I knew very little about breastfeeding before I had Jude. I just knew I wanted to do it because I had heard it is the best for the baby. I knew a little bit about the colostrum and that it gave them good nutrients and antibodies. I knew I wanted to breastfeed to decrease the chances that Jude would have allergies/asthma. I knew that you breastfeed exclusively for six months and with other food for a year, ideally. And I had had some mothers tell me that it is hard and doesn't always come naturally so not to expect it to.
I have learned so much since then and I am so glad. I feel like the average person is underinformed about breastfeeding, maybe I feel that way just because I was. I have so much more to learn, but have found it so interesting and have been doing a lot of research. I have been eternally grateful to the mothers who have helped me and I would love to help someone else. Even if only one mother-baby pair benefits from all this, I know it is worth it! I am going to do several posts on different aspects of breastfeeding in my attempt to increase awareness in my small circle.
After I had the baby at the hospital, the nurses kept asking me... "Has you milk come in yet?" I would reply, "No.. not that I know of..." They would then just simply say "okay" or "have you felt any tingling in your breasts?" I just told them I hadn't and that was the end of the conversation. I really had no idea what to expect. The colostrum was no big deal. It really didn't have any side effects or anything funky or unexpected so I really didn't know what was coming.
The day I got home from the hospital, a Saturday, "my milk came in." And there was no way I could not know it! My breasts were completely engorged. I didn't know it at the time, but Jude had jaundice and he was hardly eating anything so they just stayed engorged. I did not understand the supply/demand system at that time so didn't know I should have been pumping. I also didn't realize he wasn't eating enough (see previous post). I had no idea what was normal and what wasn't.. My mom and dad had ordered me a breast pump but it wouldn't get here for another week. By Sunday, I was completely desperate and had Dan run to Target to get me one of those hand pumps. That was painful. And unbearable. I probably only did it twice.
We had an appointment with the lactation specialist on Monday... by then I was completely desperate and beaten. I was worried about Jude because he would either be in hysterics or totally lethargic every time I tried to feed him and I was just so confused. I walked into her office with a page full of scribbled notes of questions and worries and things to ask her. Mary McAteer, IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant), saved my life. I call her my angel and hugged her and cried out of love and am eternally indebted to her and I let her know it! She told me Jude had jaundice at that's why he wasn't eating (I felt horrible). She showed me one of their breast pumps and how to use it (finally... relief!). We had to bottle feed Jude for the next couple weeks until the jaundice cleared up. So I rented the breast pump and pumped all his milk for him every two to three hours so he could still be breastfed.
It has all worked out since then! It was not easy, but we got him back to nursing. (He was too used to that high-flowing bottle buffet) and he is doing well. For a while, I thought he would never breastfeed again.
Moral of the story...
After I got home and my milk came in, I could not believe no one had warned me. The nurses so carelessly asked if my milk had come in yet but did not explain what to expect or what would happen or how to regulate it or anything. (In their defense, they might have told me all this and I was just so overwhelmed and sleep deprived I don't remember it). I felt so unprepared and underinformed and had no idea how to handle the engorgement or the milk dripping and leaking out all the time or the pain or awkwardness of it all or just what to do at all! I did not know that milk is on a supply and demand system. The more that is used, the more your body makes. If it is not used, your body will stop producing it. (It's really amazing, isn't it?!)
Not everyone needs a breast pump, but I sure have. I wish someone would have told me that I might really need a breast pump. If for whatever reason your baby cannot nurse (like jaundice, which many babies have), then you need to pump or you will lose your milk supply. I did not really understand why I needed a pump so I figured I would just buy one whenever I ended up needing it. But when I needed it, I needed it, and I didn't have it. Since they are pricey and some people don't end up needing one of their own, I would recommend to rent one from the hospital and have it on hand for when you get home just in case you need it. If you end up needing one, you can purchase one.
I need one because I will be going back to work at the end of this month and I need to pump to keep my milk supply up. I have been pumping quite frequently so I can make plenty of extra milk for Jude to have. When I go back to work, he will have a plenty of breast milk that Dan can feed him with a bottle. I want to there to always be enough for him so he can have breast milk exclusively. (I will do another post about that later.)
So, women... do your research and be prepared! The more educated you are, the greater the chance that you will breastfeed longer because you will prepared for how hard it may be, you will know what to expect a little bit more, and you will have a better understanding of how important it is! Breastfeeding is such a huge part of having a baby. Newborns breastfeed 8-12x/day all throughout the day and night. It has been one of the hardest things I have ever done but also the best and most rewarding.
I love for this to be a place for us to share experiences and encourage each other! :)