As part of my maternity leave, I had a reading elective - meaning I got to do some reading but still get credit for it and graduate on time. I read quite a few books about infant care, but most of my reading was about breastfeeding. It worked out well since I wanted to know more about breastfeeding for myself, but is also something I need to learn more about for my patients. Anyway, here are a few thoughts about some things that I've learned since starting nursing. I'm not an expert, but I do feel like I know a lot more than I used to.
(Any men who are still reading after seeing the title should know that I'm going to talk about breasts. Just so you know.)
1. One of the things that has most surprised me about being a mom is just how much I love to nurse Judah. I was worried about how hard it would be and figured I'd want to quite or get discouraged. This hasn't been the case for me. So I don't think anyone should be afraid about it. At the same time, people shouldn't feel guilty if they can't do it. If it's going to stress you out and make you miserable, it may not be worth it. Some people struggle a lot and all it does it create worries and stress. I do think that although it can be very hard at the beginning, ultimately it's easier. Breast milk is always the right temperature and ready when the baby needs it. No mixing or heating or carting around bottles and nipples and formula.
2. I think sometimes women feel that since they were built to nurse that it is going to be easy. There is definitely a steep learning curve. Do not think that right away you are going to be able to nurse out in public. It takes a while to figure out - both for you and for the baby.
3. Although breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful, I do think it's totally normal to have some pain, especially at the beginning. For about the first 5 or 6 weeks, I had pain just right when Judah latched on for the first few sucks. Then it went away as he kept eating. And I don't think this was a latch problem or meant that anything was wrong - it was just my body getting used to having him suck. So just because there's some pain or discomfort, it doesn't mean that you are doing anything wrong.
4. Latch is key. If you want to avoid as much pain as possible, you want to make sure the baby is latched on right. Most of the areola should be in the baby's mouth. Although Judah latched on well, sometimes if he's rushing he won't quite get it right. To fix it, I'll just pull down on his bottom lip or pull up a little on his top lip. That usually fixes the problem.
5. There are lots of great books out there. I thought The Ultimate Breastfeeding answer book had the most info, and was written by a doctor who's an expert in breastfeeding. (He's a man, by the way, and in the intro there is a photo of him helping this lady nurse. It made me laugh and think about the episode of The Office when Pam has a baby and her lactation consultant is a man.) Nursing Mother, Working Mother also had great info about nursing and working.
I'd love to know what other thoughts anyone else has about it... let me know!