Saturday, August 24, 2013

Breastfeeding Myths Busted

(Disclaimer: This is just my experience.  I know that every mother and every child is different.)

1.  It's natural/easy-Throughout my pregnancy with Paxton, I didn't really give much thought to breastfeeding.  I knew I wanted to do it, but I never really researched it or tried to prepare myself in any way.  I always just assumed it was natural, and that Pax would be born and I would just be able to breastfeed him.  I know that when people say natural, sometimes it means "the way nature intended" instead of "it just comes naturally" and I won't argue with the first definition, but it does not come naturally to everyone...and it certainly didn't for Paxton and I.  After he was born, the nurse urged me to feed him immediately.  I had no idea what I was doing and there were still a lot of people in the room.  I know I should have completely lost all modesty at that point, but this was still something I wanted to at least try in private by myself...instead of standing up for myself and asking for privacy, I awkwardly tried to figure things out as the nurse stared and people came in and out of the room.  What should have been a special and intimate moment turned into a stressful moment.  Our breastfeeding journey never really improved from there.  I struggled through a few more weeks, tried unsuccessfully to exclusively pump for a few more weeks and by the time he was six weeks old, Paxton was exclusively on formula.  Looking back, I wish someone had told me that there was a learning curve, and that I should ask for help while maintaining my comfort.  When I was pregnant with Porter, I let all the guilt about not being able to do it naturally dissolve and I did research.  I read about how to ensure the perfect latch and what kinds of things to look for to know that his latch was wrong or my supply was dwindling.  I was ready.  It still did not come naturally to me, but having information helped me to get started.  I wish I would have known from the beginning that it wouldn't just come naturally to me once I was a mom.

2.  It's free-In an ideal situation, it is free.  All you NEED is yourself and your baby, but realistically, there are several things I needed to buy to make breastfeeding work for Porter and I.  We were spending around $200 a month for Paxton's formula and I could practically see the dollar signs adding up in Jared's head as he thought about all the other things we could be spending that money on.  I know when I told him that I was going to do everything I could to breastfeed Porter for at least the first six months, one of the things he was looking forward to was saving all that money.  I know he was surprised as the things I told him I needed started adding up...things like:

This pump because I knew breastfeeding might not work and with a better pump than I had last time (Medela Swing Pump), I could at least feed him pumped breast milk for a little longer.  This turned out to be my best purchase because after a bad case of mastitis followed immediately by a clogged duct, I spent a few months exclusively pumping before trying nursing again.  This pump allowed me to still feed Porter almost completely my milk.  I also needed several Medela bottles and nipples, but we still had plenty from Paxton.
 This nursing cover because I am too modest to even think about nursing Porter anywhere or in front of anyone without being covered.  It is also good for those trips to the lake or Tulsa so I can pump in the car without even stopping!
These storage bags to store the extra milk I pumped-these don't have great reviews, but I got them anyway because they were the cheapest.  The ounce markers on the bags are not accurate at all, but I just look at the ounce markers on the bottle and write the number on the bag before pouring the milk in.  I haven't had any trouble with them leaking during thawing yet, but I have only thawed a few bags.
 This cream-for obvious reasons...
 These pads-also for obvious reasons...

I also have used the Boppy a lot, especially at first but I won't count that as an expense because we use it so much for other things too.

All of these things (along with nursing bras and tanks) probably cost us just under $400, which was a lot of money for something we thought would be free, but it was definitely cheaper than formula would have been by now, and the benefits of breast milk are worth the money!

3.  It's convenient-I will admit that nursing is more convenient than pumping...hands-down.  But I don't think anything will beat dropping a few scoops of formula into a bottle and shaking it up.  Eight seconds after Pax got hungry, anyone could be feeding him a bottle anywhere.  Jared could take the middle-of-the-night feedings, our parents could feed him at restaurants...the same is true of pumped bottles, but I still have to pump first which is definitely not convenient.  When I was exclusively pumping, I would always be a bottle ahead so that I could feed Porter, then pump his next bottle.  It was a good method because I usually didn't have to pump while Porter was already hungry, but it was inconvenient because for the first few months of his life, Porter was pretty fussy and I would usually have to stop pumping several times per session to comfort him or pop a pacifier in his mouth.  So compared to that, nursing seems pretty convenient.  However, I still have to plan ahead to where I will be when Porter gets hungry because we have to stop whatever we're doing so that I can completely focus on feeding him.  I also have to go somewhere a little more private than the middle of the mall, or the bleachers at the Redhawks game (for example), but that's just my personal preference.  I also cannot reach back and feed him while Jared drives like we could with a pumped bottle or formula.  It is amazing to not have bottles or pump parts to wash after every feeding though!

4.  It is the best way to bond with your baby-I agree that nursing is a great way to bond with your baby.  I love looking down at Porter while he eats and watching his hand grab my shirt.  I love knowing that my milk is directly responsible for each little fat roll.  However, I felt exactly as close to Paxton while I watched him drink his bottles.  He would always reach up for a piece of my hair and hold that the whole time he ate.  And I loved that Jared could share that bonding time with Pax (and Porter while he drank pumped milk).

5. Breast-fed babies are healthier and smarter-Paxton was very healthy.  He never had an ear infection, he very rarely got sick enough to require a doctor's visit.  I don't know for sure that he was as healthy as he would have been if he had been breast fed, but I do know that he was an extremely healthy baby.  I also cannot say that Paxton is as smart as he would have been if he had been breast fed, but he is a very fast learner and a bright little boy.  I agree with the saying "breast is best" in most cases (not wasn't for Pax) but I think most of the research I have seen is not completely convincing when it states that breast milk directly causes babies to be healthier and smarter (obviously I am not in any way arguing against the antibodies that are passed from mother to child in breast milk).  I think that formula-fed babies can be perfectly healthy and just as smart as breast-fed babies.  I believe that in a group of thirty three-year-olds, there will be no difference between the ones that were breast-fed and the ones that were formula-fed as babies.

I felt so guilty when I stopped breastfeeding Paxton because I still believed all these things to be true.  I did not understand why my body could not do something that was so natural; I felt bad that I was just costing us money every few days; and I always wondered if I was missing precious bonding time with Pax.  It took me a lot of research and a second chance at breastfeeding to figure out that every baby is different and every parent is different and a lot of these things are just things that are said about breastfeeding and will NOT be everyone's experience!  I think this is one of those scenarios for which there is no "normal".  Once I realized that, I was free to just go with what my boys needed without feeling any added pressure...I could focus on the love.

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