to highschool friends who took one year courses, had a job and by now were sporting a new car. I didn't consider quitting, I had to keep the long-term benefits in mind. The same goes with being a working mom. When I delve into the daydreams I've always had about being a stay-at-homer, normal day-to-day work challenges seem harder. The theory holds true for breastfeeding too. I really never considered bottle feeding instead of breast feeding (I sometimes complicated nursing by adding bottles), and I think that singularity of mind took away that part of anxiety and indecision, leaving only the hurdles of learning the task at hand, feeding my babes.
This is my 'Good for you mamas'. Know breast feeding is encouraged where you are (it is, for as many doubters there will be 50 supporters) and nourish your babe with confidence. You're doing great. ;)