Friday, January 29, 2010

To Nurse... or not to nurse

Wow, I had no idea what I was in for after the labor. I always thought that moms either chose to breastfeed or formula feed and that was all there was to it. A friend of mine said that she thought nursing was worse than labor. I was sure she was exaggerating until I went through it myself. It's the difference between one day of extreme pain or eight weeks of moderate pain every 2 hours all day long.

I was one of those people who was hell bent on breastfeeding. I feel like it's the best start you can give your child- I had no idea about the emotional bond that is also involved. It was important to me for the nutritional value. I quickly found out that it's not as easy a task as just saying "I choose to breastfeed my baby."

We probably got off to the wrong start when the hospital staff suggested that we supplement at least 1 bottle per day because of his jaundice. Then, we allowed him to have a pacifier after the first 48 hours. I now know that it's really important to have breastfeeding established before introducing anything else. I'm still not sure what, exactly, it was that didn't quite work but the pain was borderline excruciating at times.

He couldn't seem to latch on right- there was always a stinging and it felt like he was biting my nipples. Then, when he came off, they were white from lack of circulation. I don't know how I went on like that for 8 weeks, but that was the cut-off point. I gave up. It was so emotional in a way that I never expected. I really felt like we lost a special bond that we had. Then, when the milk started to dry up, I became really sad, too. I've never experienced anything like it.

Then came the guilt. First, walking into the grocery store, I felt like I needed to wear a hoodie to hide my face while I looked at formula options. Then, after he was on the formula for a week, he became so constipated. I couldn't help but feel like it was my fault as I watched him flail his little legs in the air and grunt so hard I thought he would pop a blood vessel in his head. He tried to poop for days and got nothing out! He also had terrible spit up problems. Apparently, it's much easier for babies to suck from a bottle than the breast, so they get carried away and a lot comes up.

We're still adjusting but things are getting much better. I have to say that I'm much less stressed which was definitely worth it. There were a few weeks where both me and the baby were screaming and crying all the time. It was becoming too much for both of us and my husband pointed out that the emotional toll it was taking on us was out-weighing the nutritional benefits. I also like that I know exactly how much food he got so I'm not wondering if he's still hungry when he's crying.

I'm hoping that next time I'll be able to enjoy a full term of breastfeeding after learning what I have. I can't get over how much you learn from your first baby. I feel like I know so much after just 2 months. It's a really wonderful feeling, learning to be a mom just by doing it. And you become so good at it. There's nothing better than knowing exactly what is wrong with your baby and being able to make him smile and feel better... well, some of the time :)

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