Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Girlfriend's Guide to Breastfeeding

As you are reading this, I will hopefully be landing in Chicago with a stellar case of jet lag.

I needed a gimme post, so I am dusting up and revising an article that I wrote for the La Leche League. They hacked it down and published it so that it was barely recognizable (but sounded brilliant), and you can find the Barefoot Hippie Girl in their current issue of the New Beginnings magazine.

Today you get the rather lengthier version...

I am the mother of four beautiful kids. At least, I think they are beautiful. I have two boys: BMV (10) and Freckles (9) and two girls: LC (5) and Meres (20 months). They keep my days full and happy.

And, if you are new here, you now know that I have more kids than Meres. She just the caboose, and is at a very photogenic age, so you get to see lots of her.

I birthed them all at home. You can read my reasons why (here). All four were big babies. You could even call them huge. The first three were 9 pounds 2 ounces. Meres weighed in at a grand total of 10 pounds 4 ounces. And I have also successfully nursed all four of them.

Successfully meaning that I started when they were born, nursed them full time through at least 6 months, and then weaned each at around a year-plus or minus a month or two.

Successfully does not mean that it was pain-free, tear-free or easy. Nursing is natural, but it is also hard work. It takes determination.

Today I am going to share with you the things I wished a real live person would have told me before I began nursing. Maybe a girl friend or mom. The things that you just don't find in a book. Or things that contradict the books.

Because, you can read a book (even multiple books), and have every confidence that you can do this. But, if that confidence is all you are going on-you just might do a major face plant.

Call it a girlfriend's guide to nursing.

1) Nursing hurts! Especially for the first few days. And why wouldn't it? Even assuming your baby is latched on correctly, having someone suck on any part of your body for hours and hours is going to hurt. Nipples are sensitive too ladies. You essentially have to build up some calluses.

2) Nursing causes contractions in your newly vacated uterus. Which is a good thing. But it can also feel like someone is stabbing you in your belly with a knife. It is worse than birthing contractions because they don't just last for a minute. But, the good news is, pain killers take the edge off, and the pains only last a day or two. I am telling you this, because no one told me. I was shocked. Don't be. Be prepared.

3) Nursing your first baby can be the hardest. While nursing is natural, for both you and your baby, with your first baby, you both are newbies. You don't know what to do, or if you are doing things right. Nor does your baby. If you are uncertain, ask for help. Oh, and it does get better for progressive children-at least you have experience on your side.

Oh, and for the record, my fourth baby had a barracuda suck. It hurt on the left side particularly, the entire time I nursed her. All 14 months. No joke. So, I am still undecided who was harder-Meres or BMV.

4) Nursing takes time. Unlike a bottle, you can see your baby suck down 2 or 3 ounces. When my babies are first born, I feel like I am nursing non stop. Feedings often last over an hour. Especially for the first 4-6 weeks. Then things change and feedings are shorter.

5) Nursing is supply and demand. You feed your baby when they are hungry. Maybe it is every 2 hours. Maybe it is every 3 or 4 hours. When you are nursing, it is not a good idea to hold to tightly to a scheduled feeding idea. Aim for the 2-4 hour window, but do what you need to do. Rhythm is a great concept-not clockwork.

6) Nursing shouldn't be abandoned too soon. If you give up in the first week or two, you are probably giving up too soon. You will be tired, you will be engorged, you will be sore, but this really intense phase lasts only about 4 weeks. Then things do level off. Really. It seems like forever, but it is measurable. Stick with it if you at all can!

7) Nursing isn't the time to diet. You want to get your pre-pregnancy body back and fit into your old jeans, but now is not the time to count calories. You need between 1800-2200 good calories every day. Fruit, vegetables, carbs, protein, iron and calcium. And drink lots of fluids. To maintain a milk supply, most women need over 3 liters of fluid every day.

And seven is supposed to be the number of completion, so I am going to wrap up my list on that note. Nursing is good-for you and your baby. It is natural, and it is possible.

Go get 'um, ladies!