I have been breastfeeding my daughter for a total of 7.5 months now, with no supplementation from formula. I am immensely pleased with myself. I say this as I recall my simplistic thoughts about the matter as my husband and I sat in the breastfeeding class at Wood County Hospital. Eight months pregnant, I sat in my chair with my swollen feet propped on a chair, baby pounding my belly with her feet and husband rubbing my shoulders. Ahh, this is the life. The nurse passes out samples of breast pads and lanolin while she talks about cluster feeding, mastitis, feeding on demand, blah, blah, blah. How hard can it be? You stick your boob in her mouth, she eats. Ta da! Breastfeeding.
Fast forward about four to six weeks. Sore nipples. Engorgement. Waking up three to four times a night to be awake an hour at a time to nurse. Feedings that last an hour, only to have a thirty minute break, which isn’t really a break because if you know anything about my daughter, you’ll know that she did not want to be out of a snuggle hold for the first eight weeks. Then feed again for an hour. It was sweet and cuddly for the first week because I was so sleep deprived, I was delusional. Also, I was still magically fascinated that I created this tiny little life.
That magic ended seven days later when the lack of sleep caught up with me. By that point I was also tired of having another someone always touching me. Please, please get her off of me and DO NOT TOUCH ME! My dog, Molly, who was my constant companion and source of comfort during my crazy pregnant hormonal shifts (visualize swollen, crying pregnant woman gripping 75 pound golden retriever… by my last trimester, Molly would sigh when I would approach her, sobbing) would be inches from my face, panting, hopeful to get one little scratch behind the ear. Husband equally hoping that perhaps I would utter the words ‘I love you’, coupled with a hug, kiss, or any other sign of affection. Instead, I would glare at both of them and demand that they stay at least five feet away from me at all times. You can imagine how well that went over.
Thankfully, by the time I went back to work when Amelia was nine weeks old, most of the cluster feeding had stopped. There would still be weekends when she would be sick, go through a growth spurt, or simply want more mommy time and feed frequently. Those weekends would get pretty tiring. I also had to start pumping at work which I didn’t have too much trouble with, but I know that some women find this to be a challenge in and of itself, for various reasons. Luckily, breastfeeding is pretty easy at this stage in the game, and there are now several reasons that I like it. It’s convenient, I don’t have to remember formula, nursing soothes her, and it’s free. I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I’m even considering breastfeeding past a year.
My disclaimer here is that I have nothing against women who formula feed their babies. Please, PLEASE do not leave a million defensive comments on my blog about your reasons for formula feeding. Mothering is about much more than how you nourish your child, and there are all kinds of things that we do that we should be acknowledged for. Hell, I think we should get a medal for every day we keep our kids alive and maintain most of our sanity. Breastfeeding was right for myself and my daughter, and because we are successful at it, it does give me some maternal pride.
That being said, I have become a huge advocate for breastfeeding and am glad that many of my mom friends have chosen to nurse their babies, whether that be exclusively or nursing as much as possible while supplementing with formula. My hope is that new moms at least give breastfeeding a chance, and not just a blind shot in the dark. Call a local lactation consultant before you deliver. Talk to your partner about your choice and make sure that he is educated as well (as in, drag him to the breastfeeding class with you. My husband went, and I think he is glad he did.) Know that while breastfeeding is painful, annoying, and difficult in the beginning, you and your baby will reap many rewards if you can stick with it.