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Kristen's Parenting Journal

Entry 20 ~ July 27, 2011
~ Breastfeeding: Taking the "Fun" Out of Fun Bags

Everyone will tell you the bonuses to you and your baby with breastfeeding. It's all true; the benefits to your baby and body and budget are all great. I am going to tell you what my experience has been like.

To begin with, there is nothing that is proven to be better for your baby than the milk that your body makes especially for her. The chemical makeup of breast milk alone is the very best for your baby early in life. It has been rumored to prevent children from illnesses, prevent obesity, lower women's risk of breast cancer, and even reduce stress levels and postpartum depression, just to name a few of the benefits.

Also, you save so much money by breastfeeding and not having to buy formula. With our first daughter, we were spending anywhere from twenty to forty dollars a week on formula and did so for about nine months of her life. If you add that up, we accrued an extra expense of anywhere from seven hundred twenty to fourteen hundred forty dollars in a year, and that was when we were using five dollar off coupons that we received from the manufacturers! It really makes you crazy to think that you spent that money on something that was not even made with your child specifically in mind, like your own breast milk is.

Lastly, breastfeeding benefits your post-baby body in the fact that it burns about 500 extra calories a day. That is more than I can burn in 30 minutes on the elliptical machine! As a new mother, who needs some help losing those extra pounds that were put on during the pregnancy, this is a helpful and wonderful benefit.

Now, I am going to tell you how I feel about successful breastfeeding. Warning to all those lactivists and naturalists, you may want to stop reading right now. To understand why I use the word successful, you first have to know my background story.

With our oldest daughter, I was so set on breastfeeding and was well aware of the benefits both to me and my baby. Not to mention the change that can be saved in your wallet from manufacturing your own milk. When we were told that our daughter stopped growing at week 37, the doctor took matters into her own hands, so to speak, and decided to induce. Needless to say, little Sophie was just under 6 lbs. at birth. She was taken away shortly after being passed around by our family members that were there with us. She didn't come back from the nursery until around three hours later. In that time, I believe, I missed a very important opportunity to form the immediate bond and know how that comes with breastfeeding. Sophie would not latch on after that and through many failed attempts, where I was crying from pain and she was crying from frustration, she never did get it. I decided that the next best thing was to pump my milk for her and that was what we went with.

The benefits of pumping were many and so were the drawbacks. My husband was able to feed the bottled milk to my daughter while I was pumping for her next feeding. If friends or family were visiting, they could feed her as well.

Problems that came with pumping were painful clogged ducts that nothing would cure, save squeezing my breasts in the shower, which was so painful; it felt like there were rocks in there. Those occurred at least three times a week for the entire four months that I continued pumping. These clogged ducts also lead to a nasty case of mastitis, which was also painful and I needed antibiotics to cure. Not to mention, which does make me sound a little selfish, the inconvenience was ridiculous when you were with a group of friends or family and had to leave in the middle of a meal, conversation or event, to go and pump your breasts for milk.

Now let me explain what else was going on inside my head at this point. The feeling that you have when nothing that you planned goes your way, can be debilitating. I was so ashamed of myself and my body and resentful that my daughter wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding. I beat myself up and some family members just didn't get why she was not latching on. This made me feel even worse. I kept this up for 4 months, pumping, being resentful and beating myself up and causing my breasts pain that really wasn't necessary.

The weekend that I turned 31, we traveled to Georgia to clean out what was left of our things. The house had been sold and we were closing that Monday. Many times during that weekend I was too busy to pump and we had plenty of stored milk for my daughter, so I missed a few pumping sessions.

Two hours became four and then six and eventually I realized that I had gone a whole 8 hours without pumping. I was mad at myself at first, but then we arrived back at our new house and I pumped. My daughter acted like the milk that was pumped was poison and refused to drink it. I made my mind up at that exact moment that I was done pumping and we would start on formula for our first born child. I will say at the time, I was disappointed at myself, but looking back, that was the decision that was best for me and my family.

I seemed to come back and feel like I was worth something as a person again and my breasts felt so much better after the initial drying up. They continued to dry up and I would only pump when I was engorged to the point of actual physical pain.

Now you know why I was so adamant to get it right the second time around. Things just seemed to naturally fall into place with my second child. I delivered at a different hospital that had different procedures. I was allowed to spend two hours with my newborn after delivery. I offered her my breast and she readily accepted it, much to my surprise and delight. She had no problems latching on and was a chow hound from day one. This was just what I had been wishing and hoping would happen and now it was all falling together. I was so thrilled those first weeks. And then the reality of the situation set in.

I never would have imagined how demanding breastfeeding was. Suddenly, all my time and energy was centered on being on call with my body twenty four hours a day! I could no longer just pump and then do what I wanted to do. I had no one to rely on to help me with it; I was the sole person in charge of my baby's meals. I was resentful that no one could help me feed her anymore and that my husband no longer had a reason to get up with me in the middle of the night to feed while I pumped. I was a one woman show. Exercise was a joke and the few times that I did go for bike rides, my favorite activity, I just felt guilty to have left my husband there alone with a baby who could go from sleeping to ravenous in just a few minutes time.

Another thing that happens when you begin breastfeeding, are the two most impressive breasts you will ever have in your life!! Pam Anderson, look out! They become gorgeous and huge and your husband will want nothing more than to grab and touch them constantly. And you will want nothing to do with these advances. They may look impressive, but most of the time, mine just feel like two strangers, sitting on my chest, that none of my shirts want to fit in. They hurt when they are too full. They should be cherished but instead become a bit embarrassing when they must be whipped out in public to appease the little one. You begin to resent them and feel like they are the only reason your baby wants anything to do with you. Or at least, I did. I didn't even want my husband to look at them, much less touch them, for fear of what would happen if he did!

Before I was successful with breastfeeding, I had spoken to friends that thought the idea of breastfeeding was weird and said they would never want to do it. I am ashamed to say that I took a lactivist standpoint on the matter and tried to tell them all the reasons and benefits of breastfeeding. And then I did it for myself. Only when my new best assets became solely a food source and made me feel much like a milk cow, did I understand their point of view. I know that it is a beautiful and natural thing, and I encourage every mother to try it out for themselves. But don't beat yourself up if it does not work out for you. Do what is right for you and your family and you will be doing the best thing.

That being said, I will tell you what I have decided to do personally. It may be time consuming and it may be inconvenient for me, but the benefits to my baby far outweigh any of those other things. Considering that I will only breastfeed until my baby gets teeth, around 7 months, makes it an easy decision for me. After that, I may decide to pump until she is old enough to drink whole milk at about a year old. Either way, I figure that a year of inconvenience is worth the great health and wellness benefits to my little girl. That trumps all the aggravation, late nights, and pain. After all, we are mothers. This is just the first instance in which we sacrifice a little bit for the greater good of our family. And I personally, will be proud to do it.


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