Tuesday, August 3, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week--Jumping on the Bandwagon

Did you know that it's World Breastfeeding Week? I had never heard of it before, but I suppose I'm reading a lot more Mom blogs than I did a year ago. It's come up on a couple, and I figured I'd post on it today for lack of anything better to write about. Reading the other blogs got me thinking, so I might as well.

Ahhh, breastfeeding. I certainly had a love-hate relationship with it for a good portion of the 14 months that I did it. It was so hard in the beginning but was pretty easy by the end. I hated pumping every day at work, but loved the savings from not having to buy (much) formula. I hated the stress I sometimes put on myself when Jacob wasn't feeding well or I wasn't pumping enough, but I'm not sure it would have been much better with formula because I'm sure there are plenty of formula issues that I never even had to deal with (or not a lot, anyway). As much as the whole dairy sensitivity thing may have been an issue, I liked knowing that breastmilk was good for Jacob. I hated standing in the grocery store aisle staring down the formula options and wondering how a switch might impact Jacob's digestive system. I both loved and hated being Jacob's main source of nourishment. It was rewarding, but it was also exhausting. The bonding time was nice and whipping out a boob was so easy most of the time (like, at 3am), but there were times when all I wanted to do was sleep and Jacob was hungry. I'm also not sure I ever got truly comfortable with breastfeeding on the go. I mean, yes, I would do it at people's houses and anywhere where it was easy enough to get comfortable, but I never really mastered going out and finding strategic nursing places at the right times. As a result, sometimes breastfeeding felt limiting, because even if I could whip up a formula bottle when we were on the go, my boobs would fill up and I'd either have to feed or pump. I remember a number of close calls where my chest hurt to touch because I was late on my usual schedule. Moments like that sucked.

When Jacob was winding down, I really thought I would miss breastfeeding. And there were probably moments where I felt like something was missing once we were done, but I'm not sure I would have ever connected it to breastfeeding. Because once we were done, I really didn't miss it that much. I liked the freedom to eat and drink what I wanted, I liked not being a prisoner to my chest, I liked not lugging that pump to and from work and cleaning all of the parts each night. I liked opening the fridge and pouring Jacob a glass of milk. Perhaps I had earned the right to enjoy all of those things after 14 months of hard work. It's funny thinking about breastfeeding nowadays as I look at Jacob, because it's hard to believe that even a year ago he was small enough or still enough to nurse! He's such a big boy now compared to that sweet little baby!

But in the end I guess the whole experience was a positive. After about the 3-6 month point I was saying that I would absolutely do it again next time. And as long as baby #2 is willing, ready and able, I will. But over the past year I've developed a fear that I won't be as diligent about it. What if I like having my body to myself or hate pumping again or just can't be held hostage by my chest because I have two kids to deal with? It scares me that I won't want to do it as long and that baby #2 won't get the benefits that Jacob did. Everyone seems to get a little more lax with their second child, but this really isn't a spot where I'd want to ease up. There are so many good reasons to do it, and I don't want laziness or general convenience to get in the way of the benefits of a little hard work.

I've read numerous blog postings about breastfeeding in the past few months, and they always trigger a massive debate. For some reason few people are willing to admit it's a gray area. There isn't really one right way for everyone. Some women try and can't, some women don't care to try at all, some women think it should be the only way to feed your child (hi, Gisele Bundchen). I am definitely in the camp of "give it a good, solid try, and if after an honest effort it doesn't work, it's ok." I wanted to give up a lot of times early on, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I'm not sure a lot of other women would have. But I never had mastitis or more than one blocked duct, nor did Jacob have trouble latching on correctly. Had I encountered some of those issues, I'm not sure I would have made it. And it worries me for next time, for sure. Every woman and every experience is different. I'd hate to get my hopes up and assume that I'll have no problem next time, only to have a problem and be forced into formula early. It would certainly be a letdown. But I don't want guilt to drive me nuts, either. If it doesn't work and it's just making me crazy, it's probably not a good thing for any of us and maybe it's better to raise the white flag and move on. In the event that happens, let's hope I'm sane and logical enough at that point to realize it.

If all goes well, I do hope to do some things differently now that I've survived one round. Hopefully next time we'll have less baby stuff to buy and shelling out a few bucks for a good nursing cover won't be an issue. It was one thing whipping out a boob in my own living room before, but with Jacob running around, it may not be ideal. And depending on where I would sit to do it in our new living room, anyone venturing onto our porch might get an eyeful. Having a nice cover might make me a little more willing to do it more outside of the house, as well. I will also work on pumping more. I found scheduling pumping to be very awkward before (do it too soon after a feeding and you're empty, too close to a feeding and you won't have enough left for the baby), and I didn't start pumping until I needed practice right before I went back to work. Next time I'd like to start pumping right away and fill my freezer (which is now far larger) with milk so I don't have to start with formula right away when I go back to work and can't pump enough for a full day. It'll run out eventually, but it would be nice to have a good supply up and running right away. I still may not figure out the pumping schedule (hard enough when it feels like you're nursing 24/7 already), but I can try now that I'm more used to the experience as a whole. Oh, and pumping will enable me to do one more thing--have Craig get up for a night feeding once in a while after I go back to work. I haven't mentioned that to him yet--obviously since #2 hasn't even been conceived, nor are we trying yet, it's not exactly a prime topic--but I think it's only fair. I never did that the first time around, and have read about it more and more since. And yeah, kicking myself that I didn't think of it then. There's no reason I need to be the only one getting up each night when we both have busy schedules the next day, but I was a glutton for punishment and couldn't see any other solution back then. Now I know. Maternity leave is one thing--I would have the opportunity to possibly nap during the day, he wouldn't--so I would do it all then. But once I'm back to work, there's no reason I should torture myself. We could at least alternate, and I think that's fair. I also think I'll be a little more active while nursing, like sitting at the computer or even trying out a sling and walking around a bit. That scares me a little, but it's crossed my mind.

As a whole, breastfeeding wasn't the easiest experience. In fact, the first couple months were probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I'm hoping I don't wimp out next time around under the strain of having a new baby and a preschooler amidst all the pain and sleep deprivation that drove me nuts before. But sticking it out is worth it for so many reasons, and I hope I get the chance to enjoy it again next time.

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