Lesson 67: There’s no magic switch at 1-year-old

I always assumed I would stop breastfeeding J when he reached 12 months. But oddly enough, on his first birthday, no magic switch flipped that all of a sudden made him not want to nurse. No switch made my milk dry up, no switch made me not want to nurse him anymore. On his first birthday, my milk didn’t suddenly become less nutritious for him.

Mr. J

It’s true that he didn’t need my milk anymore by the time he was 1. But if we want to be completely honest, he never needed it. There was always a substitute available that I could have given him instead. But just like I chose to give my infant breastmilk instead of formula, I also chose to give my toddler breastmilk instead of cow’s milk (though he gets plenty of that too).

I stopped pumping at work, and I also stopped prompting him to nurse; but whenever he asked to nurse, I allowed him to do so. By the time he was 16-months-old, he was nursing three times a day. At 16-months, I distracted him after his nap (his typical mid-day nursing session) and easily weaned him to nursing only twice a day. At 17-months, we went on vacation, making it easy enough to distract him from his morning nursing session, so that he was nursing only once per day.

It’s important to note that I weaned him down to one nursing session a day not because he passed the magical age of 1 year, but because I had chosen to no longer pump and I was preparing him to return to daycare at the end of the summer, since I would be returning to work. I also have to point out that it was a very easy transition for him. He never even seemed to notice, so I never had any doubt that we were simply following the natural progression of weaning–however long that may take.

The truth is, when my baby turned 1-year-old, and I realized that neither of us wanted to stop nursing, I was completely okay with that, even if I knew others might raise their eyebrows. I had been only a little surprised that several people expressed their bewilderment when I continued to nurse J even past 6 months. Some people asked about it out of simple curiosity. They were hesitant and respectful when they asked–they just wanted to know, and I was totally okay with that.

But others provoked much eye-rolling. “Doesn’t he bite?” “Isn’t he old enough for solid food?” and even “When are you going to stop this nursing stuff?”

Aside from the fact that my child is not a vampire (okay, yes, in fact he did bite me for the first time when he was 8 months old–and while that wasn’t pleasant, he quickly learned that biting mama meant the milk was all gone for the moment), yes he could eat solid food but I still preferred for him to get the majority of his calories from breastmilk when he was less than 12 months old, and it’s none of your effing business–why is it that others care so much about how long I nurse my child?

J turned 2-years-old a little over a week ago. I thought for sure I would wean him completely at this age. A few days after his birthday, I sat rocking him right before bed and I looked down at him as he nursed and thought, “Okay, this is it. This is the last time I will nurse him.” I cried, knowing it was a major milestone for us–bittersweet. For 2 nights, J and I fought through bedtime. He cried, I cried. We were both miserable. And then I started wondering, if I was convinced that a magic switch didn’t exist at the age of 1, why was I trying to force such a switch at 2?

I had to be honest with myself and admit that I was trying to wean him because I didn’t want people to think it was weird for me to nurse my toddler. And I know people do think that–I was one of those people. But after some self-examination I came to the conclusion that the worry of what others thought was absolutely not a good enough reason to wean my two-year-old. I am his mother. Though it certainly doesn’t provide him with the same benefits that it did when he was younger, I can provide milk for my child that gives nutrition (it continues to provide immunities and vitamins), comfort, and security. He and I decide when it’s time to stop nursing. The only other person who might have any say in it would be my husband, and since he’s fully supportive, I haven’t had to think about what I might do if he wasn’t on board.

I would love for J to self-wean, but I know that may not happen. I know that there may come a time when I’m ready to be finished with nursing and he is not.  I don’t know how the end will happen, but what I do know is this: When the time does come, I will be completely at peace either because he will self-wean, or because I’ll no longer desire to nurse and so I’ll know it’s time to guide him into weaning. I won’t wean him when I’m so full of doubt that I’m doing the right thing. If I have to question it as much as I did, it wasn’t right. I’m not saying there won’t be tears, but I am saying there won’t be guilt.

I’m not allowing some arbitrary cut-off date to determine when I will stop breastfeeding my child, and I wish every mother could nurse (or not nurse!) her child with a happy heart. Guilt has no place in the nursing relationship.

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Lesson 49: Whoever said there’s no use crying over spilled milk…

…never applied makeup while pumping milk.

…never spent 80% of 4 months topless.

…never pumped for 45 minutes, only to get 4 ounces.

…never properly stored breastmilk, only to have the bag bust during the freezing process.

…never pumped while huddled under a blanket, riding down the road in the car. With their in-laws in the backseat.

Whoever said “there’s no use crying over spilled milk,” never breastfed.

Lesson 48: How to store breastmilk

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s likely that you’ll need to know at some point or another the best way to store breastmilk. I tried a lot of different methods before I finally discovered (what I think) is the easiest way to freeze and store it. Other ways may work better for you, so tweak it to suit your needs.

1. Always, always, always wash your hands before pumping.

2. While you’re pumping throughout the day, store your baby’s milk properly. Freshly expressed (not thawed!) breastmilk will last for up to 6 hours at room temperature, up to 24 hours in a cooler with ice packs, and 5-8 days in a refrigerator. I found that the easiest way to store breastmilk during the day was in one larger container in the refrigerator. Each time you pump, pour the milk out of the little Medela bottles (or whatever brand you use) into the larger container (like this one) so that it all mixes up. The reason for doing this (other than the fact that it’s easier to keep it contained in one bottle, rather than multiples) is that the consistency of breastmilk is different according to the time of day. It’s thinner in the morning and thicker in the evening. While it’s cool and pretty remarkable that your body personalizes your baby’s food, it really doesn’t help when you’re having to pump. It’s complicated enough to try to make sure you pump enough milk to feed Baby in your absence without also having to make sure he’s fed the right milk at the right time.

3. At the end of the day, or whenever you’ve collected however much milk you want/need to collect, pour it into breastmilk trays and freeze it in cubes. The only problem I ever had with these trays are that the cubes each contain a little less than 1 ounce, which makes absolutely no sense to me.

4. After the cubes are frozen (at least overnight), store them in Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags. I tried a lot of different bags and I found these to be the best of all I tried. They’re really large and sturdy and they’re cheaper than most. It’s tempting, but you really shouldn’t use Ziploc bags to store your milk directly (I do use them to contain the bags, as discussed in the next step). Different plastics are intended for different uses–Ziploc does not make their bags with the storage of breastmilk in mind.

5. Label the bags with dates and store them in gallon-sized Ziploc bags with a date range written on the it (for instance, if you have several Lansinoh bags of milk cubes for the entire week of January 3rd through the 9th stored in one large Ziploc bag, write “1/3-1/9″ on the Ziploc bag). The Ziploc bag serves 3 purposes: it keeps the smaller bags contained so that they’re not floating all over your freezer; keeping them contained and organized ensures that you rotate them correctly; and it provides extra protection while in the freezer.

6. Store the bags in your freezer. It’s preferable to use a deep freezer, but if you can’t, then store them in the center of the freezer, not on the sides or in the door, so that the milk stays completely frozen. Store them so that the older bags are in the front and the newer bags are in the back. Always rotate your milk to avoid having to throw any out because of spoilage. Breastmilk can last for 3-6 months in a standard freezer, but up to 1 year in a deep freezer.

7. When you need to make your child a bottle, remove however many cubes you need (remember with the Fresh Baby trays, each cube is less than 1 ounce, so I typically thawed 3 cubes per every 2 ounces I needed) and plop them right into your baby’s bottle. This method allows you to take out the exact amount of ounces you need, rather than having to thaw an entire bag. In order to do this, you’ll need to use a wide-mouthed bottle such as Tommee Tippee. However, if you’ve found that a bottle with a smaller mouth works better for your baby, the Sensible Lines milk tray should work for you. I always prepared my son’s bottles the night before and left them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. But, you can always run the bottle under warm water and defrost the milk immediately. Remember, you must use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours–so don’t thaw more than you need! Also, make sure your childcare provider knows that they should never shake breastmilk. The cream separates when the milk is heated, so whoever is preparing the bottle should gently swirl the bottle to mix it.

For a handy little chart on how long you can store breastmilk, go here.

Lesson 46: How to increase milk production while pumping

When I first started pumping, I was producing 10 ounces in 10 minutes with no problem. Pumping was a breeze and I always managed to pump twice as much as I needed in one session. I also had a plentiful freezer stash of milk, so I didn’t worry about not having enough food for J in the beginning.

But as the weeks went by and my boobs were seeing more of my pump than my baby, my supply started dwindling. It happened slowly at first, but by the time he was 8 months old, I was starting to panic. My freezer stash was dwindling, and I wasn’t pumping enough to replace it. I knew that in just a few months I’d be faced with not having enough milk to send with my baby to daycare. Yes, I could have supplemented him with formula (and I eventually did), but that wasn’t my goal. I wanted to provide enough breast milk to at least get him through his 1st birthday.

Like I do with a lot of things, I obsessed over it–and the more I worried about it, the more my supply dwindled. Now while I was pumping at work, rather than tuning out the pump and busying myself with paperwork or whatever, I stared at the drops of milk landing in the bottle, watching it slowly climb to the 2 ounce mark. I would sometimes pump for 45 minutes, only to get a total of 3-4 ounces. By this point I had to start supplementing with formula (which was a struggle since he didn’t tolerate it well at first).

So I did what any Type A control freak might do in my position: I researched and I came up with a plan. And I did find a few things that worked for me. I actually managed to increase my production for a little while, but I’m not sure it was worth it. I spent way too much time consumed with the amount of milk I could bring home in a bottle every day.

While I definitely advocate breastfeeding, and I support supplementing to increase your milk production if you want to, I highly recommend coming to peace with the fact that it’s very okay to supplement your baby with formula. It does not make you a bad or less-than mom. Your baby won’t care. I promise.

On that note, here are some ideas for increasing your milk supply.

Nurse and pump. During the times you are able to nurse your baby, pump immediately after.

Take fenugreek. You need about 3500 mg a day in order to effect your milk production. Start on the low end and gradually increase your dosage until your pee smells like maple syrup. Yum. For more information on using fenugreek to boost milk production, go here.

Eat carbs! Eating junk really seemed to increase my milk supply.

Eat a lactation cookie for breakfast. They’re actually quite healthy! You can order cookies from Milkmakers (they’re really yummy!) or you can make your own.

Drink water. You should be doing that anyway, but make sure you’re drinking lots and lots of water!

So yes, there are ways of increasing your supply. And I encourage you to try some of them if you ever need/want to. But I also encourage you to chill the hell out and just supplement with formula if it comes down to it. Breastmilk is great, but there can come a point where the negatives outweigh the positives.

This is my plan for if/when I have Baby #2.

1. Pump early on to start building a supply (but not so early that it causes me to over-produce).

2. Once I return to work, take fenugreek and eat a lactation cookie every day to help maintain my supply.

3. Pump in the morning, right after Baby’s first feeding, while getting ready for work.

4. Pump for 20 minutes every 3-4 hours during the work day.

5. Pump after Baby’s last feeding at night.

6. Despite my best efforts, watch my supply dwindle anyway.

7. Chill the hell out.

8. Supplement with Similac (The ready-to-feed for sensitive tummies worked wonders for us when J wouldn’t tolerate other formulas. I only just discovered that Similac now makes a formula specifically for supplementing. And while I know it’s only a marketing ploy to stay in the game since breastfeeding is picking up in popularity, I was so happy with their product that I’ll definitely give it a try.).

Lesson 45: Never answer the door while pumping at work

Once I returned to work, I pumped breastmilk until my son turned 1-year-old. My husband made this sign for me to hang on my office door at work while pumping:

IMG_1379

It was handy because, since I work in a school, the kids had no idea what it meant. However, the folks I work with knew that when the sign was on the door, they shouldn’t knock (it did not, however, prevent some of them from standing outside my door and moo-ing).

You might think you don’t really need to announce to everybody when you’re pumping. Just close your door and lock it, right?

Well what happens when somebody knocks on your office door while you’re pumping? I found it awkward to yell out, “I’m pumping!” and going to the door was clearly not an option. I also felt ridiculous just sitting quietly, pretending like I wasn’t there. So, I recommend a discreet (or fun!) way to let people know you’re pumping so that they do not disturb you.

You can print your sign here. You’re welcome.

On the plus side, even though you can’t answer your door while pumping at work, you can answer your phone. I verified with my husband that he was unable to hear the WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH of my breastpump over the phone, thereby allowing me to at least use that time to return phone calls. With a hands-free pump, you can totally be productive while pumping at work!

Lesson 44: Tips for pumping at work

When I first faced the task of pumping at work, I had no idea what to expect. The thought of pumping is so intimidating. Intimidating enough, in fact, that while I was pregnant, I considered not breastfeeding at all. Since I had to pump so much in the beginning with J anyway, due to a poor latch, I at least had the pumping thing down before returning to work. I was an old pro at it–at home. Pumping in a work environment, though, was a whole different story.

I pumped for over 7 months at work and figured out a few tricks along the way to make it faster, easier and less intimidating.

1. First, know your legal rights. Federal law does (somewhat) protect your right to pump breastmilk in the work place. One of the provisions under the Affordable Care Act is that employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of time for a mother to express breastmilk in a space – other than a bathroom – that is private and free from intrusion to express milk, each time she needs to express milk.

Unfortunately, this is only required for one year after the birth of a child. So if you plan to breastfeed past your child’s first birthday, you won’t necessarily be able to pump while at work. Is it really necessary to set a time limit? I mean, how many women would actually continue pumping just for the sake of pumping? It’s not like it’s fun.

Also, these requirements do not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees if it provides an “undue hardship.” This “hardship” has yet to be defined, so I imagine a lot of companies could easily get out of following the law.

And a glaring problem with the law is that employers are not required to compensate you for the time you spend pumping. So if you’re a salaried employee, you’re probably not protected at all. See here for more information.

In a nutshell, you may have rights and you may not. Let’s just hope that your employer is cooperative and supportive so you don’t have to worry about it.

2. Purchase a couple extra sets of spare pump parts. Ideally, you’ll own 3 sets of parts. Keep one set at work (because you will forget to bring a set one day) and alternate the other two so that you always have a clean set.

3. Pack your pumping supplies the night before work. Make sure you have your pump, pump parts, bottles, a hands-free pumping bra, and lids. In fact, keep extra lids in your pump bag. I can’t tell you the number of times I drove home very carefully with an open bottle of breastmilk in my cup holder because I didn’t have enough lids with me.

4. Nurse your baby as soon as she wakes up in the morning. Then, hook up your hands-free pump and pump again while you’re getting ready for work. This gave me an extra 6-8 ounces each day, which was helpful. In addition, plan to pump about every 2-4 hours, depending on the age of your child and how often she eats. A good general rule of thumb for the first 4 months is one hour per month of age. So if she’s 2 months old, you’ll pump every 2 hours. But once she’s 5 months old, you’ll still want to pump at least every 4 hours. If you stop producing as much milk over time (and you probably will, since the body doesn’t respond nearly as well to a pump as it does to Baby), you’ll need to pump more frequently.

5. Wear a nursing bra with either a nursing shirt or something that is quick and easy to take off and put back on. You don’t want to have a 5-minute wardrobe change every time you have to pump.

6. Let your co-workers know that you’ll be pumping and unavailable at certain times each day.

7. When it’s time to pump, make sure your office door is locked and any windows are covered (This is assuming you’re lucky enough to have an office to pump in–if you don’t, then reserve a quiet, clean, preferably window-free space. If that’s not possible, I’d say pumping in your car is preferable to pumping in the bathroom.)

8. Unhook your nursing bra and pull your hands-free bra over it. No need to take it off. While you’re pumping, you can still type or take phone calls or whatever, so it’s not necessarily wasted work time.

9. After you pump, you need to properly store the milk and the pump supplies. As for the pump supplies, I never washed mine between pumpings. I left them all put together, but removed from the pump. Then I would simply throw them in a Ziploc baggy and put them in my personal office refrigerator. I don’t see how any bacteria could possibly grow that way, since it’s just milk on the parts and it’s being refrigerated. That’s personal preference, but it saved me a lot of time and never caused any problems. I always ran the parts through the dishwasher every night on the sterilization cycle.

10. It took me months to figure out this little trick, but I finally found what I think is the best way to store the milk during the day. Buy a 2-quart sized container (like this one). Each time you pump, pour the milk into that one big container so that it’s all mixed up. I did this for a few reasons. For starters, I didn’t like having little bottles of milk cluttering up my tiny refrigerator. This way, all I had to bring was two bottles, one for each boob. So you pump, fill, and combine. Easy.

Second, if I happened to have lots of extra milk one day, I may not have enough bottles with me to pump it all. Third, I frequently forgot to bring enough stupid lids for all the bottles.

And finally, the biggie: your milk consistency is different according to the time of day. It’s thinner in the morning and thicker in the evening. That’s so cool and pretty remarkable that your body personalizes your baby’s food. But it really doesn’t help me when I’m pumping. It’s complicated enough to try to make sure you pump enough milk to feed Baby in your absence without also having to make sure he’s fed the right milk at the right time. If you want to bother with all that, more power to you. I chose not to.

11. If for some reason you miss a pumping session, don’t panic. It’s going to be okay. Your milk supply will not dwindle just because of one missed pumping session. You can pump as close to the scheduled time as possible, or you can just wait until the next time you’re due to pump. Remember that your baby doesn’t always follow the same schedule, so your boobs adjust.

For more tips and ideas, check out KellyMom’s collection of links to pumping at work. (By the way, KellyMom is a great resource for all kinds of breastfeeding questions and problems.)

Happy Halloween!

Know what’s scary? The noise you make as you move around the house with your hands-free breast pump.

weyooah weyooah WEYOOAH WEYOOAH weyooah weyooah

When I was still having to pump and bottle-feed J, Bo would typically take the middle of the night feedings while I pumped to replace what was in his bottle.

I bought a hands-free pumping bra early on because it seemed like such a waste of time to just sit there pumping one boob at a time. With the hands-free bra, I was able to pump both at the same time—AND clean out the dishwasher, fold laundry, cook dinner, sip a glass of wine, apply makeup, you name it.

So often times while Bo was quietly rocking our son while feeding him a bottle in his nursery, I would be trying to get as many household chores as possible completed before I was finished pumping. The more I finished at 2am, the less I had to worry about later in the day. So I would be racing up and down the hall between chores: weyooah weyooah WEYOOAH WEYOOAH weyooah weyooah

One early morning as I hurried down the hall I heard Bo whisper to J, “Shhhh here comes the Terminator.”

I halted to a stop and paused just outside the door to the nursery thinking, “What the hell kind of bedtime story is he telling my 2-month-old?”

And I heard him say again, “Uh-oh! The Terminator has arrived!”

Me. I was the Terminator. I looked down at myself, standing there in boxers and a pumping bra, feeling very much like a dairy farm–and apparently sounding very much like The Terminator: WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH

Bo later explained that when I was in the kitchen he could hear the pump only slightly: weyooah weyooah weyooah

But as I walked down the hall toward the nursery he could hear me gradually approaching weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH

And as I passed the nursery, heading to the laundry room: WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah weyooah

So his man brain dubbed me The Terminator.

Sexy.

Lesson 27: The hunger you experience in the days after birth will be like no hunger you’ve ever experienced.

Seriously. I had no idea. No idea. I don’t know what causes this hunger, but I can only assume it’s milk production. I remember shopping at Buy Buy Baby with my husband and J when he was about a week old (so, right as my body was kicking into high gear to make milk instead of colostrum). I was fine one minute, and the next I was gripped with a hunger unlike any I had ever known. And when I’m hungry, I am a bitch. More so than usual.

I growled at Bo, “Feed me, NOW!” and when he pointed out to me that we had a full shopping cart, so it would be a few minutes before he could get me to a fast food restaurant, I looked at him and said (and meant) these words: “I. Will. Eat. You.”

I grabbed the nearest pack of baby fruit snacks off the shelf and devoured them. I was still hungry, but at least my husband was able to get me out of there and to Wendy’s for a hamburger with all of his limbs intact.

Apparently, this isn’t uncommon. See here and here.

My advice to you: Keep lots of water and granola bars in your baby’s diaper bag. You know, so you don’t eat your husband.

Feed your baby! (the part I never intended)

Soon after writing my last post, my brain was working too hard and I sent a few of my girlfriends this message:

Sooo here’s the discussion Bo and I are having tonight: My super idea on how to get rich! We have identical twins, exclusively breastfeed one and exclusively formula feed the other–tada! Our own Twin Study! Then I monetize my blog and write about it. And who wouldn’t want to read that? Am I right?!

Of course, we would want our Twin Study to be ethical–and it’s only ethical if we believe formula is just as good as breastmilk. So I asked Bo, “All things being equal, do you believe breastmilk is more beneficial than formula?” And he replied that yes, he did believe that. I agreed with him. Then I asked him, “Okay, so all things being equal, do you believe a baby who is exclusively breastfed will have a statistically significant advantage over a formula-fed baby?” To which he replied that no, he did not believe that. And again, I agreed with him. After all, neither one of us was breastfed and, um, we’re freaking awesome. This left both of us standing in the kitchen, scratching our heads. So when I messaged my girlfriends (who, by the way, fed their babies in all different kinds of ways), I asked them:

What do you think? If I believe exclusive breastfeeding is best, then do I honestly believe there’s nothing wrong with formula? I fought like hell for the first several months to continue breastfeeding, but why would I do that if I genuinely believe that in 5 years I won’t be able to tell a difference between my child (who had breastmilk and some formula), a child who only had breastmilk, and a child who only had formula? Can I really believe that breastmilk is the best choice and also believe that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing formula? And if I do, which I think do, is that noncommittal or contradictory?

Don’t get me wrong; I love what our breastfeeding relationship became and I’m glad we did, and continue to do, it. I believe in it. But while I was writing my recent blog post, I started thinking: why do I believe in it so much? I think it’s good to question one’s beliefs, to know why something means a lot to you (if it does). So it’s not that I was doubtful about my choice, or doubtful that I had done the best thing I could for my baby. I had just never given this particular aspect of it much thought. And I needed to give it some thought; I needed for it to make sense in my head. My girlfriends replied with a variety of answers that included information on the nutrition and antibodies contained in breastmilk, the easy digestion of breastmilk, the psychological benefits of breastfeeding, the health benefits to the nursing mom, and the simplicity of breastfeeding. But those who had breastfed one and not another, or who had not breastfed at all, also pointed out that they couldn’t tell the difference between their older children who had been formula-fed, versus those who had been breastfed. One of the moms who had exclusively formula-fed pointed out how healthy her son was (my breastfed baby has had more illnesses in his 18-months of life than her 10-year-old son who was exclusively formula-fed). One of my girlfriends (who mostly breastfed and occasionally had to supplement with formula) pointed out that “kids who are breastfed are often being raised in wealthier families, and wealth and class is more strongly correlated with outcomes related to obesity, intellectual ability, and overall successful outcomes.” The same friend also directed me to The Case Against Breastfeeding, in which Hanna Rosin likens the controversy between formula-feeding and breastfeeding moms to “the Crips and the Bloods.” A breastfeeding mom herself, Rosin took the time to research why she was breastfeeding. Why was it the better choice? What she found was that, while studies have shown modest benefits from breastfeeding, those benefits are nowhere near as astounding as what the Internet might lead one to believe. She pointed out that since, ethically, researchers cannot direct mothers to either breastfeed or formula-feed, the population isn’t randomly divided. While breastfeeding is on the rise in the U.S., “the numbers are much higher among women who are white, older, and educated; a woman who attended college, for instance, is roughly twice as likely to nurse for six months” (Rosin). Race, age, and level of education correlate with overall health and IQ. Given those facts, many breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding studies are flawed and inconclusive. Rosin says,

…the basic pattern became obvious: the medical literature looks nothing like the popular literature. It shows that breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from the stampede of evidence that Sears describes. More like tiny, unsure baby steps: two forward, two back, with much meandering and bumping into walls.

And that, I can agree with. It is maybe a little better. That is why I chose breastfeeding, that is why I continue to choose breastfeeding, and that is why I will choose breastfeeding in the future. I want better, even just a little better, for my children. It’s the best I can do. (Like this post? Make sure to check out parts 1, 2 & 3 of Feed Your Baby!)

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Feed your baby! (part 3)

From my own experience (and what I’ve learned in the last 2 years), I’ve composed this handy list of the pros and cons of breastfeeding your baby. If you’re still deciding whether or not you want to breastfeed, this may be helpful to you. Remember, the main deciding factor should be: Do you WANT to breastfeed your baby? I know a lot of people, groups and organizations would disagree with me on that one. I don’t care. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A happy mom far outweighs the benefits of breast milk. Also? If you decide, “Hell yeah I want to breastfeed my baby!” and then for some reason, you cannot? Please try to let it go. Please try not to beat yourself up. And? If you do decide to breastfeed and your supply isn’t quite what it needs to be, for whatever reason? It’s okay to supplement with formula. If you’re anything like me, how many ounces you can pump per day may become a personal challenge. If that’s the case? Get over your damn self, cut yourself some slack, and supplement the kid with formula. It’s like a birth plan. Have one, but realize it’s okay if you don’t follow it. It’s okay. It really will be okay.

So, without further ado… (NOTE: This is a list of information I have gathered over the past couple of years–not a list of scholarly research articles. One can often find research to prove whatever one wants, so I’m not interested in a debate. And yes, it is biased. It’s biased because this is information I’ve gathered during my experience.)

Pro – Colostrum is intended to nourish your baby during the first 2 weeks postpartum (it gradually turns into regular breastmilk). It’s kinda amazing. Colostrum is made up of carbs, proteins and antibodies and it acts as a natural laxative [you want him to poop asap, as his poop contains excessive bilirubin, the presence of which can cause jaundice (by the way, I breastfed from day 1 and my baby was still jaundiced, so there's that)]. Colostrum also passes Immunoglobulin A (IgA) and leukocytes to your newborn. IgA will help protect your little guy from sickness now. Leukocytes will help protect him in the future.

Pro – Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which helps your uterus shrink back to its normal size more quickly.

Con - Breastfeeding sometimes hurts…

Pro - …but only in the beginning. Once you and your baby both have the hang of it and she’s able to latch correctly, it shouldn’t hurt. If it still hurts, she’s probably not latching correctly, so try working on that (call your OB, your child’s pediatrician, a lactation consultant at your hospital, a local breastfeeding group, or the La Leche League for help).

Con – But sometimes it hurts because you have a plugged milk duct or even mastitis. If you have a very tender spot in your breast, you may have a plugged milk duct. The best thing for this is for the baby to nurse, nurse, nurse–even though it hurts. If you have a tender spot on one of your breasts and a fever, call your OB immediately. Mastitis is nothing to play with.

Con – Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s hard work in the beginning and sometimes very frustrating. However, on a personal level…

Pro – I don’t know of a single mother who regretted or disliked breastfeeding once she and Baby both learned how to do it.

Pro – Breastmilk contains antibodies. While your baby is breastfeeding, he is better protected against common illnesses.

Pro – Breastfeeding strengthens the baby’s immune system, which can lead to long-lasting protection that can allow her to resist disease and also to improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines.

Con – You have no idea how much milk your baby is getting, and that’s sometimes hard to accept. If your baby is growing and developing, you can rest assured that he’s getting enough milk.

Pro - Lots of people say that breastfeeding helps you lose your baby weight. I call bullshit on that one.

Con – You have to be constantly aware of the food you eat, what you drink, and any medication you take.

Pro – It’s pretty darned handy when you’re out and about. I can’t tell you how much I loved not having to plan how many bottles I would need, not needing to pack said bottles, and then not having to clean said bottles. Baby’s hungry? Whip out a boob and feed her. But…

Con – …if you’re at all modest, the first thing you think of when you’re going someplace is, Where will I feed my baby? You have to scout places out as soon as you get there so you know where to go when the kid starts screaming.

Con – It’s exhausting. You’re the sole food source for your baby. Sure, you can pump in advance and let your partner feed the baby a bottle, but guess what? You still have to get up and pump again while he’s feeding the baby. For the first 16 months, while J was breastfeeding multiple times a day, our arrangement was this: I’m in charge of input, Bo’s in charge of output. During the first few months, before J was sleeping through the night, my husband would get up when he would cry, change his diaper, and bring him to me. I would nurse him and then put him back to bed. Or, if he refused to latch (like he so often did in the beginning), Bo would feed him a pre-pumped bottle and I would pump. That was just exhausting for both of us. But…

Pro – …once you master the side-lying nursing position, you can pretty much snooze while your baby is nursing.

Pro - It’s more economical–if you’re a stay-at-home-mom. But…

Con – …I’m not sure that’s the case if you’re a working mom. I had to buy a pump, pump supplies, bottles, freezer bags, supplements to maintain/increase my supply, etc. I don’t know if it’s more economical or not because I never sat down and compared it. But it sure as hell ain’t free.

Con – If you’re a working mom, it’s hard work. You have to make time throughout your work day to pump and find a relaxing, clean environment in which to pump. Some work environments are more conducive to this than others. Lucky for me, mine was fantastic and supportive–but I don’t think that’s always the case.

Pro – I know this statement is going to piss some folks off (I don’t care): It is the perfect food for your baby. No, formula isn’t toxic. In fact, it’s damn good stuff. Formula has a healthy mix of protein, fats, carbohydrates and calcium. But the fact is that the contents of breastmilk change over time as your baby gets older, throughout the day (it’s thinner in the morning and thicker at night), and with the weather (when it’s hot, breastmilk has a higher water content). Your breastmilk is specific to your baby’s changing needs. That’s some pretty cool stuff.

Pro – Breastmilk doesn’t stain. However…

Con – …if you over-produce, it might cause your baby to do a whole lot of spitting up. Which does stain. And this leads me to…

Con – Sometimes you under-produce or over-produce. Under-producing is a problem for obvious reasons. However, over-producing can cause just as many problems. When you have too much milk, it may come out too fast, making it difficult for the baby to eat. If you’re under-producing, try to encourage your baby to nurse more. If you’re over-producing, try block feeding.

Pro – According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding can help prevent SIDS.

Con – Breastfeeding can make you feel tied down. It’s hard to get time to yourself, have a girls’ night out, or spend time alone with your partner, when you’re always worried about the next time your baby will need to be fed. Even if you pump enough milk so that you can leave her, you still have to pump while you’re away. And since pumping isn’t nearly as efficient as the baby, you also have to worry about your milk supply decreasing while you’re away from her.

Pro – Breastfeeding has many benefits to the nursing mom. It can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, breast cancerendometrial cancer and ovarian cancer. Extended breastfeeding can sometimes have a positive impact on the reduction rates. In some cases, the reduction is only slight, but I’ll take what I can get. (Unless you’re a Mexican-American nursing mom, in which case, you’ll want to read this.)

Pro – Once you get the hang of it, breastfeeding your baby can be an awesome confidence booster. Dude–your body feeds your baby! How cool is that?

Con – If you struggle with producing enough milk, or if you cannot produce milk at all, it can be a major confidence killer–or even cause depression. But dude–your body grew your baby!! That’s pretty damn cool!

Pro - If you use cloth diapers and exclusively breastfeed, you can just toss those poopy diapers directly into the washer. No need to rinse them.

Con – Sometimes you feel “touched out” and just really want your body to be yours again.

Pro - Breastmilk is friggin’ magical. That shit heals cuts right up and even cures pink eye. No lie. (The rest of the items on this list really fall into the “the verdict is out” category, since research isn’t conclusive. But I’m listing them as pros because they are pros if they’re true.)

Pro (or at least not a con) – Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of ear infections (although I’m convinced that it’s the shape of the ear that determines the occurrence of multiple ear infections).

Pro (or at least not a con) – Breastfeeding may significantly reduce the respiratory and gastrointestinal morbidity rate in infants.

Pro (or at least not a con) – Breastfeeding may protect your child against allergies, asthma, obesity, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and cancer.

Pro (or at least not a con) – Studies have shown that children who were breastfed tend to have a slightly higher IQ and fewer psychological, behavioral and learning disabilities (although there are so many correlating factors, I’m not convinced). (Like this post? Make sure to check out parts 1, 2 & 4 of Feed Your Baby!)

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