Wednesday, August 03, 2011

NBAM: My first time

When I found out I was expecting a baby, I knew I would breastfeed. I can't remember a time when I thought I would do otherwise. My Bradley method classes included a 3 hour breastfeeding class, as well as a review at the end of each class. There were videos and we even had a "guest speaker/guest breastfeeder." I felt prepared. I felt ready. I knew I could do it!

And then I had a baby.

And I was tired. And depressed (I had pretty bad PPD after Abigail's birth.) And I went on DepoProvera which made my post-partum bleeding endless (like, 12 weeks) so I was anemic and lethargic on top of it.

And I lived with my in out-laws (ex-laws) who were anti-breastfeeding and who thought that every time Abigail cried, it was because I was giving her the boob instead of the bottle.

Unlike many moms who have difficulty establishing a supply, my milk came in and I swear, I made enough to feed an army of babies! Poor Abigail couldn't keep up! The advice from the lactation Crazies consultants was to keep nursing, nurse more frequently, etc. I was nursing, literally, every 30-45 minutes.

I dropped 60 pounds in 6 weeks, weighing 10 pounds LESS than my pre-pregnancy weight (hint: I was slightly underweight before I got pregnant, so this was really NOT a healthy weight for me.) I looked haggard, and I had horrible nipple damage despite using proper nursing technique... (Have I mentioned how thankful I am for my sister, Faith, who was a post-partum nurse and an invaluable source of information and support?)

Long story short, despite having a great supply and doing everything I was advised to do, breastfeeding just wasn't working for us. I was unhealthy, and my little girl was not happy, healthy, or gaining weight.

And then, my friend told me about Babywise. And I put my baby on a schedule (which was hard!) And suddenly, breastfeeding started working.

My nipples healed, and I gained back a little weight. I looked and felt healthier and more energetic, and my post-partum bleeding stopped. Abigail became less fussy and started gaining weight like it was going out of style (she ended up tripling her birth weight by 6 months, and quadrupling it by a year- the "norm" is double by 6 and triple by a year.)

I ended up breastfeeding exclusively (with the exception of starting solid foods) until Abigail was a year old. We weaned completely at 18 months. Breastfeeding was such a soothing, relaxing, connected time for us, especially in the midst of going through my separation from Abigail's bio dad, returning to work/starting day care, etc. I was so happy I had stuck with it.

This experience taught me many things, but most importantly, what I learned about breastfeeding is that you have to find what works for you and your baby. What works for your sister or best friend or the author of the book you read may not be right for you. And that's okay. Every baby and every mom are different, and your baby's health and your health (including your mental health!) are most important.

A close second in importance is this: there are lactation consultants, and there are lactation crazies. Find a helpful, supportive lactation consultant who is willing to work with you and your baby, your individual personalities and needs, and help you find solutions to the issues you are facing. My experience was so horrible in the beginning, partially because the lactation crazies were just giving me the "feed her more" advice that they give basically all other moms, and didn't try to brainstorm to help me figure out how to meet the specific needs that Abigail and I had.

I'm so glad I learned these lessons, as they came in so handy with my next breastfeeding experience.

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