Jan 22, 2011

On breastfeeding

Okay, entering controversial territory here.

Breastfeeding is a big part of my life and I blog about life, so, here goes. I'll precursor by saying I respect breastfeeding mothers and formula-feeding mothers equally. We're all doing the best for our children, and the best is different for everyone. Some might say breastfeeding leaves the daddy out. It hasn't been a problem for Shawn. Bath time is his bonding time with Story, as it was/is for Wilder. Pumping and having the daddy do a bottle is also an option (not to mention it can free mommy to have some personal away time).

On we plunge...

If Story has nursed five times a day all the days of her life, then that means we have nursed 1,200 times! Now, she's nursed more than that since we nursed a bit more than every 3 hours when she was a newborn. So, I'm an expert, right? Especially since I nursed Wilder, too?

My breastfeeding journey goes something like this:

We bought only a couple of bottles when preparing for Wilder's birth. I planned to nurse if it worked out, but didn't want to pressure myself if it didn't. It ended up working out, but not without a little bit of gumption. I was incredibly engorged when we came home from the hospital. Let me clarify: I had to go to the hospital a second time, because I wasn't getting better, and they gave me an I.V. the day my milk came in. I remember lying alone on the E.R. table, crying out for my baby Wilder, who had probably gone 4 hours without eating. I was in intense pain and confused as to why I wasn't getting better (in hindsight I think it was postpartum pre-eclampsia, as with Story).

The basketball in my tummy had mutated into two basketballs that migrated upward...(e.g., my "girls" were very. full. up to my collarbone and armpits). It was excruciating. I think I scarred my mom for life in that when she came to help, I roamed around half-clothed, milk spewing from my breasts, balling.

It didn't seem worth it.

Until I discovered cabbage leaves. They are a weird moving plant, like a venus fly trap. Put the fresh leaves over the girls and it almost looks like they are massaging them (even though I just think it was my heartbeat). Instant relief. Cold packs helped too, but I couldn't stand them for too long.

I pushed through. My postpartum nurse friend came over at 10pm one night to help, because Wilder just wasn't getting it. I don't blame the guy if he was afraid of the girls. "Boom boom boom I'm a big thing that you need to eat from!!"
W and mommy, when things were very new

He nursed for 8 months, around which time he pushed me away. And that was that. I was relieved {mostly}. It feel good to have some independence. And a good push up bra.

Then my Miss Honey Love Story Girl Lovey Nutt (sorry) came along, and I was more knowledgeable and relaxed about the whole thing. When we learned of her pregnancy I bought a Medela Pump In Style electric pump. And stocked the fridge with cabbage days before birth.

She was a bit of a slow learner, but didn't fight or fist-punch me like Wilder did. Hospital lactation specialists changed my life by suggesting breast shells...they worked like a charm. If engorgement is a problem for you, TRY them. They work.

I had a long post-partum hospital stay with Story, too, and we nursed through it. We nursed in the E.R. (thank you Lord for protecting Story from germs), and we nursed even while I was on magnesium sulfate and going to the bathroom was akin to climbing Everest. But nursing helped me feel bonded to Story, and it was the one thing I could do for her, if just barely (Shawn, family, and friends had to do everything else). When bad medicine was in me I had to pump/dump, but Story took a bottle well (she doesn't now! oops).

Almost eight months later, nursing is progressing successfully.
She is easily distracted, so we have to go to a quiet place (we lie down, and relax! Wilder does pretty good at not "bothering" us). I really hope she sticks with me. Oftentimes she'll nurse for a bit then roll over and lose interest. I am grateful that nursing her has been a positive experience and that it hasn't been overly bothersome. Moreover, my breasts haven't had any adverse effects from running; production is steady.

I am sticking with it one week at a time. I am not going to publicly make the 1-year commitment just in case she "denies me" like Wilder did. My reasoning for nursing her is three-fold 1) it's a really special time for us and is not a stressor (if it was, I wouldn't do it) 2) it's the more economical choice for us 3) it has optimum nutrition. Furthermore, I have never had mastitis, struggles with let-down, anemia, prescriptions that impede my ability to nurse, or a outside the home job to make it more challenging. Even though I get tired of it sometimes, it has been a BIG blessing to get to nurse.
So, do you have questions for me? I can help. Do you wonder how to discreetly nurse in public? Are you frustrated with tattered nursing bras and need to find a better one? How about a nursing cover? Nursing pads? Check out these on Etsy:
image via

Do you wonder how long frozen milk is good for? Or maybe you have endured negative reactions to your nursing and you'd like to discuss how you coped? Have you ever had mastitis? If so, what was the outcome? How do you distract older sibling(s) when you are trying to nurse (we struggled with that in the beginning)?

I'm going to be bossy and say, yes, let's talk about it!


Breanna said...

As a Mommy who successfully nursed two beautiful babies (the first for 13 months and the second for...gulp...18 months) I loved reading this post. I too feel that nursing and formula feeding are both wonderful things. As long as Mommy and baby are happy and healthy that is what matters, not the rest of the worlds opinions and judgments. Had a rough time getting my (slightly early) peanut Leah to catch on to nursing. Even with a little supplementing she dropped to 5lbs (from 5lbs 12oz) before she started gaining again, but nursing became easier for us both as time went on. Then her brother came along and was the complete opposite, latching on like a champ at only a few minutes old. The tough part with him only came when it was time to wean him...obviously since he was 18 months old before we successfully did that. ;) Just goes to show that every baby is different, even when they come from the same Momma. I too used cabbage leaves to aid in my discomfort during weaning. Best of luck to all you nursing Mommies and Mommies-to-be!!!! :)

Krista Hutton said...

Good for you for sticking it out when things got a little tough. I too have breastfed both of my babies. I've never been against formula, but always thought if I was blessed to nurse, it was what I wanted to do because it was the cheapest way for us, and, like you said, bonding time with the kids. I HATED nursing at first when Eli was born. It was painful and exhausting because he was happy to nurse for an hour or hour and a half. I was told by experienced moms to hang in there, it would get better. So I committed myself to at least trying to do it for a month. After that first month, it got so much better for me and I actually truly started to enjoy it. Eli enjoyed it so much the he refused to take a bottle from about 4 months on if I ever needed to leave him. I was much more relaxed when Kamdyn was born. I am thankful that I was able to nurse both of my babies to one year. I could have probably nursed them happily much longer, but by 1 I'm ready for a little break, a normal bra:), and for them to lose the attachment to my girls. Thanks for sharing your journey!

Kate said...

You are amazing Mindy!! And I have NO clue why this is SUCH a controversial topic...annoying! I'm glad it is going so well for you...I never made it to magic 365 day mark, but that was a choice my boys and I made together, so it wasn't painful! Love you for your honesty....maybe we should talk about post-nursing boobs. :P

Megan said...

Hi Sister! Yes I agree with Kate, "Why is this so controversial? It is annoying." I'm proud of you sis, it is hard to push through it in the beginning. You know I nursed Max till about 3 months..I was beginning to "dry up" for no apparent reason & then when we had to be away from eachother for a big weekend to find a new home in Illinois & that was that. I am more relaxed with Evie girl too. I am grateful that I have been able to nurse her at all! Mastitis really kicked my butt as you know & so I just nursed from my right boob. I looked pretty funny with one floppy zucchini & one hard canteloupe. Har har. Now, that boob has just about dried up..so she is getting my frozen breastmilk(from pumping like a maniac those first 2 wks) mixed with formula. I agree you have to do whatever works for you and your child & whether thats breast or formula-thats cool! Now, anyone who knows of a magic post nursing bra??!!....... :)

Kyle said...

I agree, it really shouldn't be as controversial as it is. One can never really know the heart of the mother they are judging and what circumstances or situations she is enduring to bring her to her decision. It makes me sad that a lot of mothers don't have the support and encouragement it takes to get through those first few hard weeks. There is a lot of misinformation out there dating back to our grandmothers about the negatives of breastfeeding. I just encourage those who are scared and confused to go to a lactation specialist BEFORE your baby is born and seek out a group for support, whether it's the Le Leche League or your mom and cousin. If you wait until your already overwhelmed, tired, and frustrated to seek help, it may be too late.

Judah weened himself when he was 8 months, too. He had started walking and was just over it all together. Nothing I did made him want to nurse anymore. It broke my heart. Hopefully Caleb and I can make it to a yaer. Thanks for talking about this.

p.s. looking for a great post nursing support bra? his name is dr. ferris and i hear he does a mean breast lift! :)

Suzanne said...

I too see NO reason for breastfeeding to be such a big deal! I nurse Miss Priss for 15 months, and I'm going on sheesh...10 months now with Little Man.
I've never really had issues with privacy. When out in public I usually excuse myself back to the vehicle or to the handicap stall in the bathroom to nurse.
Right now due to diet changes my supply is really waning, so I started on Fenugreek-but I honestly think Little Man might just be ending his run...which is a very bittersweet thing.
I wouldn't trade the breast-bonding with my little ones for ANYTHING. It's truly a blessing to be able to care for them in that way. My two babies have been two COMPLETELY different nursing styles! Little Miss was very good...we both had to be in the hospital after she was born, and although they encouraged me to nurse her I knew with a needle in her head (literally..so sad) and me getting blood transfusions that it (nursing) would be alot easier to manage once we were at home and relaxed..and it was! She was a glorious nurser! Little Man came 5 weeks ahead of schedule-but latched on just minutes after he was born and has nursed with a gusto (and teeth...yowsas) ever since. Even though he's my last, and again I'll be sad when it's over..he really has been a rough nurser and the 'girls' will kinda be happy when he's done!
Thanks for posting about this!!

danielle @ take heart said...

i haven't read this yet. but i read the title and had to comment…..about to read ;)

danielle @ take heart said...

go you! i will say after dying a slow death breast feeding brody the second time around was much, much smoother. proud of you for sticking it out!

Erin said...

I have no comment on the said subject due to the fact that I haven't experienced motherhood; however, I must comment on the purple liquid eyeliner you are rockin. :) This is interesting to read for future reference though. I had no idea breastfeeding was even a controversial subject..sigh. I guess I have lots to learn...To be completely honest, breastfeeding (along with the whole childbearing thing) kinda scares the crap out of me...I guess that is why everyone mentions how tremendous it is to have a solid circle of support. I am proud of my sisters for sticking to their guns and doing what they felt was best for themselves and their babies (who by the way, are the cutest nieces and nephews. EVER.)
Well, time to watch Bachelor. That is all.
Erin :)

Eric's Mommy said...

Breastfeeding came super easy to me and I breastfed my now 8 year old for 4 months. The reason why I only did it for 4 months was because of my stupid job! I worked in a lab and could not get enough breaks to keep my milk supply up (long story). I would have done it for so much longer if it wasn't for my stupid job!! (which I no longer have)

Andrea said...

Great post. I just have to say...I wonder who gave you the cabbage leave idea?? hehehe!

Elizabeth {e tells tales} said...

God, I had no idea babies could "deny you." I think that would hurt my feelings. Thanks for all the suggestions (cabbage leaves?) and I'm sure I'll be back to this post once June comes and baby arrives.