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Monday, August 18, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

World Breastfeeding Week

This week is World Breastfeeding Week, and for all of you who have breastfed or tried, then you know why there's a sort of holiday for it. It's dang hard work, but it's the most satisfying and gratifying thing I've ever done. In honor of this great holiday, I thought I'd share my breastfeeding journey.

For some people breastfeeding comes very easily and effortless but NOT for me. I got off to a rough start with Samuel. I tried to start reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding before I had Samuel, but it didn't hold my interest because it was all completely foreign to me. No one in my family breastfed, so I had no experience even being around it. You'd think that that would make me want to read it even more, but I was more wrapped up in reading about the actual birth. (By the way, I liked this book better for breastfeeding.)

Long-story-short, I ended up having an unplanned C-section with Samuel. I did everything incorrectly, got bad advice, didn't seek help from non-hospital sources (i.e. friends, La Leche), and ended up giving up after a week and a half because I had a low milk supply and couldn't get him to latch. I did, however, pump for a year and bottlefed him my pumped milk. He ended up getting about half breastmilk and half formula.

When Samuel was about 4 months old I found an online forum of women who had similar problems as I did with breastfeeding, and I spent the next year and a half learning as much as I possibly could from them as well as reading a TON. I was determined to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with my next baby.

So when Levi came along, I was so overly prepared - in a good way. I made certain that the hospital staff knew my desires, and they accommodated me greatly. I was able to nurse within the first hour after birth (very important) even though I had another C-section. I then nursed as often as I could - about every 2 hours. I struggled because he was very sleepy, and I was also dealing with a lot of pain due to his tongue-tie (and a couple of other reasons that I won't share).

The pain was bearable at the hospital, but once I got home it was immense. At times it was unbearable. I would latch the baby and literally scream because it hurt so bad. There were several times that I would finish nursing and just sob for about five minutes, partly because the pain was so great and partly because I was so frustrated. It wasn't supposed to be this hard! I thought I was prepared, and I was. I had my low-milk supply issues all dealt with, but I was in no way prepared to handle the nipple pain.

I thought about giving up several times that first week. I was planning which bottles I would buy as I was on my way to my lactation consultant's office at five days. Thankfully this time around I got some really good advice from two different lactation consultants, friends, and a La Leche league leader. I did get some poor advice a few times, but this time I knew how to tell the difference.

So we got Levi's frenulum (the flap underneath his tongue) clipped at one week old. Two days later the pain was almost completely gone. I was amazed. I couldn't believe that I almost threw it all away when it was so easily fixed. When I was in the moment, though, things were so crazy. I was working on practically no sleep; I was in pain all the time; I was recovering from major surgery. I vowed not to make any decisions between the hours of 8pm and 8am, and that helped tremendously.

So things were going great for a while. Then when Levi was 2 1/2 months old, I discovered that he is allergic to dairy. I already knew that he's got reflux, so this was just the icing on the cake. Welcome food restrictions! Keeping dairy out of my diet has been extremely difficult. I have to tell the waiter that I'm allergic to dairy so that they'll take me seriously when I go out to eat. It's no fun, but it makes me really glad that I didn't formula feed him.

Hopefully things will be smooth sailing until he weans. I'm sure I'll hit other bumps in the road, but I wouldn't keep doing it if it wasn't totally worth it. I know that I'm doing the best thing for little Levi, and the longterm health benefits that I get from breastfeeding are nice, too. Also, I always heard that the bond between a breastfeeding mother and her baby is so strong, but I never understood it until I experienced it myself. It's really amazing, and I would do it all over again knowing that it would be that hard.

So to all of you breastfeeding moms, Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

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