Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Breastfeeding Experience

A certain husband might argue that breastfeeding was the beginning of "the crunchiness"!

Before I became pregnant, I hardly ever thought of breastfeeding. When I was pregnant, I felt that I would give breastfeeding a try. Frankly, I did not think about it all that much. I did a tiny amount of reading and I took a breastfeeding class. That was it, and, that is unlike me. When I am interested in something, I research it heavily. I did not research formula either. So, now that I stop to think about it, what was I thinking?! I was so focused on reading anything and everything about pregnancy, trying to detect any signs that Amor Chiquito was ok in there, that I forgot everything else!

It was not until after Amor Chiquito was born that I realized how determined I was about breastfeeding! The first few months of breastfeeding were very hard, particularly because Amor Chiquito was born tongue-tied and this was not corrected until she was 6 weeks old. That was my fault; I was a paranoid mom, afraid that my daughter would go through unnecessary pain. But, after 6 weeks, I realized that we would not be able to continue if we did not do the procedure. The procedure was quick and she did not show signs of being in great discomfort. Instead, I started noticing a huge difference right away.

Back to what breastfeeding was like during the first few months… She was nursing every 2-3 hours. She needed to learn how to latch. I needed to learn, too, and I found it very difficult because it was so visual. I had to adopt. I tried using my finger to help her latch on properly, but my finger would get on the way. It took weeks before I figured it out. My wonderful husband was there every step of the way. He helped us get her latched on each and every single time. No, I am not exaggerating; he really was there day and night. And, he was supportive each step of the way. He was not pushing formula, but I also know he would have been supportive had I opted to supplement with it.

Each time, when she first latched on, it was very painful for the first 15 seconds or so. Eventually, because of her being tongue-tied, it was painful the entire time. Not to get graphic, but my nipples looked like they were about to start bleeding any second. We tried having me pump instead of breastfeed every now and then because pumping was more comfortable. We also tried nipple shields. These are thin covers, if you will, that you put over your nipples. The idea is that you will not be as sore. These did not really help us, probably because of her being tongue-tied.

Another thing that was very difficult for me was cluster feeding. This is when the baby wants to breastfeed much more often, every half hour instead of every 2-3 hour, for example. Basically, this has to happen, no way out that I know of. As the baby grows, she/he will need more milk. The only way for your body to realize that it needs to produce more milk is for the baby to try to get milk more often. Turning to formula is tempting, but the result of that is that your body will not realize that it needs to make more milk. Of course, when you are at your wits end, you do what you need to do. We gave Amor Chiquito sugar water twice. So, if you end up turning to sugar water or formula, do not think it is the beginning of the end, Do not give up just because you turned to formula once.

The first time we experienced cluster feeding was our first night at home. If there is one thing I wish people had warned me about, that was it! We experienced it a few more times, but I cannot remember when. I know it happened again when Amor Chiquito was 6 weeks old. If I remember right, it did not happen much after that.

During the first two months, I felt that each day we kept on breastfeeding and did not turn to formula was a huge accomplishment. I would tell the Crazy Entrepreneur "we've done it for 2, 5, 12 days…"! Eventually, I switched to weeks, then months! At one point I said "wow, it's been 3 months! I can do this!" I was ecstatic. I started to feel like it was a piece of cake. We were both great at it. Eventually, she started latching on independently. It was and is convenient. We didn't have to buy formula. We didn't have to wash bottles! We did not need to remember to bring formula and bottles when we went out. And, most importantly, I knew it was great for Amor Chiquito!

Now, here we are! Amor Chiquito is 18 months old and she is still breastfeeding. She breastfeeds when she wakes up in the morning, before her nap, when she sees me after being apart for a few hours, and, sometimes, before bed. She also breastfeeds when she is in pain or uncomfortable, after getting her shots or when she is sick, for example. I can tell that I do not produce as much milk as I used to, but I know that she is still getting the immune system boost, so, to me, it is more than worth it.

My goal was to make it to her first birthday. Now, I have no idea when she will wean herself completely. And, frankly, I am in no rush!

I am starting to wonder if I'll be one of those rare moms who is breastfeeding a 3-year-old. I do not know how I feel about that. But I do know that neither her or I are ready to wean right now. So I have decided to play it by ear.

I am very happy that I have been able to do this for my daughter. I cannot believe that she never tasted formula. I am, still, amazed at how our bodies can do this, how they can provide all the nourishment a child needs during the first six months of her life.

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