More women should breastfeed their babies. Not because women who breastfeed are better moms or because "breast is best", but because we need more mentors for clueless breastfeeding newbies.
As soon as I got pregnant with my first child, I wanted to breastfeed. I took a breastfeeding class to prepare myself, and my goal was to make it through the first year.
That year was harder than I ever could have imagined.
Reality set in as soon as I gave birth. The baby didn't latch like he was "naturally inclined" to do. It took two different lactation consultants to teach us to latch. Those lactation consultants were crucial to my success in breastfeeding. With their help, I was able to successfully breastfeed for 20 months the first time around.
Growing up, the only thing I heard about breastfeeding was that it hurts and makes your breast sag. No one in my family ever breastfed past six weeks. The closest people in my life thought I was crazy for continuing to breastfeed my son for a long period of time. I had no one to turn to for support, and no one understood anything I was going through with breastfeeding.
Here's what I learned.
The hard truth is that you have to teach your baby to latch, they won't just latch-on like they've been doing it for years. It also takes time for your milk to come in and for your supply to regulate. My milk came in when Ethan was two days old and it took about two weeks for my milk to regulate. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk you'll make. It took about eight weeks for my son and I to find our groove, so if you hang in there, it will get easier.
In my breastfeeding class, they told me to put the baby on the breast more often than using bottles so baby won't develop nipple confusion and reject the breast. What they didn't say is that the reverse can happen. Around seven weeks old, Ethan stopped taking bottles all together. This lasted for the rest of his infancy. Again, no one I knew could relate or offer advice. All they would say is "if he's hungry enough, he'll take that bottle" WRONG!
There were plenty of times when I had appointments or commitments, and could not take Ethan with me. He refused to eat until I returned. This was extremely hard on me because I had to be the one to feed him ALL of the time -- at night, in public… wherever I went, he had to be nursed.
I finally got relief when he started drinking from cups. By the time I weaned him at 20 months, he had already developed a word for nursing, "naa naa" is what he called it. He didn't stop asking for "naa naa" until about seven months after he was weaned.
Breastfeeding is difficult, uncomfortable at times, and inconvenient. But I cherished the time spent bonding with Ethan. My experience with breastfeeding him has made the experience with Gavin much easier.
I just wish more moms in my circle gave it a chance so I didn't have to be the guinea pig.