Warning: this post is for my prego readers, curious friends and any random person who might find this post by Googling "BFF" expecting an Etsy shop for friendship bracelets but actually got directed to a bunch of posts about breastfeeding. What I'm sayin' is this post has some potential for T.M.I. Just puttin that out there now before you're in too deep.
So... I've been getting a lot of straight-up questions, round-about questions and unsolicited "advice" (opinions) from friends, family, and (real shocker) complete strangers about breastfeeding. And I'd rather just address them here in one post than drag it out over a million posts in response to whatever question or opinion I received that day (I've avoided this overall for the most part but it's becoming a bigger issue all the time) . . . That said, this could be a very long post. I'll cover the questions/comments first, then supply-boosting and then my pet peeves and annoyances and, finally, a little "you can do it" message at the end.
How do I feed little G? [This question usually comes more in the form of "Are you breastfeeding?" or "Why are you giving your baby formula?" or "Is he eating sweet potatoes yet? Because my children were eating solids when they were just a few weeks old and they turned out fine."] The answer: I breastfeed and supplement with formula. Probably wouldn't even be supplementing with formula if I hadn't returned to work. My return to work cut my supply in half (if not more) and I've had to work really hard ever since to boost and maintain (tips for that later if you're interested). My wish is that he could be exclusively breastfed (referred to as EBF in all the super cool judgemental mom forums... ha) but our little routine works really well for us, I'm happy and Paul's happy which makes for a happy little Gray.
Does it hurt? To be honest... in the beginning, yes, it hurts. A lot. Even though almost all of the literature you read assures that with a proper latch it should never hurt... riiiight. Can you really imagine it being the most pleasant feeling? If you plan to breastfeed, invest in some lanolin. And don't worry, it gets a lot better. When it got a little too painful for me, I pumped about every other feeding to give myself a break. That helped times a million.
How often does he eat? With breastmilk it can be anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours between feedings. Usually somewhere around two hours, though, if he ate a lot to begin with. Formula is a much more consistent pattern which is wonderful if you want to get a little more shut-eye. With formula, G goes about three hours sometimes longer. And at night, he is now sleeping about 6ish hours, give or take, after his last night feeding. But with breastmilk, the pattern can be pretty inconsistent, especially if you are feeding on cue and not on a schedule (really not sure how people BF on a schedule).
Do you have to pump? Is it worth the money to buy double electric? How long does it take to express? Yes and yes. After my return to work my supply got really low so I used the pump to help boost my supply. A GOOD pump is vital to your supply if you will be returning to school or work. You will probably hear or read that BF'ing is supply and demand. Definitely true. The more often you "demand," the better and better your supply will be. Increasing demand is good if you want to start a freezer stash, though I don't do this since we already supplement some with formula. As far as which pumps I use... a Medela electric at work (Pump in Style Advanced) and a Medela manual (Harmony) at home so that I can leave most of the things that I need for the electric at work. At home I try not to pump at all because babies are much more efficient than a pump will ever be. Plus, actually nursing is a million times easier at this point, no clean-up or pieces to sanitize. In the beginning, it was much quicker to pump (about 10-15 minutes) than to nurse (anywhere from 20-45 minutes with Gray... this has greatly improved to about 20 minutes MAX now). It's tempting initially to pump all the time and just be done when you're tired, but I really think babies need the experience to improve their efficiency.
Which is easier? (BF or formula feeding?) In my opinion... BF is much easier once you get the hang of it (which could take several weeks... more on that later). When I was just dead tired in the mornings, it was incredible to be able to just bring him in the bed and both of us drift back into sleep. Another plus for BF... it doesn't require scooping, measuring, mixing or a lot of washing bottles (unless pumped which I did do a good bit of when adjusting to comfort level and I do a lot of now that I'm back to work).
How did you solve latch problems? Honestly... (I know a lot of women will hate me for this) I didn't have a single problem with G latching. He literally entered the world rooting and ready to eat... he is a chunk, after all. :) Of course, it did help that I did a LOT of reading when I was still pregnant about how to get a proper latch from the very start and then about potential problems and solutions so I was well-versed on how to get things going and how to tackle problems in the beginning. That kind of information came in handy for me as I was kinda left all alone in the L&D room to figure it out for the first time. When that moment came, I was so glad I'd put in the time and knew what to do. (You'd think it's intuitive and in a lot of ways it is but it's also like, "So... I do what now?")
How do you nurse discreetly? IS there a way to be discreet? Really... probably not. I mean, it's not difficult to tell what's going on. But, my biggest life savers have been nursing tanks. I don't like to let it all hang out (but in the beginning when you can barely drag yourself up the stairs you really won't care, I promise... or at least I didn't). But I would much rather NOT expose my belly. If you're pulling your shirt up, that's where the "Ohmigod, my EYES!" looks come from. In my opinion, a woman pulling her shirt up is a thousand times more distracting than unclip-and-flip. And while this plus a "hooter hider" is probably as discreet as it gets, I still don't do it in public. I just don't. Or at least not yet. Only in the nursing room at Nordstrom will I even think about it. Dinner table? No, thanks. People just don't get it and until they do, I'm not going to be the one leading the revolution.
I know you don't actually need anything but, really... what do you need? Technically you don't NEED anything to BF, but these are the things that I use(d) regularly or often enough:
-PUMP -- my supply would probably be gone without it
-Boppy -- I would say this is essential for every new mom no matter how you choose to feed your wee one. Your arms will thank you in recovery.
-nursing cover -- even for home when people are over. who wants to leave the party?
This was not a question, just some of my own unsolicited advice, should you ever need it... how I boosted supply. As I mentioned, when I returned to work my supply dropped a lot. I mean, A LOT! Here's what's been working for me the past two weeks: fenugreek and oatmeal. (Fenugreek is an herbal supplement, GNC sells it. I'm pretty sure it's actually an Indian spice??) And basically attaching G to my hip when I get home from work (which is easy because he's so dang cute). Last Monday morning: 1.5 oz. This morning: 6 oz. So, in a week and a half's time, if my math is right, I've boosted G's supply by about 400%. Great success.
Now... my breastfeeding pet peeves (everybody loves a good pet peeve)... these have nothing to do with actual BF, but more to do with other people and their fanatical crazyness regarding the topic. I have gotten more random crap comments on this topic than anything else (other than maybe sleeping). And no matter what you do or where you hide, it is pretty much unavoidable. The breastfeeding crazies will crawl out of the forbidden forest if that's what it takes to give their $0.02. I know I don't know you and haven't even asked how you're doing or how old your baby is but, are you breastfeeding? (Well hello, nice to meet you, too!) How long do you plan on breastfeeding? Well, I breastfed my little bunny boo until he was five years old. Sorry, not for me, but I actually do understand why people go past the six-month and one year marks. It's free (if you don't include pumps, lanolin, nursing tanks, etc.), it's freakin' easy once you get the hang of it and, most importantly, the nutritional benefits are almost unmatched. Not to mention healing and antibacterial properties... it's a winner, but at some point I would like my body back, kthanks and pleasedon'tstoneme. Will I be BreastFriendsForever? Probably not. And harrassing me isn't going to change my mind.
My BIGGEST pet peeve of all... women (and people in general) who downplay the hard work and determination that it takes to be successful. A lot of the literature makes it sound easy, wonderful, rainbows and kittens. It's out there that it should never ever hurt, even in the beginning. Not many mention or tell you that in the first two weeks you will probably want to give up, even if you have a great supply and no problems latching. I really think that even hospitals and lactation consultants are doing new moms a huge disservice by romanticizing the whole idea and not stressing how much work it will be to continue. In my opinion, women would be better served to go into it knowing that it will take a lot of patience and motivation so that when they hit the tough spots, they'll know it gets better. They certainly drive the point home that labor is going to hurt and burn like the dickens. I wanted to stop several times in the first few weeks but I rembered getting a message from an old youth group friend that everything would get so much easier after the first six weeks or so. And really, it does get better. After the first month, maybe even six weeks, it is SO much easier to get it all balanced. But getting through that first month is so crucial and I wish that doctors, hospitals, lactation consultants, whoever... would stress that during pregnancy so that when you want to stop or just want your body back, you'll keep going.
SO... I think I answered all the questions I've gotten and hopefully given some useful advice to my pregos that are considering BF. Hope it wasn't too much TMI. Any other questions, just shoot an email or private message.
You'll hear it a kazillion times but your little babe is so worth it. The product IS worth the process!