Monday, July 23, 2012

Breastfeeding update

Alex is ten weeks old tomorrow, which means I have been exclusively breastfeeding him for ten weeks. (Well, okay, he got about 25 ml formula on his fifth day of life due to jaundice. Can we not count that? I mean it was like three gulps.)

I never thought I would feel the way that I do about breastfeeding.

When I was pregnant, it seemed like everyone I knew struggled so much with it. I anticipated supply problems because why wouldn't I have them? I had so many problems getting pregnant, I didn't have any confidence that my body could do something so (seemingly) complicated.

I took the class and I felt a little better, but still nervous. I was annoyed by all the anti-formula rhetoric the LC spouted, and I thought I would probably just nurse until I went back to work and then switch to formula.

Alex was born, and the first month of nursing was super easy. It was exhausting, yes, and very very time-consuming. But I didn't have any nipple pain at all. The only pain I experienced was at the pump.

The only thing we struggled with was communication. I had a hard time knowing when he was hungry and when he was done eating, so I kind of assumed he was always hungry, which meant I was literally nursing the majority of the day. If he fussed after nursing, I'd latch him right back on. This persists - it's still tough for me to be 100% sure he's done eating.

Alex was a very sleepy baby and I had to spend a lot of time waking him up to continue eating. But he had a good latch, was gaining weight, and his jaundice went away.

Then weeks 5, 6, and 7 hit and things fell apart. Alex became more alert and realized maybe he'd rather cry than nurse. His reflux set in and he fussed at the breast, arching his back, shaking his head, refusing to eat because of his heartburn, but then crying because he was hungry.

I cried a lot over breastfeeding during those weeks. I was at my wit's end and ready to stop. I thought about switching to pumping exclusively, I thought about switching to formula. It was about this time that I also felt so.damn.tired every minute of the day, and I was very tempted by the thought that formula would help him sleep longer at night.

But already, I felt very attached to this breastfeeding thing, which I never, ever thought would be the case. So I (stubbornly) stuck it out and we got him some good reflux medicine and we got over that awful hump.

Now, I can honestly say that I love breastfeeding. It doesn't hurt, in fact, it feels pleasurable in many ways, the way it feels good to pee after you've been holding it. It's a good excuse for me (a go, go, go person) to lie or sit down and relax for a few minutes with my baby. Now, he looks at me while he eats and sometimes smiles.

A big part of my reluctance to go back to work is the amount of nursing sessions I'm going to miss every day. I will truly miss these special moments and look forward to them on the weekends. I also worry that I won't be able to pump enough to keep up with his hunger, as I have a well-documented struggle with pumping.

I started out ambivalent about breastfeeding, willing to try it, but not particularly interested in it. But now, the thought of weaning fills me with dread. I love the feeling when my breasts feel full, knowing that there is milk in there to feed my child, and then the soft feeling once he's emptied them, knowing that he's been well nourished by my body.

Barring any troubles keeping up with pumping, I plan to nurse to six months at the very least. Ideally, I would love to go the whole first year. The biggest thing stopping me from going a whole year will be a vacation we're planning during Alex's tenth month. But first I will set my sights on that six month mark.

I feel so fortunate, because although I have worked very hard to be successful at breastfeeding, I know a lot of it has been luck. I've been lucky to have a decent supply, a full-term, healthy baby who nurses well, and virtually no pain at all. I'm thankful that this one thing has gone smoothly for me, and I hope it continues to be enjoyable during this upcoming transition.


LC said...

Thanks for posting this. I feel so many of my friends complain about breastfeeding and tell me how awful it is. I have actually been scared of how it will go for me. It was refreshing to hear your positive experiences with it!

thebunlessoven said...

I second LC's comment - it's lovely to hear such a positive story.

Jem said...

Thanks for sharing your BF story. Why r u worried about your vacation?

Stacy said...

Yay! Congrats Lulu! I also have loved breastfeeding. I am going to a breastfeeding support group tomorrow at the local hospital. I have had trouble at night time , but hopefully I can get it worked out!

Alex said...

This is wonderful - so happy for you that it's gone so well!