Jun 20, 2005

Things I Wish I Had Known About Breastfeeding

While I was pregnant, I took the breastfeeding class offered by my hospital. I thought I was prepared, but I wasn't. Here's what I wish I had known:

1. Breastfeeding is hard. It doesn't come naturally. If I had known then what I know now, I would have found a lactation consultant (LC) I trusted before my son was born, and had her come to the hospital to get me started. I eventually found my LC through our pediatrician, but if I hadn't liked her, I would have checked with my obstetrician. (I saw two LCs in the hospital but the first did absolutely nothing for me and the second one was only marginally helpful, so you can't necessarily rely on the hospital's staff.)

2. I would leak like crazy. I didn't leak a drop during pregnancy, so I was a bit shocked when my milk came in. I had one box of Lansinoh disposable pads, which disappeared in just a few days. After going through several boxes in just a couple of weeks at $8 a box, I realized I needed a more cost-effective alternative. I tried Lansinoh washable pads but soaked right through them. I recommend Gerber washable pads, which have been great. I bought 6 boxes so I can change pads after every feeding and still do laundry every other day (instead of every day!). However, I still use Lansinoh disposables when I go out for more than a half hour because of the waterproof backing and larger size.

3. My wrists would cramp up and I'd get tendonitis from holding the baby's head in position. Apparently, this is a common problem but no one warned me. If I had known, maybe I could have been more careful about using my wrists but now I'm just always in pain.

4. I'd need a good electric double pump right away. I'd taken the advice I'd read somewhere about buying a good manual pump to start and seeing if breastfeeding would work out before investing in a good electric pump. Well, I've never used my Avent Isis, which seems to be universally considered the best manual pump. Instead, out of desperation, I bought a Medela Pump In Style Advanced at the hospital (paying full retail instead of a lower price at Babies R Us). I could have saved us $100 if I'd just bought the Pump In Style before my son was born.

5. There will be good days, when I love breastfeeding, and bad days, when I dread feeding time. The first few weeks were all bad, so once we got our problems ironed out, I was thrilled. I was caught off guard when I later found myself tired of being a human cow. But the feeling passed. It comes and goes, but in the end, I'm happy with my choices.

Sticking with breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it's worth it for the bonding, the health benefits to both my son and to me, and not having to pay for formula. Supposedly, it's also convenient because you don't have to mix up formula, warm up bottles or lug the bottles with you, but since I haven't mastered breastfeeding in public, there are plenty of times I've wished that I could stay out for more than a couple of hours (I do sometimes take a bottle with me, but that affects my supply - a subject I'll address separately).

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