Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Adventures in Breastfeeding

I believe breastfeeding to be a learned art, an ongoing experiment between mother and baby. It requires so much patience and flexibility, forcing you to try and then try something new and then try again. Before you know it, though, the connection is made by both mama and baby and it becomes second nature. The patience and the persistence pay off as you develop a routine and your baby gains confidence, giving mama confidence. Nursing my baby has been one of the most enlightening and empowering experiences of my life. The natural bond that forms through nursing is priceless. Knowing that I am providing my baby with nature's purest form of nutrition makes me feel so productive. It makes me feel that I am doing exactly what I was intended to do, what my body was designed for.

We tried many different elements over these last few weeks. Different positions, different schedules, different supplies. Some worked well and we have continued using them. Others proved inefficient and ineffective and we were forced to adjust. Here are a few things I have learned in these first 12 weeks of nursing Brees:

1. Medela Soft shell nipple shields are AMAZING!! These wonderful little inserts were given to me by the hospital's lactation consultant on day 2 postpartum. You simply insert them into your bra over your nipples. They allow airflow and protect your nipples from friction. Using these for the first 2 weeks postpartum prevented my nipples from any soreness or cracking.

2. Lansinoh cream is a must! This cream is made of pure lanolin and contains no additives or preservatives. It is perfectly safe for baby and does not need to be washed off prior to nursing. I've found that applying it before I get into the shower also helps to reduce nipple sensitivity. This cream is extremely soothing and helped prevent any soreness or drying. I was given several tubes by the lactation consultant at the hospital to start and then found a great deal on Amazon.com thereafter ($7.50 for a 2 ounce tube).

3. There is a definite balance between feeding "on demand" and having a "schedule". This is one of those very controversial topics that spark great debate and fury amongst many mommy circles. I read quite a few different parenting philosophy books with both of my children and basically just took bits and pieces from each one to suit our family's needs. For the first two weeks, I nursed Brees on demand but was careful to really listen to her cues. Between weeks two and three we stretched her feedings out to approximately every 2 hours. By week 4, she was nursing every 3 hours. This was all very give or take, however. When she cries, I take several different factors into account. First of all, what does the cry sound like? Second, what time did she last eat? If it was only an hour ago and her cries are loud, fast, and accompanied by a stiff body, she most likely is not hungry but instead has gas. But if she is rooting and sucking on her fist 90 miles to nothing and her cry sounds like an "Ah ah ah", then maybe she just needs a feeding sooner than normal. Figuring out these cues and maintaining a feasible schedule is all about consistency, paying attention to your baby, and good 'ole fashioned common sense. I have never had a schedule set in stone for her, forcing things on her just because the clock says so. On the other hand, I've never just whipped out the boob every time she whimpers either. There's a balance between schedule and need, it just takes time and patience to figure out the balance embraced by your baby.

There are a million and one more things I have to say about breastfeeding (considering it takes up a large portion of my day), but overall, I'm just really happy with where we are right now. Brees is a very content baby and I look forward to our feedings so that I can be close to her and give her what she needs to thrive. I look forward to continuing on this journey with my sweet angel...

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