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Hi girls. So, after giving birth to my DD, I actually compiled a pretty extensive primer all about childbirth and post-baby stuff for all my friends/family members that were having babies. Partially this was just about the fact that I feel the need to write sometimes, but it turns out that it was pretty popular. I thought I'd share the section on breastfeeding, for those of you FTM's that were interested.
Please keep in mind that these are just MY thoughts based on MY experiences as a breastfeeding mum. Every situation is different and every woman is different. (Indeed, if other BTDT mommies want to add their own thoughts to this thread, I'd love that!)
However, breastfeeding can be challenging even when you are really committed to doing it. I completely understand why so many women “give up” on this, and if you decide that breastfeeding is something that you want to do – this information may be very helpful for you.
Here we go!
BREASTMILK: BECAUSE FORMULA DOESN’T COME IN CONTAINERS THIS NICE!
1.) START OFF RIGHT: While you are still at the hospital, ask the Birthing Center to let you talk with a certified lactation consultant right away. They usually have at least 1-2 of these at each hospital. These ladies are incredibly knowledgeable and can help you fix any immediate problems that you may have when you start feeding your baby at the hospital. They are also available to talk to once you go home – so don’t feel bad about calling them if you have any concerns once you are home.
2.) KNOW THY NIPPLE: Everything I read said that, if you are doing it correctly, nursing shouldn’t hurt. This isn’t quite true in my experience. I would amend that to say, if you are doing it correctly, nursing shouldn’t hurt past the first 30 seconds of nursing. This only applies in the beginning, because once you are fully adjusted to nursing (that is, your nipples are “callused”), it doesn’t hurt at all anymore. Of course, there’s just going to be about 1 week or so in the beginning where it’s not so pleasant anyway because your nipples aren’t accustomed to all that moisture/pressure. Get past that week, and then the 30 second rule should apply. Helpful Hint: For what it’s worth - I used lanolin the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy to “condition” my nipples – and never had any horrible chaffing/pain/bleeding like a lot of women I talked to. It’s worth a shot!
3.) PLAYING “WHERE’S THE BOOB”?: DD would do (and I understand from other new mothers as well that this is quite common) what I like to call the “frantic boob search” when she was a newborn. This happens when you put the nipple in their mouth, but instead of sucking they start breathing in and out rapidly, turning their head from side to side and generally getting frustrated, like they just can’t find the nipple. If this happens and your baby refuses to latch on – put the boob away for a second and try to calm them down with some snuggling. When they’re calmed down, try again. By 7 weeks DD stopped doing this unless she’s simply wasn’t hungry.
4.) NO BOTTLES! No matter how frustrated you get in the beginning with breastfeeding– don’t give in and simply give her the bottle. I had a friend who did this (she was freaked out by the “frantic boob search”) – and her baby got accustomed to the bottle and promptly turned his nose up at her breast for good. Experts recommend waiting until at LEAST 3 weeks of solid and exclusive breastfeeding before introducing a bottle. I did, and DD easily transitioned between breast/bottle whenever necessary.
5.) GETTING ENOUGH TO EAT: Which brings up another good point about breastfeeding – there are no “ounce” marks on your boobies – so it’s easy to be concerned about whether your child is getting enough to eat. In fact, this is every new breastfeeding mother’s MAIN concern. This is understandable, since there’s a lot of pressure for a mother who is the ONLY source of nutrition for their small and helpless baby. But in all honesty, it shouldn’t be. Mothers have successfully been breastfeeding their babies for hundreds of thousands of years – evolutionarily speaking, it’s what we’re designed to do!
Of course, it’s easy to say that – but how do you KNOW FOR SURE? Every book you read will tell you that you should breastfeed for a solid 10 minutes on one side before switching to the next. This may be a good “starting point” – but DD rarely ever ate for a full 10 minutes in the beginning. She was a SUPER SUCKER – and managed to get a full meal in about 7-8 minutes. I know this for a fact because she 1.) always had plenty of poopy/wet diapers per day and 2.) gained weight like a champion. In other words – every baby is different and your baby may not need a full 10 minutes. Try starting out with 10 minutes with that first breast, but if you find out over the next few weeks that they don’t need that full 10 minutes – don’t force it on them. The important part is not to watch the clock – but to watch your baby: if they seem content, then they’re probably getting enough.
6.) PUMP IT UP: In your spare time (ha!), start pumping as soon as your milk comes in – to start building up your “milk supply”. This is going to be really helpful for you when you want a night out, if you drop your child off at daycare or even if you are the grocery store and can’t exactly “whip it out” in public to feed a fussy child. Bottles of expressed breast milk have allowed me many restaurant meals that otherwise would have been spoiled by a crying baby. However, I really wish I would have started pumping right away (I waited three weeks – exactly when I started introducing bottles), so that I could have stored more frozen breast milk. That frozen “store” is a nursing mother’s safety blanket, so the earlier you can start it, the better.
Of course, the reverse argument to starting pumping right away is that it may increase your milk supply. As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t a bad thing, (Better to have too much than not enough, after all.) but if you are averse to having more milk than your baby can handle (which will obviously require pumping to relieve the pressure) – then you may want to wait until pumping is more immediately necessary.
7.) FIRST TIME PUMP JITTERS: The first several times you pump is practice. Don’t be disappointed when you only manage to get 1-2 ounces. (But you still want to save it!) Your breast isn’t accustomed to this new method of expression, and a baby is much more efficient at getting out that milk, even with a top of the line fancy pump. As your breast becomes accustomed to this different method of expression, you will absolutely start pumping more. Please also remember that when you first start pumping, your baby probably will be fairly small and not requiring massive quantities of breast milk. Thus, as your baby gets older and begins requiring more breast milk, your pump session will result in more milk being expressed as well.
8.) GIVING UP? GIVE IT A MONTH!: As wonderful as breastfeeding is once you get used to it, I’d be lying if I said it were easy at first, or even once you are a “pro” breastfeeding mother. Indeed, you’ll find that as your baby ages that you’ll go through different breastfeeding trials and tribulations. (See the Troubleshooting section for more information on those various trials.) As I said in the beginning of this section - I understand why so many women give up on it.
But it seems the majority of women find the first 3-7 days before your milk comes in to be the most difficult. Just think: baby is hungry, but may not getting enough to eat, so they’re crying, fussy, etc. It’s just a very daunting feeling to be the only source of nourishment for your child and not have a clue as to how well you’re doing that one very important task. BUT BEFORE YOU GIVE IT UP – I URGE YOU TO GIVE IT A MONTH. It takes some time for both mommy and baby to figure out what works best for them, and if you are ready to throw in the cards after the first week or two, you’re not giving yourself enough time to really learn the proverbial ropes.
Don’t believe me? Look back to item no. 3 on this list - - DD didn’t stop the “frantic boob search” until she was 7 weeks old! It took her a solid 7 weeks to understand that what she really wanted was right in front of her the whole time. That’s a lot of frustration and learned patience on the part of the breastfeeding mother – but once we got through it, it was a total non-issue. So if you really want to breastfeed but are feeling incredibly frustrated at first, make yourself the one month commitment, and then dedicate yourself to it. In other words, don’t do this begrudgingly or with a pessimistic attitude – commit yourself to that month and then plunge into it expecting success. Your confidence will undoubtedly be felt by baby as well – and both of you will hopefully be able to make it way past 1 month…
9.) CREATE A SUPPORT TEAM: It was incredibly comforting to be able to talk about breastfeeding stuff with other breastfeeding mothers. Some hospitals offer a breastfeeding support group (that you can bring your baby to of course), but I found my “team” through daycare – where we met on our lunch breaks to feed our babies. Having a support team of breastfeeding mothers is really important as you continue to breastfeed your child – as no one can quite give you support like another breastfeeding mother. Even if your husband/family/friends are incredibly supportive, they just can’t fully understand the time commitment you are making, nor can they probably understand your desire to “see this through” no matter what. As such, they are likely to offer you advice that is based on their desire for a quick resolution of the problem versus what you actually want, which is simply someone to vent to. (Most breastfeeding problems simply require time and patience to resolve.)
10.) BREASTMILK IS BEST – BUT FOR THE REST…: I loved breastfeeding. It’s so convenient (apart from pumping – which you just do on autopilot after awhile), and it was a time for me to bond with DD like no one else could do. It brought me back to the pregnancy, when I would feel her bumping around inside of me; other people could feel that movement, but NOT in the same way I could. Likewise, other people can feed your baby with a bottle, but the feeling you get with your child at your breast is just completely different.
However, this is not how all people feel. Some people desperately want to do it -but have so many problems that they eventually give up. Some people simply don’t like it. The point is, breastfeeding is best, but if you can’t or don’t want to do it, it’s not the end of the world. As our pediatrician told me, children are formula fed all the time and they don’t turn out to be serial killers.
11.) TROUBLESHOOTING BREASTFEEDING: Here are some common problems that breastfeeding moms experience:
• This Glass is Half Full! What do you do if you’re not making enough milk? Nearly every breastfeeding mother has this concern at some point, either in the beginning when you are unsure if baby is getting enough, or when the baby gets older and is needing more milk, but you may not be making/pumping as much.
Luckily, there are several tricks which may be helpful to increase your milk supply. 1.) Pump after feeding baby. 5-10 minutes of pumping after your baby is finished may be just what your boobs need to “get the idea”. 2.) Pump more frequently when you are away from baby. If you are pumping every 3 hours, try pumping every two. 3.) Wait Longer Between Pumpings. Of course, this may be confusing since it’s directly opposed to item no. 2, but I found that for me, I was a more productive pumper when I waited until my boobs were “full” before attaching the milk machine. Two or even three hours sometimes isn’t enough for your breasts to be “full”. So if suggestion 2 doesn’t work for you, try suggestion number three. 4.) Drink more water!!! If you are like me and a really bad water drinker, you need to try to be as diligent in your water intake as you were when you were pregnant. Out of all the things that I tried to increase my own milk supply, drinking more water seemed to be the most effective. 5.) Channel the Divinyls. Massing your breasts while pumping seems to have positive effect on the amount of milk that you put out. So don’t be afraid to “touch yourself”. (But do be prepared to suffer some teasing from your husband the first few times you do this in front of him.) 6.) Try herbal supplements. I used Mothers Milk tea, which was absolutely repulsive at first, but grew on me. While I didn’t notice an immediate difference, in about one week in I noticed that I was pumping what I needed for the next day during my work day, versus prior to the tea when I had to pump additional times when I was at home to make enough for the next day. Fenugreek supplements are another option, as Fenugreek is a well-known mucilaginous booster. Since your boobs are essentially one large gland, it makes sense that these would work – and according to my internet research, it does tend to work for a lot of women. However, there can be side effects with Fenugreek, one of which is the maple syrup smell which apparently follows both you and baby around when you take Fenugreek. The other possible side effect was reported to me by a fellow breastfeeding mother who indicated that she had “digestive problems” following her initiation of Fenugreek supplements. I didn’t have those problems. 7.) Pump It Up – Weekendstyle. I also tried and had success with a “Pump It Up” Weekend. The idea is to supercharge your milk supply by spending an entire weekend alternately nursing and pumping as much as possible. (I know, sounds fun, right?) Nurse your baby as much as you possibly can, and when baby doesn’t cooperate (he/she may be full from your weekend of force feeding ) – give your ladies a good pumping.
Don’t be surprised as your milk supply waxes and wanes over the course of breastfeeding. You may pump 7 oz at a time one month, then 10 oz the next, then have a week where you’re only pumping 4 oz. Your supply will wax and wane as your pumping habits change (maybe you weren’t able to squeeze in your normal morning pumping a couple of days in a row) and as baby’s need changes. I noticed a tremendous difference between the ages of 4 months (where I was routinely getting 8 oz at a time) and 7 months (where I was only getting 4 oz). When this happens, you just have to adapt your pumping schedule and keep on truckin’.
Remember that ultimately, breastfeeding is simply a matter of supply and demand; If you need more supply, you need to increase the demand. Increasing the demand may mean feeding baby more often or pumping more often, but this is ultimately the key to making sure you are pumping/making enough for baby.
• My Cup Overfloweth: So your boobs are putting out enough milk to feed a small country of babies, and your nipples are leaking every time you sneeze? Boo hoo. No really, this is a total blessing, so quit your whining and invest in some pads to tuck into your bra for leaking.
On a personal note, one breastfeeding friend of mine made so much milk that she actually breastfed two babies – her own baby got fresh milk and she froze the rest for a friend with an adopted baby. What a gift to be able to give!!
Which makes a good point: if you are making lots of extra milk, there are human milk banks out there which will gladly accept donations. Usually, you have to be able to donate 100 ounces or more, and submit yourself to occasional blood testing. Your milk then gets pasteurized (a necessary evil, I suppose), and ideally is given to needy babies. However, you may want to check out the milk bank before considering this option. Some milk banks allow people to buy human milk (at exorbitant prices) – and if you are donating your spare milk for needy babies, this may be the antithesis of your entire purpose in donating. If you are interested in donating, you can check out your closest milk bank by going to the Human Milk Bank Association of North America webpage, and clicking on “Donate Milk”: http://www.hmbana.org/.
• Engorged Breasts: Yowza. You waited too long to nurse/pump, and now look what you’ve got – painfully tender and possibly even lumpy boobs (from where your milk ducts are inflamed). The answer is simple – pump right away, taking care to massage the “lumps” while you do so. I think you’ll find that after 10 minutes of pumping and massage your ladies will be back to their normal (well okay, normal for breastfeeding) selves.
• Painful/Sore/Bleeding Nipples: You expect this as you start nursing, and in that situation, all that you can do is to persevere. Use lots of lanolin, both after breastfeeding and before showering. I liked Medela’s brand best since it was easier to spread than Lansinoh on those sore nipples, but some people swear by Lansinoh’s healing powers. Make sure to express some breastmilk on those nipples and let it dry before putting on the lanolin, as breastmilk has healing powers itself. Eventually, your nipples WILL callus up.
I had a situation in DD’s 9th month, where I had a nipple “wound”, which would bleed when I pumped. This was incredibly scary, and since it happened such a long time after starting breastfeeding, I had actually forgotten all my own knowledge about what to do with bleeding/cracked nipples. I was worried about expressing it into the milk, about DD drinking “bloody” milk, whether I should continue to pump on that side and I was worried about not pumping and having my milk “dry up” on that side, etc…
After renewing my research, I remembered that the small amount of blood that does get into the milk won’t hurt the baby, so I shouldn’t worry about that. Nevertheless, in my situation I stopped pumping for a full day on that side (because pumping seemed more painful to me than regular nursing), but continued to nurse DD on that side. I also used Lanolin for about three days in total on that nipple, to hasten healing and lessen the pain. That seemed to work great, and although my milk supply did lessen a little bit on that side, I was able to bring it back up within a week.
• Clogged Duct/Mastitis: A clogged duct initially feels like engorgement, but is not relieved when you nurse/pump. You may feel a hard bump in your breast where the clog is (although I did not), and the area of the clogged duct usually gets red and hot.
Again, a clogged duct is something that is fairly common in new nursing mothers - - particularly with mothers that are efficient producers - - as your body “figures out” the appropriate supply and demand balance of your milk supply. However, I never had problems with a clogged duct until DD’s 11 month, which is a much less frequent occurrence. In my situation, I believe that the clogged ducts were a result of my continued regular production in face of DD’s increasing indifference to the breast. In other words, I continued to produce as normal, while DD was content to nurse for very brief periods of time, which meant that my breasts were not getting drained, and resulting in several clogged ducts.
Regardless of the time/cause of the clogged ducts, there are several ways to take care of a clogged duct. I found hot showers (as hot as you can stand it) to be the best (pain) reliever, focusing the stream directly on the breast in question. Taking the shower immediately before pumping or feeding can also be beneficial. Heating pads in your “down” time are also helpful, as is a small dose of Tylenol for pain. Although it wasn’t the most pleasant thing to do, I found that massaging the affected area while nursing or pumping also seemed to “work out” the clog. And of course, the best remedy: nursing and pumping as much as possible. It’s best to start nursing on the affected side, as baby tends to drink more on that first breast than they do on the second. That said, there is a tendency to overuse that affected breast, which results in overlooking the other one. Be careful not to do this, as that can result in a second clogged duct! (Yes, it’s a fine line that you walk.)
Although nursing did not hurt with a clogged duct, I did feel rather poorly, almost sick, both times that I ended up with a clogged duct. This may have just been me, but don’t be surprised if you also feel fatigued and slightly ill if you end up with a clogged duct.
Luckily, a clogged duct will usually only last 2-3 days if you take care of it both promptly and properly. Whatever you do, don’t ignore a clogged duct as this can lead to a much nastier case of mastitis – which is an infected clogged duct. If a clogged duct lasts 5 days or longer, if you begin to feel like you have the flu (achy, chills, etc.) or if you begin to run a fever of 101 or higher, you should immediately seek medical help, as mastitis may require treatment with antibiotics.
It is also important that you do NOT stop nursing if you do end up with mastitis. The “old” train of thought was that you could pass the infection to the baby through the breast milk, but now doctors know that this is not the case. Although it is tempting to stop nursing or wean baby from the breast when you have mastitis – it may actually lead to a breast abscess, which is even worse. As is the case with everything breastfeeding, persevere, persevere, persevere…time and patience is the best remedy.
• Biting Baby: Double yowza. Speaking from personal experience, if you end up with a “biter” – take heart in knowing that it’s most likely related to teething and is therefore temporary. That said, you will probably have to “take heart” somewhere because it can be extremely frustrating to have a baby that wants to gnaw instead of dine. Not only is it painful – for me it was a lot like starting back at Square One: You’re not sure if you’re doing things correctly, you’re not sure if baby is getting enough to eat and you are very concerned about not being able to “stick it out”. It’s enough to make you cry. (I did.) But there are some ways in which to curb biting behavior, and this is what my experience and research taught me. I hope it helps!
First of all, your first instinct when you are bit for the first time is to scream out. Opinion is mixed on whether or not this is a good idea, but many mothers told me that this initial scream scared their (sensitive) babies off from biting entirely, and they never had any problems after that. Sadly…this didn’t work for my little teether, who is clearly more the headstrong than the sensitive type.
So what do you do after the initial shock? There are basically two things that work: 1.) You want to express that biting mommy is not okay, probably with “NO BITES” or something similar and 2.) Remove baby from the breast. If baby has a real grip on you – you may want to try pushing his/her head INTO your breast, which will cause them to open their mouths to breath and thus let go of your nipple. This is totally counterintuitive by the way, since every instinct you own will tell you to rip that child’s teeth off of your breast, but it is a much less painful method. (Addendum: As DD got older, I also found that putting my fingers on either side of her cheeks and lightly squeezing – as though helping her to make the “chubby” face – was an effective method of getting her to release my breast.)
If they bite (some babies never do!) most babies tend to bite at the end of their meals, which can certainly catch you by surprise when you’re “in the zone”. But think of how lucky you are – your baby is an incredibly effective communicator! If baby bites at the end of the meal, that is baby’s way of saying, “I’m done eating and want to play now.” Simply remove baby from the breast and say something along the lines of, “No bites. Biting hurts mommy. Would you like a chewie instead?” If baby is truly finished eating, then they will be amenable to transitioning over to something else. If they were not finished, then they will likely cry. Give them a few minutes and then offer the breast again.
My eccentric baby liked to bite before she even started her meal. This really concerned me because DD was biting at times when she was usually quite hungry, e.g.: her first feeding of the morning or when I would go to feed her on my lunch break. So while I wanted to break this habit as quickly as possible, I was also concerned that she wasn’t getting enough to eat with the “removing them from the breast” method. As it turns out, teething babies may have an urge to bite that overpowers their urge to feed, and this is compounded by the fact that teething can also make a baby have a smaller appetite than normal. So, the rule of thumb with a baby that wants to bite at the beginning of a meal is to remove them from their meal. Once again, you tell them, “No bites! Biting hurts mommy. We will try to eat again later.”, then give them 10-15 minutes* before trying again. If baby bites again when you put them back on, remove them again with a gentle reminder that biting hurts mommy and give them a solid 30 minutes* before trying to feed again. Within 2-3 days of this repetition (and it didn’t even take that long with DD) baby will understand that if they want to eat, they cannot bite. (*These are just general guidelines, your baby may need more/less time in between tries.)
Parenthetically, I should point out that when a baby is truly feeding, it’s impossible for them to bite you, due to the placement of the tongue. By the time a breastfeeding baby has teeth – they know how to “do their thing” on the breast. So a general rule of thumb is: if they’re biting, they’re either distracted, or probably not all that hungry.
When DD was in the midst of her biting era, I liked to have a cold chewie available to offer DD before starting a feeding, just in case she decided that she’d rather bite than eat. That way, when she bit, I could immediately remove her and remind her that mommies aren’t for biting, but chew toys are.
As mentioned earlier in this primer, this is also a good reason to not allow your breastfeeder to chew on bottles when they are being fed by someone other than you. Let your daycare providers/spouse know that they need to also remind baby not to chew when they’re supposed to be eating, and the same rules for removing the bottle from baby should apply. Please keep in mind that this is not a punitive removal – this is to teach baby that there are times for biting and times for eating – and hopefully never the twain shall meet.
• Mom on Medications: Heaven forbid the nursing mother get sick - -it often felt like I could take fewer medications while nursing then I could when I was pregnant. (Although a lot of this has to do with the fact that more drug studies have been done on pregnant women than lactating women.) But if you have to go on a medication for some reason, apart from your prenatal vitamins (which you ARE still taking, right?), then it’s a good idea to check with your doctor first to see if those medications are safe for breastfeeding mothers and infants.
The only problem with this is that it seems most doctors know less about what drugs are safe to take during lactation than you do. They have to dig through giant books (which are usually several years old – and probably not up on the current studies) to find out any information, and invariably they tell you that it may or may not be safe to take.
However, your best bet is to call your child’s pediatrician to find out whether a drug is safe to take while breastfeeding. They tend to have much more knowledge about such things than regular PCP’s, and most pediatrician offices have an after hours “emergency” call line that you can utilize if you need to get an answer outside of normal business hours.
I had to utilize this service once myself when I accidentally took an antibiotic before checking the literature, literature which incidentally indicated I should discontinue breastfeeding while on that medication. This was an incredibly bad time to discontinue nursing, as DD was pushing out a back tooth and was very, very needy. 30 frantic minutes later, I received a call back from the after hours line telling me that it was probably safe to breastfeed, but that I ought to take the medication immediately after nursing to space out the medication to nursing time as much as possible. Phew.
• If All Else Fails - Call A Specialist: Don’t be afraid to contact a lactation consultant. I contacted our Birthing Center when DD was 7˝ months old to talk with their lactation consultants about biting behaviors, and they were not only happy to talk to me, they provided the support I needed during an otherwise frustrating time. Any Birthing Center worth their salt will have on staff lactation consultants, and you should feel free to make use of their expertise the entire time you are breastfeeding. Another option in some larger cities is a for-hire lactation consultant. In my area this was totally not an option, but for my money, I’d rather spend it on a consultant than on formula. There were times when HAD it been an option; a consultant could have made a fortune off of me.
• The Best Advice of ALL: Give it time! In my experience, nearly every breastfeeding woe was cured simply with time and patience. I know that it’s easy for me to say that – but trust me when I tell you that I’ve been there – and I promise you that whatever problem you are having will eventually pass. You just need to power through in the meantime.
12.) WEANING WITH WUV: Ideally, you will be able to nurse for at least 12 months, which is the amount of time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Having worked a full time job myself and nursed my child for a full 12+months, I assure you that this, while not necessarily easy, can be done.
However, at some point, every child must be weaned.
If you make it to 12 months, you may very well find yourself in the position that I was in; not really knowing where to go from there with breastfeeding. Do you wean or do you continue? If you decide to continue breastfeeding, how long should you go for? Obviously, these are questions that only you can answer, and they should be based on the more important questions of: “Do you want to wean?” and “Is baby ready to be weaned?”
There is definitely a stigma associated with extended breastfeeding in the United States, which is that extended breastfeeding is somehow bad, or even emotionally traumatizing for the child. While I would agree that breastfeeding your child to age 8 is wrong – there is nothing bad about breastfeeding a toddler past 12 months, and even into 24 months and beyond. Studies have shown that, contrary to the opinion of extended breastfeeding naysayers, babies that are allowed to lead the weaning process (which can subsequently extend breastfeeding well into toddlerhood) are more independent, confident and secure.
My point is that when you choose to wean should not be a decision you make by listening to what other people think about breastfeeding. It is a personal choice, and one that you may have to think hard on. If you and your child both enjoy nursing, and your only reason for weaning is that you are under pressure from other people who think you should, then that’s probably not a good reason to wean. We have 18 years to teach our children to be independent. Why try to do it all in the first years? However, if you no longer enjoy nursing, or if there are legitimate pressing reasons for you to wean, you should do it and feel good about the time you did nurse, without feeling guilty about what might have been.
When you do choose to wean there are two things to remember: 1.) Weaning should be done gradually, and 2.) you should let baby lead the weaning process. La Leche League calls this “Weaning with Love”.
• Benefits to Gradual Weaning: Weaning abruptly can be traumatic both for baby (emotionally) and you (physically and emotionally). If you have ever had problems with clogged ducts or mastitis throughout breastfeeding, you’ll know exactly how an abrupt standstill with breastfeeding can affect you physically. This is to say nothing of the additional hormonal tumult you will be exposing yourself to, nor to the emotional shock that your child may have. Since nursing is not only a source of food for a baby, but a source of security and emotional comfort as well, taking it away abruptly can be very disturbing. There is absolutely no way to explain to a baby why he/she suddenly can't nurse anymore. Weaning gradually lets you slowly substitute others kinds of attention to help compensate for the loss of the closeness of nursing.
Occasionally an abrupt weaning is called for medically, due to necessary medications that mom has to take or some other reason, but even in those situations, there may be reasonable alternatives. For example, if you are prescribed a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding, you can ask your doctor to see if another safer drug can be substituted. If no other drug is available, perhaps pumping and dumping while on the medication will allow you to continue a gradual weaning when you are done with the medication.
• Let Baby Lead: Ideally, your baby will nurse until they outgrow the need. This is called baby-led weaning. Just as you would not set an arbitrary limit on other areas of your baby's development, such as deciding exactly when they will sit up, walk, etc. (instead, you watch for signs that they are ready to move on to the next developmental stage), it just makes sense not to set an arbitrary time limit on how long you will nurse your baby. You actually begin weaning your baby the very first time you offer them any food other than breastmilk. Weaning should be a process, rather than an event.
If the decision is left up to them, most babies will wean themselves gradually, beginning by cutting back on nursing around the time they start solids. Physically, most toddlers are "ready" to wean. They are eating a variety of solid foods, and breastmilk is no longer their sole source of nutrition. Nursing a child who is no longer an infant is done more out of concern for their psychological and emotional needs than for their nutritional ones. However, there are some older babies who make the transition from infancy to toddler-hood without the slightness indication of readiness to wean. Weaning an older baby doesn't have to be traumatic, although it may not be easy, since a baby that has made it to 12 months of breastfeeding clearly enjoys it.
So now that we know the best methods to follow when weaning, what are the best ways to implement those methods?
DON’T OFFER, DON’T REFUSE: My favorite tip for weaning was the “Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse” rule. As you might guess, this means that you should not refuse baby if he/she approaches you for milk, but you should not offer either. Nursing an older baby is totally different from nursing a newborn. Toddlers climb in your lap when they fall and bump their knee, nurse for a couple of minutes, and they're done. They will have longer sessions (usually bedtime or nap-time), but they're way too busy exploring their world to spend too much time nursing.
CUT OUT THE UNNECESSARY NURSINGS: Another tip is to cut back on the nursings that least interest the baby. This is usually the midday nursings. Again, do so gradually, one session per week until you are at the point that you want with nursing. I continued to nurse DD past 12 months, but only for the nighttime and morning feedings. I nixed the midday feeding that she had grown accustomed to (but was only giving her partial attention to) shortly after she turned 1 year old – which had the added benefit of making daytime pumping unnecessary. YAY!
BE SITUATIONALLY AWARE: You should not attempt weaning during a period of time that is otherwise traumatic for your child, e.g.: while they are sick, or when some other major change is taking place. If possible, allow several weeks of concentrated time and attention to the process of weaning.
You should also make sure that you offer regular meals, snacks, and drinks to minimize hunger and thirst. Remember also that babies nurse for reasons besides hunger, including comfort, boredom, and to fall asleep – and try providing alternatives when a desire to nurse is being driven by one of those other needs. (e.g.: a snuggle session, a book to read, or dad’s chest to fall asleep on)
No matter what happens, your child will eventually be weaned – and someday you will look back on the time spent nursing as a mere blink of the eye in the scheme of things.
Another tip to add is to watch your babys cues in the beginning... Its much easier to get a calm baby to latch on that to try to when your baby is screaming and super upset...
Watch for baby sucking on hands or rooting towards you ( or whatever they are laying by)... i can honestly say DD didnt have a scream fit for months... I always fed her before she was screamo-starvin-mad by paying attention in the beginning to how she acted when she was ready to nurse.
Really great info!! I think I'm gonna print it out so I have access to it without the computer when the time comes.
I did have a question though - I have really tender and dry nipples right now. I've been oiling them when I do my belly and I'm going to get some lanolin and start using it. But my mom keeps telling me that I should rub my nipples with a towel to toughen them up. I've read that this an out of date practice and shouldn't be necessary. What would y'all tell me?
Question I have had about BF. I am a FTM and I work full time. I want to try BF, but I know I am going to need to pump for when I go back to work. How does that work without causing nipple confusion? Should I strictly pump and use a bottle from day one? Or try and do both, so DH can feed him too at night some times? I don't want him to get attached to the boob and then not take a bottle when I have to go back to work.
This varies for every person that you talk to - but trust me when I tell you that ALL working/breastfeeding mommies have to figure it out at one point!
Nevertheless, I don't recommend exclusively pumping unless you absolutely have to. It's like ALL the work of BF, with NONE of the ease of BF. (And trust me, once you're used to it, BF is actually very easy for most women.) I have a friend that ended up doing this with BOTH of her babies. (Although to be frank, I think for her it was mostly about being slightly weirded out by the process of BF.) She's actually going to be stopping her second one's breastmilk shortly because she's finding that she has breast trauma from the exclusive and ongoing use of a pump (keep in mind that this is ALL that she uses...baby is a much more effective and gentler means of getting that milk out!) - which means that she's actually pumping blood into her milk. Scary.
For me (and again, every woman is different), I would recommend at least 3 weeks of solid and exclusive mommy-only breastfeeding. This will allow your little one to get accustomed to how this whole nursing thing works. From there, you can slowly introduce a bottle. Have daddy or someone else offer it at first, so that babes understands that mommy has the other milk still. I would not wait past 6 weeks to introduce the first bottle, as it seems to get more difficult past a certain point for baby to take the bottle. (In other words, I think there's a bottle introducing "sweet spot" - if that makes sense.)
I hope that this helps! Any other thoughts from the BTDT mommies to share?
Maggie - Proud Mommy to 2 Girls