Monday, January 14, 2013

the beginning

As soon as I learned I was pregnant JD and I were bombarded with decisions about how we were going to parent. When Paxton was born we had to start putting those decisions into action and we get questions about our choices on a regular basis. The three major areas of concern, no matter the gender of your baby, are eating, sleeping, and care giving with diapering coming in a close fourth. During my pregnancy, I enjoyed reading blog posts from moms about what worked for them or parenting strategies they're passionate about. We're now 4.5 months in and I want to share our experiences in these categories. I hope to be informative and help those of you who may need to make these decisions in the near future. Not a mommy or mommy-to-be? Save (or pin!) this post for the future ;-) Yes, this is long. I won't feel bad if you stop reading or skim. Take from it what you will.

The topic for today is...



"Breast or bottle?" This question comes mainly from doctors, nurses, and relatives. But I wouldn't put it past a nosy acquaintance or even a stranger to ask. There are more ways than I thought to feed your little one. You can nurse, pump and give breast milk via bottle, or do a combination of both. You can give formula. You can give breast milk and formula. There's even this contraption that gives both baby and mom the comforts of nursing when the baby is actually getting formula or pumped breast milk.

I chose to breastfeed.

There were a few reasons for my decision:

- nutritional benefits for baby. As advanced as science is, formula is not exactly like breast milk.

- cost. It's FREE. Really this was reason enough for me.

- health benefits for me. I've worked out a grand total of 4 times since giving birth and I've lost about 30 of the 50 lbs I had gained. Talk about an easy calorie burner. Now if I would just combine this with exercise...

Specifically, I exclusively nurse. Paxton has gotten breast milk in a bottle only 4 times. There were also multiple reasons for this decision:

- bonding experience. I'm the only one who feeds my baby and I love it. Now, obviously I don't have anything to compare it to, but I think it's enhanced our relationship as mommy and son. I stay home with him, so why not take full advantage of our time together?

- time saving. I don't have to pump every day. Or even every week.

- cost. Since I don't pump often, I didn't need to buy one of those crazy expensive electric things.

To explain how these decisions have played out, here is our breastfeeding story:

How I prepared:
+ I read parts of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Even though I didn't finish it, I learned a lot and it was really inspiring. (Weird that a book about boob food is uplifting? Maybe. But it is.

+ JD and I took a breast feeding class at our hospital around the 32 week mark. He wasn't too keen on going, but I swore other men would be there and I did NOT want to be alone when everyone else had a partner. Turns out I was right. AND he didn't totally hate the experience. While some of the topics made him squirm, he learned a lot. Our class was free and we were in and out in less than 2 hours. So much easier than forcing a book on him. Ladies, feel free to use my experience to convince your husband that his attendance is worth it.

At the hospital:
+I first tried nursing Paxton a little over an hour after he was born. I had no idea how to hold him and the nurse with us wasn't very helpful. She just wanted to get us out of our birth suite and into our family suite. I don't think this session went well, but it didn't seem to be a complete disaster either.

+We tried again in a couple hours. We decided to send Paxton to the nursery for the first night because a 25 hour labor had really done me in and both JD and I needed sleep. The nurse brought him to me and then left. I really didn't know what I was doing but, again, it seemed to go okay.

+The next morning, our nurse was more helpful. She showed us a few different holds and pointed out the swallowing noise. We relaxed knowing that he was actually getting something. We also met with a lactation consultant who gave us some additional tips. Funny thing to point out here- I had not burped him during the first two feedings. I'm not sure how I skipped this step- but I did. Oops!

+Since my third feeding, I have given him one boob, burped him, then offered the second. He never turns it down. I try to switch which side I start with each time, because he seems to eat more on the second side. This way, I keep myself even. No weirder feeling that being unbalanced in this way.

Month One:
+When we got home JD continued to document each feeding (something we started in the hospital so we'd remember what to tell the nurse). He wrote down the time, how long Paxton fed on each breast, and how we would rate the feeding. I honestly don't even remember the scale we used...this seems like such a long time ago! This information did come in handy at Paxton's first couple doctor's appointments, but we gave it up after that.

+Once my milk actually came in (about Day 4), Paxton started taking a really long time to eat. About an hour total (30 minutes each side). I became a little frustrated because he needed to eat every 3 hours...from the beginning of the previous feeding. For example- Let's say he began eating at 11. He'd go until noon and then need to start eating again at 2. I felt like all I was doing was nursing. Honestly, this was THE ONLY downfall of exclusively nursing. In the beginning I was so tired and did not want to be the sole bearer of this responsibility. While JD would get up in the middle of the night to help with diaper changes, he would often drift back to sleep while I had to stay awake.

+My nipples (Gasp! Sorry this IS a post about boobs after all.) were slightly sore during the 2nd and 3rd weeks. I put Lanolin on before showering so they wouldn't get dried out and used Medela Tender Care Hydrogel Pads. I have not experienced any kind of infection, engorgement, blisters/cracking, or had supply issues (knock on wood). Hearing about all of this stuff at the class made me very nervous, but don't let this change your mind about nursing. It doesn't happen to everyone!

+The first time I tried to pump (around 4 weeks), I failed. I couldn't get anything. I knew I had enough milk because Paxton was eating great and gaining weight. I immediately got discouraged, but knew my only option was to try again. As much as I enjoy nursing, I knew there would be times when he would need a bottle and I had to have a supply ready to go. My next attempt went better and within a few more tries, I got the hang of it. I use the Medela Harmony Manual Breastpump.

For my situation (stay-at-home mom who pumps infrequently), it's GREAT. Now, I've read other breastfeeding stories from moms who use electric pumps or double pumps (or electric double pumps) and they get 6-8 oz in 15 minutes. I do not get those results with this pump. I get about 2 oz at a time(more in the morning or if I would choose to get up in the middle of the night...which I've never done). This amount is perfect for me. I combine two pumping sessions worth of milk into a breast milk storage bag and freeze. Then I have about one feeding per bag. Which brings me to my next point...

+Because Paxton had yet to drink from a bottle, I had no idea how much he was eating per meal. I was never worried about him getting enough because he was having wet/dirty diapers and gaining weight.

+ One concern I did have during the time period was that Paxton would not willingly leave my boob. He would fall asleep while eating so I would have to shake his arm or tickle his neck to get him going again. Even when I knew he was no longer actually eating, he would still hold on for dear life. I had to break suction with my finger after almost every feeding.

+The last point I want to make about this month is about spit up. Yum. Paxton wasn't a great burper during his first month of life. In fact, he rarely did it. He also rarely spit up. Having had no prior experience to compare it to, I didn't think much of it, but I've heard that's not the norm.

Month 2:
+Paxton had his first bottle of breast milk. I wouldn't say it went extremely well, but he drank it. The only reason we tried it is because we knew he would have to take one when JD and I went on our anniversary date. We didn't want the first one to be with a babysitter. That wouldn't have been kind to anyone involved. We gave him almost 4 oz because that bottles that came with our AVENT starter kit hold 5 oz when they're filled to the top. Honestly, we just guessed. He seemed content afterward, so I guess we were right.

+He started sleeping through the night (our experience with that will be a future post!) and I was full and sore in the mornings because my supply hadn't leveled out. It took a couple weeks for my body and my baby to get on the same track, but when they did, that uncomfortable feeling went away.

+At this age he was still taking almost an hour to eat each time and eating every 3 hours.

+He began to burp at this age...and began to spit up. This month included all 3 of his projectile incidences. It was like someone quickly and forcefully squeezed his stomach. Luckily he decided not to take this on as a hobby. Normal spit up did stick around for awhile, though. I would say for about 2 months he spit up on the regular. Nothing huge, just a little here and there. And by here and there I mean not necessarily right after he ate. Sometimes it was a couple hours later, when we least expected it. He liked to be spontaneous.

+Despite the regurgitating talk, I would say this month is when I really began to enjoy breastfeeding. I saw how much Paxton loved (and still does!) to nurse and that made me like it even more.

Month 3:
+He became much more efficient and each feeding went down to about 30 minutes. Still every 3 hours, though.

+He was still spitting up often and we started keeping a bib on him at all times. Which also helped with his increase in saliva.

+At this point he started to stop and pull away if he needed to burp or if he was full. He was finally giving me some hints at what he wanted.

+...I really don't have much to say about this month which shows how easy feeding him had gotten. We got into a groove that we both understood and enjoyed.

Month 4: 
+At 4 1/2 months, it now takes him 10-25 minutes total. 25 minutes is his morning feeding because he's very hungry and still a little sleepy.

+Unless he takes an extra long nap, I still nurse him every 3 hours. This does not seem nearly as bad as it did during month one, though, because of how quick he is now.

+He tried rice cereal for the first time last week. As you may have read, we decided to not try again for awhile. We've got a good thing going with nursing. Our doctor said that starting solids between 4-6 months is best because studies show it's the best window for preventing future allergies. JD and I aren't particularly worried about allergies (they don't run in either of our families) and we still have a ways to go before we hit the 6 month mark.

+I do want to start pumping more often to increase my stash. Since I plan on using breast milk to make baby food, I'm going to need extra. I also want to start giving Paxton more bottles, mainly because I'm not comfortable with nursing in public. Around family and friends I'll simply throw a blanket over my shoulder, but whipping out a boob at a restaurant or the mall (even if no one sees it) isn't my style. More power to those moms who do it! You rock!

The Future
+ The addition of solid foods will mean change to the wonderful feeding routine we have. I do plan on nursing until about a year, but we'll see where this adventure takes us. Again, because I exclusively nurse, I don't know exactly how much he eats per feeding. This means when he starts eating solids on a regular basis, deciding whether or not to cut out a nursing session will be my best guess. I'd love to hear what you moms have to say about this!

If you've read this far- good for you! I hope you learned something along the way. Or maybe my story is similar to yous and I made you feel a little more normal :) Either way, my main point is that breastfeeding truly is rewarding, can be generally easy, and is a relationship-building journey.

Quetions/Comments? Feel free to e-mail me: abuckeyeinbadgerlandblog {at} gmail {dot} com

Happy Nursing!

1 comment:

eliz said...

Great tips. So I always said in college I would never breastfeed (just like I said I would never have kids). Of course I think differently now (good ol' age changes everything). However I am a bit nervous...I wasn't breast fed so can't really ask my mom. I plan to do it only during my 3-4 month stay at home. I have heard many painful stories. But I agree with you...there are more benefits than anything else!