Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My 5 Biggest Breastfeeding Surprises

As I've previously mentioned, I thought I knew what I was doing going into this breastfeeding thing. However, I feel compelled to mention that I'm typing with one hand as I finger-feed Em with the other hand. Sure, we know just what we're doing!
  1. Well, the troubles we've had latching at all definitely surprised me. I figured we'd not latch correctly and maybe I'd be in some pain. I never thought I'd just straight up be starving her! That made me, and continues to make me, feel pretty much like a failure at breastfeeding. We continue to work on it and we're going back to see the lactation consultant later this week. She's now passed her birth weight without a drop of formula and that's A Good Thing, at any rate.
  2. Physically, the effects of breastfeeding have been normal but their effects on me were still a surprise: it's really thirsty work! I always drink a lot of water, but lately it's been an unbelievable amount of water. I'm going to need the change the filter on our water pitcher sooner than normal. Also, I've read a lot of conflicting info on whether or not breastfeeding helps lose pregnancy weight - the latest word seems to be that for some it does, some it doesn't. I pessimistically expected to be one of the doesn't - but either I was going to lose the weight easily on my own, or it really helps. Em's only be out almost four weeks and I'm already in the middle of my normal pre-pregnancy weight range. I stil have muscle to regain and fat to lose, but I'm well on my way.
  3. Also not the biggest surprise yet, but I'm shocked at how much money I'm spending on breastfeeding. I'm sure it's still cheaper than formula, but I'm not going to sit down and sum it up, just in case it's not. The lactation consultant, the pump, the not-optional pump accessories, the scale, the bras, the nipple shield, the storage bags and bottles, etc... I hadn't expected to lay out so much dough to keep her in my own milk.
  4. If someone has asked me before giving birth how much ego I have wrapped up in breastfeeding, or how disappointed I'd be if I were unable to breastfeed directly, only by pumping, I think I would have said very little. I remember telling my doula that I would give it my best shot but I wasn't going to beat myself up over any failure. Ha. Little did I know... My own emotional reaction to having to pump almost exclusively to feed Em has been a huge surprise for me. Most of the time, I feel sad but ok about it. Sometimes in the middle of the night, as I'm literally pumping and feeding her with a syringe at the same time, I feel like a huge failure and extremely frustrated at the intervention between her and I. However, I feel like we are going to make it past this. Whozat's breastfeeding story sustains me too - if they can overcome what they were faced with, I can get this little girl on my breast.
  5. The biggest surprise about breastfeeding so far is this: sudenly I want to, and do, sleep in my bra. I've always hated wearing bras, and when a friend said I shoud be sleeping in one during pregnancy, I laughed to myself at the idea. I think I've never found a bra that fits well and because of that, when I am wearing one, I am aching to rip it off as soon as I get home. I used to be able to go without a bra on weekends and whatnot, but not anymore! My breasts are so sensitive and leaky now that going without isn't an option. Even so, sleeping in a (soft, no underwire) bra is quite weird for me - I never thought I'd see the day where I'd willingly (and soberly) wear a bra to sleep.
What surprised you most about breastfeeding? Were your expectations wildly off base?


Em said...

It surprised me how something so natural doesn't always come very naturally! I had this idea that I would hold my infant, put him to my breast, and everything would be serene and perfect. Not quite! It took us a good 6 weeks before I felt comfortable that we both had the hang of it. Now we've gone almost a year, and he seems to be starting to wean, but I am going to try to get him to hang in there for a couple more weeks!

You're doing a great job!! Don't get down on yourself, and be proud that you are doing the best thing for your daughter!

CaroLyn said...

Em - thanks for stopping by! I know what you mean, I'd read enough to know intellectually that lots of people have trouble, but it hadn't made it through to my heart and emotional expectations. We're sticking with it. I've decided if I have to exclusively pump, she'll get exclusively breast milk for six months - I've already done one month!

Melodie said...

#3 Made me shake my head. Breastfeeding shouldn't be expensive. As you already know that if you were here a lactation consultant would be free, you wouldn't really have a need for a pump and bottles and all the other products that go with it, due to a paid yr long mat leave. All you'd really need would be some nursing bras and some nipple cream. I never really thought of this issue before but if the US government isn't going to give moms a maternity leave they should at least subsidize breastfeeding products. Do you have a WIC near you that has any?

Melodie said...

I'm just remembering that post I did quite awhile ago for you and Breastfeeding Products New Moms Actually need. But I think I wrote that without considering what going back to work dictates that you must buy to keep up with breastfeeding.

VanderbiltWife said...

I can definitely relate. While I had NO problems at first, to my vast surprise, when I had to go back to work and couldn't pump enough I ran into a huge ego issue. It's probably the most popular post on my blog.

My biggest surprise was that after months of ease, I have had terrible troubles lately (9-10 months!). I thought once you got the hang of it, it would all be OK. I don't know if it's teeth or eating solids or what, but I am ready to throw in the towel when I thought I would never do that.

CaroLyn said...

Melodie - thanks for the suggestion. My understanding (could be wrong) is that WIC is only for low income women - even without Alex working, we're pretty middle class. I'm going to be on the phone with one of my midwives shortly - will ask her.

We'd originally planned to wait until we moved back to Canada (next year!) to have a baby, but I was anxious about my age and fertility - I didn't want to wait too long! Turns out it was really easy for me now and probably would have been fine in another two years. Sigh.

The review you did on products you really need, and the nursing bra reviews were really helpful! I never would have shopped at Target for them, but I love my G&O'M nursing tanks.

CaroLyn said...

Hi VanderbiltWife - thanks for stopping by! Good to know - I do hope that after all the bumps we've already encountered, it will be smooth sailing from here-but I guess I better not assume that. Thanks! I will visit your blog for sure.

VanderbiltWife said...

Realized that what I said sounded really negative! What I mean is, I would have been more proactive about continuing to make sure her latch was good. It's gotten to the point where I am not sure she knows how to latch well anymore and that is what is causing me so much pain.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled over from someone's twitter feed & boy can I relate! If it helps, the expenses are all at the beginning and then they really taper off - unlike formula which you have to keep buying. We're at almost 5 months of breastfeeding and all I need anymore is somewhere to sit, the baby and a set of nursing pads. I had just about every problem in the book in the first two months but it's amazing how quickly you forget all that when you eventually get the hang of it. And you will!

CaroLyn said...

Bebehblog - thanks for dropping by! The expense won't break us, thankfully, but it was a surprise. I think I probably didn't express that (ha, no pun intended) quite as accurately as I might have. I think what bugs me is all the plastic involved in Em's food chain. The money is just a drop in the future bucket of what we'll be spending on her, I'm sure! :)