Friday, June 18, 2010

"10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding"

1) It’s not that simple, but it’s also not that complicated
Alright, we’re mammals, so you’d think breastfeeding is in our genes, but when the time comes, it doesn’t appear that obvious. Can it hurt? Yes, if you don’t do it right, and mostly, if your baby doesn’t do it right. You didn’t get the lactation instruction manual and your baby didn’t either! So see it as the first learning experience you’ll share together. Make your bundle of joy your partner and don’t sweat the small stuff. And there’s always help out there if you need it: through your health insurance, La Leche League, some state programs, etc. My biggest advice is to inquire about your options BEFORE you give birth. You’ll be way too busy and tired after the birth to browse the internet for a lactation consultant.

2) Everybody will give you their personal opinion about breastfeeding
You’ll hear more than your share about breastfeeding versus bottle feeding as you approach the delivery date. Sometimes you almost feel like there’s a war brewing out there… And whether you decide to breastfeed or not, you’ll hear both sides of the discussion. I personally never “made the decision” to breastfeed. For me, it was something I was going to do and made sure I was successful at it, both physically and mentally. I can’t believe how many people kept telling me after I had been breastfeeding for over six months that it was long enough and I could stop now, as if I had nothing else to prove! In a way, it motivated me to continue breastfeeding, as if to show them how little I cared about their advice, but to any mom who is wondering how long she should breastfeed, those comments are very unsupportive. Just do what you want to do, breastfeed or not, for two months or 18 months, and enjoy every minute of it!

3) Your breast size is no indication of how much milk you’ll produce
I was a size A pre-pregnancy and became a size D by the time I started lactating, so all small-breasted women, rejoice! I found out that the key to good production is to stay hydrated yourself. The less you drink, the less milk will come out. And eating throughout the day will keep you from feeling famished and exhausted.

4) Your breast pump bag looks really cool
One day after I returned to work, a male colleague of mine pointed out to my black breast pump bag and remarked how stylish it looked, with its several conveniently placed pockets. I replied, “Thanks, that’s my breast pump bag”. He looked puzzled and inquired, “Your what?”, “My breast pump bag. You know, breast pumping”, as I used sucking hand gestures in front of my boobs. “Ah”, he said as he suddenly blushed. I think that was the last time he’ll ever compliment a lady on her bag…

5) There’s nothing else in the world like night feedings
In the still of the night, when everything is quiet in the house and everybody else in the whole world is sleeping, you get to share some very special one-on-one time with your baby. Both of you feel half asleep, half awake, skin-to-skin, laying in bed. As you listen to the rhythmic sucking-gulping process, you start breathing in a delicious baby smell. Other moms had told you about by that smell, but all they saw what your puzzled look as you thought they were just gone gaga about their babies. It’s all true, your own baby’s smell is the most wonderful scent in the world, and the good part is that it doesn’t go away as they grow up.

6) Say goodbye to baby weight
Breastfeeding is the EASIEST way to lose your extra pregnancy weight without having to run on a treadmill like a wild rabbit being chased by a fierce coyote. Believe it or not, you’ll still be able to eat a good amount of food, as breastfeeding literally sucks calories out of you. For every ounce of milk you make, you lose about 20 calories. I produced about 30oz a day, which equals 600 calories per day. Way better than the 300 extra calories a day needed during pregnancy that we use to justify eating for two.

7) You’re doing in for yourself, not just for your baby
Breastfeeding causes small uterus contractions that help bring your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size faster. It also reduces your risk of breast cancer by as much as 25%. And it increases your levels of oxytocin (sounds like some good drug name if you ask me!), which is a hormone that helps you relax. Something all new moms could use!

8) You will lose calcium while lactating
The good news is the bone loss is temporary and according to some studies, women who breastfeed lower their risk of osteoporosis in the long run. Take some calcium supplements while lactating, and you’ll be just fine.

9) If you can take on the breastfeeding challenge, you can do anything
I never saw breastfeeding as a chore, or as something I had to do as a mom. I saw it as a challenge and dealt with it every day, until it became a habit. The challenge was to have the baby latch properly, make sure the baby fed enough and that my nipples didn’t become raw meat in the process, and then to repeat every day until I felt it was time to stop. I stop nursing my boys around 9 months, but I continued to pump until they were 13 months old, three times a day, every day. If you can handle that, you can handle most of the inconveniences that life throws at you.

10) You’ll miss it when you stop doing it
Now, you’re probably screaming, are you crazy??? Nope, I’m not. Deciding when to stop was actually very difficult. After sharing a part of me (my milk) for so long with my babies and acting as their lifeline, it was hard to close that chapter. Becoming a mom is a wondering experience. First you grow a whole human being inside your womb, and your job continues when you feed that being from your own body. Sorry guys, but you’re really missing out! Breastfeeding provided me with me-time, especially when I went back to work and I pumped, alone in a locked room for 20 minutes at a time. With only the rhythm of the pump to hear and a good book to read, those were my most precious minutes of the day. It was hard to go back to the lunch room and not have that moment of peace that I so needed to get revitalized for the rest of the day.

To all moms out there, try breastfeeding and seize the day! Kids grow up fast, and the nursing months will end up being a tiny section of their lives.

Milka, 40, mom to two boys (4 years old and 2 and half years old).

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