Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My two cents on breastfeeding.

Esereth left the following comment the other day:

I have a breastfeeding question and you are the mama to ask.

Hospital book says that if you switch babe from boob to bottle they are likely to stop taking boob because it's harder to get food out of than the bottle.

Did you find that true and if not how did you avoid it?

I'm a little bummed that I'm the only one who will able to feed Smudge when she comes.

After the third paragraph of reply I realized what I had was not a comment, but an entry, which follows:

I have never had the breast feeding experience I wanted. First there was Boy, who had no interest in the boob whatsoever when he was born. A lactation consultant at the hospital helped us out until he got the hang of latching on, but once we were sent home I was on my own. I thought I had read enough about breast-feeding, but it turned out I didn't even know how much I didn't know. I'd heard about La Leche, but the idea of going to a meeting where all you talked about was boobs and their juice seemed beyond weird to me- how could there be enough to say to fill an entire meeting? So when Boy's growth started slowing, and feeding became an issue, I consulted his Doctor.

Here's my first piece of breast-feeding advice: Do not, under any circumstances, ask a Doctor how to fix a breast-feeding issue. Ask a La Leche Leader. Call a Lactation Consultant. If their advice doesn't help, call Another Lactation Consultant. Doctors aren't trained in how to facilitate lactation. They don't talk to Mothers Daily about nursing, or see in person the hundreds of variations on the theme that nursing is. They tend to give poor advice with utter conviction because they attended a conference once.

I was 20, worried, and thought the Doctor knew what she was talking about. In the end my milk supply dwindled, Boy lost weight, and we switched to formula.

Then along came Peanut. She knew exactly what a nipple was for, but she couldn't get it in her mouth. She was born with an abnormally small chin, and my big gumdrop nipples could not be stuffed in her mouth far enough for her to latch on. Several lactation consultants agreed that what we should do is have me pump breast milk for a while, feed it to her with a bottle, then switch from the bottle to the breast. We thought this would take a few weeks.

It took several months for her mouth to grow enough for the nipple to begin to fit in her mouth. I believe we still could have made the switch, but I wasn't diligent enough about practicing with the nipple shield, supplemental feeder and accompanying hooplah for Peanut to get the hang of it. Maybe finding another lactation consultant after we moved would have helped. Maybe nothing would have worked because Peanut can be particular about such things. Who knows. All I know is that breast-milk is good for babies, and if I have to bottle feed it to her for another three or four months I will.

It is my personal belief that Peanut did not have nipple confusion. There is much debate on this subject, because there have been studies done that say there is no such thing as nipple confusion. Ask a LaLeche Leader and she will probably tell you there is. I used to work in a daycare with babies who drank breast milk from the bottle there, then went home to nurse. In all honesty I think it depends on the baby. Peanut is very sensitive to tastes and textures and had definite opinions on which method she preferred. Other babies could care less. I think the advice that makes the most sense to me is to wait until nursing is well established (seems like I heard two months) before introducing the bottle or pacifier.

I did go to some La Leche meetings, where I was the only one feeding her baby from a bottle. I was made to feel very welcome. I discovered there is a ton of stuff to be learned, even if you've read all about nursing. There is plenty of content to fill a meeting with.

Which leads me to my second piece of nursing advice: Find a La Leche group before your baby is born. Pregnant Moms are welcome, and if you have a question in the middle of the night after the baby arrives, you'll feel less weird calling somebody you've already met.

If you're lucky, breastfeeding will be a breeze from the start. If you're not lucky, you'll be worried sick that your baby isn't getting enough milk at a time when you're tired and stressed anyway. This is why people switch to formula so soon after they come home.

My third piece of advice: do not buy any bottles or formula before the baby gets here, and do not accept any sent home with you by your hospital. If you get worried about your baby's intake, the formula will seem like the perfect solution. You can't be tempted to give them formula you don't have. Babies don't die because they don't nurse well when they're brand new, but when you're sitting there with a crying baby who won't latch on you feel otherwise. It's natural. If this happens to you, call someone who can help (see above), don't make a bottle. After the baby gets the hang of things you'll be soooo glad you did.

My last piece of advice: nursing isn't meant to hurt. If it hurts you, the baby probably isn't latching on correctly. Seek help!

You live, you learn. I can't be bothered to feel guilty about it anymore, but I do feel sad about the nursing that didn't happen. There is nothing so sweet, and I didn't get to have that experience in full with either child. I will have to settle for knowing that, yet again, I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.

Cuddle with 'em if you got 'em, (babies, that is)


Esereth said...

Wow. Thanks. That was really useful stuff.

I thought the La Leche leauge was a bunch of lactating nurse type women who supplied breast milk to fathers of children whose mother's died in childbirth. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty strange thing to think in this day and age.

Well, now I'm hooked. I'll be asking lots of advice now.

onetallmomma said...

Great job. I wish I had been there for you when your babies were born. And my hat is off to you. Pumping enough to maintain supply is a labor of love. Lucky peanut.

There is much debate in the lactation community about "nipple confusion". I think babies are different which means that some have no problem going back and forth and others do. Anyway you cut it though, a new Mom should be encouraged not to offer any bottles until her mature milk supply is established...4-5 weeks.