All images from Pamela O'Pecko
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 exclusively breast feed for at least a year! I thought I would do ok in the hospital because of all the support but I ended up with a csection and the pain drugs made it hard for me to remember instructions so I had to call the lactation consultant in for every feeding.
I wasn't under any illusions that it would be easy, but I didn't think it would be as hard as it was because I had faith this is what my body was made for.
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?
We had hired a doula and read some books, did a lot of internet research. I felt fairly prepared but I wasn't sure I would produce milk being that I didn't go into labor on my own. My doctor told me it would not make a difference, and he was right, I started producing in the first few feedings!
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?
At first it was wonderful, but exhausting! I didn't know about cluster feeding and was so confused as to why he wanted to feed every few minutes instead of every two hours as I'd been told.
On top of that, my husband's grandma called me the day after we came home from the hospital and told me I was doing it wrong. She said I should only be feeding him when he cried for it, not on any kind of schedule like I was told at the hospital. She had been very critical of me during my pregnancy so between the hormones, being a new mom, and the pain medications, I took her advice really hard. I found out months later she had never breastfed any of her children. I was so angry with her and myself!
When he was 5 days old, he was still losing weight and he was screaming, for hours, and then he would not nurse. It was awful. I called my husbands parents and they told us babies cry and it was normal, but something told me it wasn't. I had bought formula as a precaution, so in desperation I had my husband get us an ounce in a bottle and gave it to my son. The result was instant! His eyes rolled back in his head and he fell right to sleep. The next day we had to bring him in to be weighed and found out he was still losing weight so the lactation consultant told me I had done the right thing with the formula and advised me to supplement until my supply came in.
4. What surprised you about how hard/easy it was to feed your child at first?
It was both hard and easy. They gave me nipple shields to use and that actually made it harder. I thought I was supposed to use them, but after the first day I stopped and they were all thrilled that I didn't feel the need for them. I was surprised that there was no pain at all but the sensations I did have were weird. I felt it in my thighs like a tingling sensation.
I was surprised by the cluster feeding. I wasn't prepared for that at all and that was hard. Being exhausted and still having to be awake to nurse what seemed like non stop was extremely difficult!
5. What do you wish people had told you about how hard/easy it would be to feed your child in the beginning?
I wish someone had told me about the cluster nursing.
I also wish someone had mentioned that 30% of women with PCOS didn't produce enough milk for their children so it was ok to supplement!
6. After that first week, what was your experience feeding your child? What was your routine?
Once we started to supplement, life became a lot easier for all of us. My husband and I were able to take turns for night feedings, and my son seemed a lot more comfortable. I was happy that I was still nursing but also knew my son was getting what he needed and was beginning to gain weight!
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.)
Nursing is HARD work. It's also joyful. But at first you'll need a lot of help. I learned that pumping after every feeding was very important for building supply. Yes, drink a lot of water. Get bottles that don't cause nipple confusion- we used the platex nursers. If you're producing enough while pumping after a feed, don't be afraid to store that and let someone else feed the baby from a bottle so you can sleep more then two hours at a time.
Also, formula is NOT evil. Don't be afraid to supplement, or to just not breastfeed altogether if thats your choice or what your child needs. Breastfeeding is fantastic and important for many reasons, but above all of them, your childs needs for nutrition being met are more important then anything else.
Also consider a milk-moon. It takes a while to get into the rhythm, and I think if we didn't have so many visitors, advice, phone calls, we may have done better.
8. What is your advice to moms who are experiencing pressure, expectations, judgment, or otherwise unwanted comments about how they are feeding their child?
Look at your baby. Is he/she healthy? Happy? Thriving? Then ignore them all. A lot of moms think they're fantastic because their kid never had formula. Good for them. You're job is to love your child and if that means formula feeding, it's ok. I stopped breastfeeding at 8 weeks, and my son is doing fantastic. He's 19 months old, rarely sick, in the 95% for height and 35% for weight. He's extremely affectionate and loves to cuddle and snuggle, and him having formula had no negative effect at all.
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?
Oh yes, I felt soooo bad. But it wasn't anyone making me feel that way, it was my own feelings of failure. And thats how I felt, like a failure. It took me about two months to let that go. The fact is, everyone, including my son's pediatrician who was very pro breastfeeding, told me I was in no way a failure and that my letting go of breastfeeding when it was clearly wasn't working proved that I was an extremely loving mother because i had put my son's needs above my desire to do what i desperately wanted to do.
10. What are you most PROUD of about how you've fed your child?
That I did what he needed, and that he thrived and still is thriving!
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?
I'm pregnant with my second child right now. I'm faced with a lot more challenges this time - returning to work after just six weeks, undergoing surgery for gallbladder removal shortly after birth, plus the PCOS and having a toddler. I've already made the decision to supplement immediately with formula, but I'm still undecided with how long I will breastfeed with all that going on. I guess I don't have any advice from experience yet, but I would tell other moms who are about to have their second or third or eighth child to just go with the flow and know whatever your decision, if it's in the best interest of your baby, is the right one. And also sometimes things that are best for mom are whats best for your baby!
12. What have you learned about yourself as a mother through the process of feeding your child?
I'm a good mom. I love my child more than an idea of what my body should be able to do. My kids will always come first, no matter what!
13. Anything else you'd like to add?
Do what's right for you and your baby and don't worry about anyone else. I definitely encourage to give breastfeeding a try, even if it's just the first few days. It IS a wonderful experience, and I am so glad I did it even part time for eight weeks. But don't do it to the detriment of your health or your child's. You know what's best for your baby. Follow that and not some know-it-all's advice!
14. What supplies, equipment, brands, accessories, etc. were your favorite as far as feeding your baby? (bottles, formula brand, nursing or pumping equipment, etc.)
Playtex nurser bottles, target brand bottle liners, a double, electric breast pump, I like modela but make sure its a closed system. Lots of bags for storage. We loved the similac ready to feed formula and used the organic. No mixing, measuring. .. and we never, ever warmed a bottle (its medically unnecessary, its really mom and baby's preference).