Lessons from Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a biological process. There are statically very few women who do not produce enough milk to feed their babies. Read this article to learn a little bit more about breastfeeding into toddlerhood. In that I also describe how the constituents of women's milk changes over time to suit the needs of the baby.
This article is not to meant to demonize those who choose not to breastfeed. We are all on our own path, breastfeeding or not. But, I learned from other women when I was just starting out on this beautiful journey and maybe there will be one of you that needs support too.
For this article, I'm going to focus on what I've learned (somewhat randomly) in my nearly eight years of producing milk.
1. Tandem nursing is the way to go. If at all possible, tandem nurse! I only had two children who tandem nursed and I wished that all of them had that experience. It relieved me of the engorgement when my milk came in. It bonded our boys together. It comforted the toddler who still needed so much from me. It allowed the three of us to connect a couple of times per day. It provided nourishment for two kids at once.
2. The first baby is the steepest learning curve. Put frankly, you just don't know what you are doing. You can get all the lactation consulting you want; you can read as much as you'd like; but you just won't get it until you start breastfeeding. Yes, your nipples get sore. That's because they've never been sucked for 15+ minutes six times per day. Your body has also not had oxytocin surge through it 6 times per day building the bond with your baby. I recommend taking deep breaths and finding an experienced breastfeeding friend to come help. (Also, be open to nipple shields in the first couple of days! It brought me relief!)
3. If you are worried about latch consider letting an experienced breastfeeding mom see if the baby is sucking correctly. Each baby has a different suck. Some suck harder than others. Some don't latch properly in the beginning. Having a friend around that's willing to see if the baby is nursing correctly can calm your fears and give you peace of mind. Too many women have worry and fear that their baby is not sucking correctly. Find an experienced breastfeeding mama to calm those fears.
4. Here are a couple of other perks of breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is cheaper (FREE) and extra convenient. It's always at the correct temperature and there's no washing nipples after. You literally pull your shirt down, and then back up when you're done.
5. Trying to follow a strict schedule may not work. Babies eat, sleep, wake up, and eat again. As newborns they sleep so much. As they get older, they are awake longer. Their bodies know how long to sleep so keeping them on a schedule is not always helpful. Instead, we just tried to follow their rhythm. They also all breastfed at different rates. Our first breastfed for 45+ minutes for each feeding for so many months. The others nursed for 10-15 minutes each time and were content with that. Our last started having longer nursing sessions as she got older (finding that see needed more contact with Mom, and comfort). It's okay to follow their lead. They know how long to nurse. They are intuitive.
6. Plugged ducts really are no fun...but we survive. I had one plugged duct with each baby. My body felt sick all day. I drank echinacea tea, plenty of water, rested, and massaged the heck out of my breast while nursing. It returns to normal. It will be okay.
7. It doesn't last long. Let's say your kid lives to be 85. If you nurse for 2 years of their life, that's a tiny bit over 2% if their life. It's so short. May I recommend being present with your baby? Smell their tiny head, watch them fall asleep on your breast, sleep with them, talk to them, sing to them, and look in their perfect eyes.
8. Allow them to wean themselves (if at all possible). They are intuitive. They don't feel pressure to move on and be more independent unless you are pushing them towards it. They trust their biological signals. You can learn to trust it too.
What else have you learned from breastfeeding? What was the most enjoyable part of breastfeeding? Were you given the support you needed?
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