Breastfeeding: The First Year

Let me preface this post by saying that I, in no way, am a breastfeeding expert. Far from it. I'm merely a mom that's nursed her son successfully for 11 1/2 months. It has been a very tough journey at times, as I expected it would be, and there are several things I wish I had known about the process prior to Bear's birth. I'm typically not a "let's be all crazy open about a sometimes controversial subject", but I've come to realize that breastfeeding is a natural, normal part of life and shouldn't be swept under the rug. If my unsolicited advice can help one momma, it will have been worth my time (precious baby-napping time too, might I add).

Some things I wish I had known:

1. They may try to make you pump/supplement in the hospital.

I know this is often not the case; many of my friends' jaws dropped when I told them that our nurses in the hospital tried forcing the pump on me. I was so frustrated, not understanding why it was necessary. Their reasoning? Bear hadn't had a "pee" diaper yet, just several of the lovely other kind, and we needed to pump fluids in him. Not necessary. Bear was completely fine. I didn't feel comfortable pumping yet and so I didn't, and I'm happy I stuck with that choice. Moral of the story? You are the one who gets to decide how you feed your baby. Whether you choose formula, breastfeeding, pump to bottle feeding, or any combination of the is your choice. Mommy knows best.
2. You are going to cry. And feel overwhelmed. It's okay, it happens to all of us.
Breakdowns will happen. If you're like me, there will be quite a few. Just ask Zach. The last thing you want to do is let those breakdowns negatively affect the way you feed and bond with your baby. They're little humans; they pick up and sense when Mommy's upset. So many times in the first month, I got overwhelmingly frustrated and cried while nursing. Bear couldn't get latched, or he'd keep pulling off, and I just continued to cry and show my frustration. It absolutely Zach would hold my hand and try and help me relax; only when I calmed down and stopped crying did Bear finally get a good latch and calm down, too. It's okay, and completely normal, to cry and get upset when things just don't seem to be working. Just try and remember that your little one's frustration will only increase when you're upset. Keep that chin up! Baby knows what to do.

3. Just call a lactation specialist.

When Bear was 2 months old, he was a healthy, chubby baby boy. Proof:

I, however, was still freaking out that he wasn't "getting enough". He had bad reflux and would projectile vomit often, scaring me to death and leaving me panic-stricken. Ohhhh, our poor pediatrician. She saw lots of us those first few months. Anyway, I freaked out anytime he would refuse to nurse. Zach finally talked me into calling a lactation specialist to come to our house and give me peace of mind. Best decision we ever made (other than having Bear, of course). Yes, she only stayed 45 minutes and charged $95, but I still swear it's the best $95 we've ever spent. She watched me nurse, gave pointers, and helped me figure out the dreaded breast pump that I'd been putting off using for 2 months. She gave me confidence and praised our nursing routine, something I so desperately needed to hear. Point of the story: If you're having self-doubt or worrying yourself silly, call a specialist. You never even have to get off the couch and you'll feel a huge weight lifted once you get a second opinion from an expert.

4. Teeth are not that bad.

Prior to Bear's first teeth coming in, I had this major fear of a little vampire baby that would grow teeth and bite me like crazy. Luckily, it wasn't that bad. Bear's first 2 teeth came in around 6 months and for about a week, I can't lie, it hurt a little. When he bit down, it hurt a lot. But I would pull him off immediately and sternly say "No". Did he get it? Nah. He smiled and thought it was funny. Many moms use the "thump" method...thumping the baby firmly on the head to get them to stop biting. I just couldn't do it. After several times of the "No" approach, Bear caught on and stopped biting. I got used to the feeling of teeth, and now it's no issue. He has 7, almost 8 teeth and we're still smooth sailin'!

5. The so-called "bonding" is a real, magical thing.

I've heard tons of breastfeeding advocates preach on the "bonding" nursing creates, and will openly admit that I have rolled my eyes on numerous occasion. But, having witnessed it now myself, I no longer question the reality of momma/baby bonding during breastfeeding. It is very real and unexplainable, something that I wish every momma could experience. In the beginning, for about the first 5 months, I didn't really feel it. That sounds terrible, but I spent most of my time while nursing just worrying if Bear was getting enough, and not really enjoying the moment. After 6 months, we had it down. Now he'll pull off, look up at me and smile the sweetest little smile, then go back to eating. It totally melts me every time. I love and cherish the time he nurses, especially because I realize there's not much of that precious time left. Soon he'll be asking for juice, and mommy's milk will be a thing of the past. There's something so magical about being the sole nutritional provider for your baby. He needs you. And you need him.
I could go on and on about the things I've learned over the past year, but I'd need a much longer nap-time for that. It's also important to mention that I in no way have a problem with formula or mothers that choose to go another route. Breastfeeding does not work for everyone and is not best in every situation. If I had had to go back to work, I'm not sure I could've continued down this route. Fairly certain I couldn't have, actually. I despised pumping and have a strong admiration for moms that work and pump to provide for their babies. But I'm blessed that I've been able stay home with Bear and that we have shared something sweeter than I ever imagined it could be. Just feeding my baby? Yes, I'm doing that. But I'm also giving us both something irreplaceable, a bond that I'll hold dear for the rest of my life.

It hasn't been easy. But, if I could go back, I wouldn't change a thing. I got mastitis when Bear was 8 weeks old and spent an entire Saturday hopping from clinic to clinic. I cried at least 27 different times in the first 2 weeks when I thought I wasn't "doing it right". I tried 58 different nursing positions before finding "the one". I carried my Boppy everywhere I went for 3 months and got 937 "you are a crazy person" looks. And still, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm so thankful that God blessed me with a precious, healthy little boy and has allowed me to be his Mommy through all the ups and downs (mostly ups) over the past 11 1/2 months. I'm also grateful for my supportive, loving husband that has stood by my side through all the tears and frustration. Zach, you are my rock. Bear is blessed to have you as his Daddy.

You got this. Baby trusts you. Use that trust to find confidence within yourself. You were made to be a Mommy. There is no sweeter, more fulfilling job.