All images from Betsy McCartney
1. When pregnant, what was your plan for feeding your child? How did you think you would do in the hospital? How easy did you think it would be?
My plan was to breastfeed until a year. My Mom breastfed all three of us in the late 70s-80s when it wasn't as cool to do and I knew it was how I wanted to do it. Honestly, I never really considered formula as an option unless things REALLY didn't work for us.
I knew we would have some difficulties breastfeeding and that being super shy and self conscious I would have trouble in the hospital but was really hoping what everyone said about losing your dignity would happen and I would get over having my breasts hang out!! (They were right!) I had inverted nipples prior to pregnancy that I knew might limit my abilities to breastfeed and I talked to my OB and midwife about prior to birth. They gave me shells to wear during my late pregnancy to try and help draw my nipples out but one was still really inverted when I gave birth so I was super nervous I wouldn't be able to nurse on that side and that one side wouldn't be enough. The OB nurses gave me a nipple shield after birth to help Patrick latch and it worked great but it was a PAIN. We ditched it by 6 weeks with some work!
2. How did you prepare for feeding your child while pregnant? Did you read any good books, check out Web sites, take classes, take free items from your doctor's office, talk to other moms, etc.? How prepared did you feel going into the hospital for feeding your child?
My Mom is seriously a crazy breastfeeding guru. I wish she could have been here when Patrick was born but she has a lot of health issues that prevent her from helping as much as we both wish she could. She sent me The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding during my last 2 months of pregnancy and asked me EVERY day if I had read it yet until I read enough of it to please her. She had used that as a guide when she breastfed as well. It has great info on a ton of topics. I read everything I could find on inverted nipples and breastfeeding. I took all the formula samples from the hospital and signed up for the coupons hoping I'd never need them but I can't pass up anything free! ;) I was also blessed to be nearby to other new(ish) Moms who breastfed like Bethany Sullivan who was a good role model (just like for my cloth diaper journey!). I am lucky to live in a supportive community of like minded people! Although I don't know that I ever SAW a baby latch before Patrick, I still absorbed lots of information about feeding cues and positions that I don't know I even realized I was seeing!
3. How did the first week of feeding go for your child? What did you try? What helped, what did not help? What challenges did you experience that first week feeding your child? How did you FEEL with feeding your child that first week?
So we were given a nipple shield by the OB nurses the first night Patrick was born. When my OB came by the next morning and saw that shield she was disappointed I think and I was concerned. I didn't know much about shields, but realized already that it was annoying to have another thing to keep track of and keep in place while trying to latch a newborn. I can still play in my mind her face when she said "oh, they gave you a shield?" From that day on we were on a mission to get rid of it! In the hospital we tried all the holds - football, cross cradle, cradle, and laid back nursing. Patrick had a pretty shallow latch to start and it was hard to get the whole shield in his mouth. The nurses helped position him as much as they could and hubby helped hold hands out of the way when possible. My milk didn't come in until about 4-5 days after birth (totally normal, but still disconcerting when every hospital staff asks you every 8 hours if your milk is in yet on day 2!!). When my milk came in it was a whole new problem. My boobs were ROCK hard and so painful. Patrick had an even harder time latching and there was no experienced help. My in laws were visiting but my MIL formula fed. I didn't have a pump (or realize that pumping was an option at that point) so in 2 days my supply had regulated some and I could wear a bra again (sometimes). I loved nursing and having a job with my baby. I had a pretty painful tear during delivery so being able to sit for hours was perfect! I loved that I had milk from both breasts even with the inverted nipples. I was happy to be successfully breastfeeding!
4. What surprised you about how hard/easy it was to feed your child at first?
I was surprised by the pain in my breasts when they were full. I didn't have any real nipple pain to speak of initially because of the shield. I was also surprised how often and how LONG he would feed at times. Comfort nursing was also amazing - to feel the difference and know when he was getting milk and when he was just sucking for comfort.
5. What do you wish people had told you about how hard/easy it would be to feed your child in the beginning?
Latching a newborn is HARD and pretty much a full time job by itself! Don't suffer through a bad, shallow, or continuously uncomfortable latch. Get help! Find support before baby so you can call easily when baby comes. Get support to come to you if possible!
6. After that first week, what was your experience feeding your child? What was your routine?
Around 3-4 weeks we introduced a bottle so that I could work 7 hours one day a week. We started with the bottles that came with the pump because it was easy to not have to transfer milk. Around that same time I was gradually reducing the nipple shield use. Between the narrow bottle nipples and less shield use, I ended up with SORE nipples and Patrick's latch was worse than ever. I spent a few days crying while nursing (hubby was back to work), trying to convince baby to take a bottle to rest my nipples, and coming close to throwing him when he latched onto my super sore nipple. It was bad. I called the OB floor where I delivered and went in to see the LC nurses. Of course Patrick latched perfectly there, but the nurse still gave me exactly what I needed, a reminder to break the latch and start over if it hurts and more suggestions/reminders on positioning. I spent days breaking the latch and repositioning, using the shield again, and applying LOTS of lanolin. And then, things were good. We started using the Tommee Tippee bottles (which we had had before, but hadn't used) and put the narrow pump nipples away. We nursed whenever Patrick wanted and cluster fed in the evenings for 2-4 hours, switching sides whenever I needed a break. We dropped the shield by 6 weeks and my OB was thrilled to see me nursing without it at my checkup. I pumped as needed (not often) to get 2 oz to feed for practice bottles. From about 4 weeks on, Patrick woke up once a night and nursed on one side only so I pumped the other side while he nursed. He slept through the night from about 8 weeks and I got up once when I woke up between 12-3 with leaking breasts to pump and store milk. When I returned to work at 12 weeks I quit the night wake up gradually. Of course the sleeping through the night didn't last and I always nursed in the night when he did (and does) wake up.
7. What tips do you have for either breastfeeding or formula feeding, or exclusively pumping or some combo in between? What specific things helped you to feed your child the first few months? (Drink more water, bring baby to you when nursing, try 2 oz of formula at first, try different bottles, etc.)
Drink lots of water, eat oatmeal, drink gatorade if you can stand it. DON'T pump in the first few weeks if you can help it. Check out paced bottle feeding, use wide mouth bottles, and don't let daycare tell you how much milk to send. Read Kellymom.com's info on breastfeeding and bottle feeding and milk amounts! I let daycare tell me how much milk I needed and didn't realize baby's need 1-1.5 oz of bm per hour of separation. I was pumping and sending 25 oz of bm a day for 10 hours apart!! I pumped before baby got up, 3 -4 times at work, and once after baby went to bed. I wiped myself out pumping and gave myself an oversupply that I'm still working to control and Patrick is almost 18 months old.
8. What is your advice to moms who are experiencing pressure, expectations, judgment, or otherwise unwanted comments about how they are feeding their child?
Take all the advice people give you and use what works best for YOUR family and your situation. Everyone thinks they know the best way, but every child and every Mom is different and needs to figure out their own way.
9. If you felt Mama Guilt over how you fed or did not feed your child, what was that like for you? What's your advice to other moms who experience that guilt?
10. What are you most PROUD of about how you've fed your child?
Honestly, I'm proud that I was able to BF exclusively and come to the decision that I am not going to force weaning on my child YET. I am an indecisive person usually, but I have made this decision myself and convinced my initially reluctant husband that this is best for us as a family.
11. If you have more than one child, was your experience feeding your children the same or different? In which ways? What's your advice to a mom who did not get the experience she wanted with one kid, could it be different with feeding another one?
12. What have you learned about yourself as a mother through the process of feeding your child?
12. What have you learned about yourself as a mother through the process of feeding your child?
See #10. I am passionate about breastfeeding just like my mother (and my sister who doesn't have children of her own yet). I believe that it is best in most situations and that support is critical. I have found that the local LLL has been a great (non-virtual, because obviously The Mommy Stories is awesome too) support group and social group of Moms for me!
13. Anything else you'd like to add?
Patrick is almost 18 months and still nursing morning and night on weekdays and sometimes once during the day on weekends. I stopped pumping at 15 months (finally) and still have milk enough for him. It is amazing how the body adjusts. I have a college friend who is nursing 35 week twins in NJ (I'm in ME) and I've been sending her random emails with pumping and nursing advice. I've loved being able to help her even though I can't be there with her.
OH and breastfeeding babies is hard for Daddy! My husband was trying so hard to help and be there, but he was SO frustrated by the fact that I could calm the baby by touching or holding him and that Patrick would cry if he held him. Honestly, it was frustrating to both of us. I think that might have been the hardest thing to get through. And still, he wants me if something is wrong, but Mike can help so much more and Patrick is easier to distract with toys etc. It does get better and I'm not convinced that the same thing wouldn't happen with formula.
14 - What supplies, equipment, brands, accessories, etc. were your favorite as far as feeding your baby? (bottles, formula brand, nursing or pumping equipment, etc.)
I had great luck with my Medela Pump in Style Advanced pump (paid by insurance wahoo!) and a Simple Wishes tie back nursing bra. I tried the Pumpin Pals shields but didn't love them unlike everyone else I know! I lived in Target nursing tanks for the first year. Great when at work so I could lift up my shirt and not have my tummy hanging out and cold while pumping! I used cloth nursing pads - both the Medela brand and the TLC pads and both had good and bad points! For storing milk I used the Lansinoh bags and froze flat, always defrosting in another container because you do get leaks sometimes! When I was freezing larger quantities of milk for a day of daycare I liked the tommee tippee bags because they hold 10oz or so. There's an adapter available for tommee tippee bottles for a Medela pump, found that way too late! Ring sling and Moby!!! Only way I was able to get anything done! I'm sure there are other great products but I can't think of any now!!
---Betsy :-) (Elisabeth Foley McCartney on facebook!!)
Pictures: 2 of milk coma baby! My breastfeeding role model Mom with Patrick 10 days after his birth. 15 month old Patrick learning to feed himself peanut butter and pretzels! And lastly, nursing while babywearing and hiking!