Breastfeeding: What I Didn’t Expect When I Was Expecting

naked-breast-and-pregnant-belly.jpgStay tuned below for contributions from several breastfeeding bloggers on today’s theme: “What I didn’t expect when I was expecting.” Feel free to leave your own comment about what you didn’t expect about breastfeeding — good or bad!

When I was pregnant, I did a lot of reading about breastfeeding. I made a commitment to breastfeed as it clearly was the best thing for my baby. What I didn’t expect was that breastfeeding would become so much more than my baby’s source of nutrition. It served as:

~ pacifier
~ sleep inducer
~ pain reliever
~ immunity booster (I knew about this one, but I didn’t know I’d be so extremely grateful for this when the entire family had stomach flu and my daughter was the least sick of all of us.)

It took a while for both me and my baby to get the hang of breastfeeding, but once we did, breastfeeding became:

~ a quiet and restful time for both of us.
~ easier than bottle-feeding, by far! I didn’t have to prepare bottles in the night or pack a diaper bag full of ice and artificial milk when I went out during the day.
~ a good transition to solid foods. The flavors in the breast milk made my baby more receptive to solids when she was ready. At the same time, breast milk remained a significant source of my child’s nutrition.
~ something that would make my baby smile and giggle in anticipation!

I didn’t expect that I would ever want to nurse beyond one year. I didn’t realize that there would be huge advantages to toddler nursing. Breastfeeding became:

~ the key to taming tantrums instantly.
~ the only means to get my toddler to nap when even a car ride wouldn’t get her to nod off.
~ my toddler’s favorite way of reconnecting after a separation.
~ a big part of my mothering style.

I realize that not all mothers come to feel that way about breastfeeding, and that’s okay. It’s okay to take breastfeeding one day at a time. It’s okay to see what breastfeeding becomes for you and your baby!

Stay tuned for more contributions (see the underlined links) as they come in from:

~ Tanya at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog recalls the big changes that breastfeeding brought in her life
~ Sinead at BreastfeedingMums looks back over her seven years as a mother and shares what she wishes she’d known
~ Andi at Mama Knows Breast lists her top 10 things she didn’t expect
~ Jennifer at The Lactivist shares what she wishes someone would have told her

and our special guest contributors this month (blogs in alphabetical order):

~ Shelly at Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother tells us what she didn’t expect about breastfeeding
~ Down with the Kids reflects back on breastfeeding as she weans her son in her post “Goodbye Booby
~ Ashlee at New Mama’s Nest shares what she didn’t expect when breastfeeding her “early bird”
~ Heather at The Spice Choir talks about how breastfeeding changed her social interactions and connectivity
~ Melanie from Spit-Up on My Shoulder is a postpartum doula who has written a book entitled Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me? True Stories of New Motherhood. She tells us why education is key
~ Rixa at The True Face of Birth shares how doing her homework helped her have a pleasurable breastfeeding experience

Photo credit: Johan Cloete

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    • Eilat

      What a lovely photograph!

      I must admit I was one of those “Breastfeeding is natural, how hard could it be?” people. Especially since my mom had breastfed twins with no remarks about difficulty. I read everything and prepared completely for my natural birth and it was a wonderful experience, but I made no preparations for breastfeeding. Then, after my son was born, I just kept saying “breastfeeding is really hard!”
      Nothing about it was intuitive and I felt totally confused and worried that my baby wasn’t getting enough to eat. This is especially funny to me now, since at 3 months he weighed 17 lb!

      The thing that surprised me most about breastfeeding was the deep level of communication that I had developed with my baby. I honestly don’t think that you get to *know* your baby in the same way with bottle feeding. That feeling of unintuitive confusion in the beginning forced me to hone my intuition and pay close attention to my son.

      And, of course, there’s the amazing joy that nursing brings to him.

      I don’t think Id know how to be a mother without the help of breastfeeding. Obviously people do it, but for me I think it would be 1000 times harder.

    • Angela

      Well said, Eilat! I feel the same way about breastfeeding becoming a part of mothering.

    • EllenRebekah

      A second on the flu immunity! Last month the flu bug went through everyone in our house one way or another; my parents, and two siblings, plus my husband, daughter, and myself. My daughter got it the day after my sister but the day before her father and I. The minute she woke up that day, she sat up and wretched. I was so afraid the rest of the day would be horrible. It turned out to be so much better than I could have expected. Though she threw up several times throughout the day, the rest of the time she was her happy self, walking outside, nursing, playing. Incredible! The next day she spent most of her time with my father while my husband and I lay on respective couches and were sick and my mother took care of us.

    • Anomama

      I thought breastfeeding seemed so alien to me before my baby! But I really wanted to do it because I didn’t want to use formula. The more I learned about it, the more it made sense. I never see anyone breastfeeding in my neck of the woods, so it really seemed foreign. But the minute my baby was born, I knew I didn’t want to do things any other way. He’s almost a year old now, and I’ll probably extend my plans to breastfeed. Originally, I was aiming for a year. Now that that time is so near, I can’t stand the idea of weaning! It’s such a bonding time.

    • The white Crayon

      Here is my blog about what I didnt expect about breastfeeding:

      The Most Natural Act…Yeah Right!

      The first time I was introduced to breastfeeding was in my prenatal class prior to the birth of our first daughter Byllee. They showed us a video in the class, of a beautiful new born baby lying on her mothers chest, slowly descending down and instinctually latching on to her nipple. How beautiful, I thought and how natural is that? This should be a piece of cake I thought. I even prepared myself further, getting library books out on the topic, checking out Jack Newman’s website and videos and also going to a few La Leache League meetings. I was confident I was ready for this responsibility.

      With the image of the baby naturally latching on to her mother still in my head, I attempted my first time, minutes after birth and this is not what I experienced at all. God bless the mothers that do experience this, however from my experience and speaking to other mothers in the groups I’ve attended, the majority have a complete opposite experience in fact. The video they should have shown in my prenatal class was me with my second daughter screaming her head off as I forcefully tried to shove my boob into her mouth, all while crying myself…over and over and over again. This was reality! You would think after breastfeeding my first daughter for 11 months I should be some sort of an expert at it. Every baby is different and my second daughter was not nearly as “easy” to teach as my first. I found neither experience easy or natural in fact.

      The first few days after my first daughter is really a complete blur, so I will talk about my second daughter, which was only 3 months ago and counting. I believe prenatal classes should have a complete segment on the first 48 hours after birth and breastfeeding (or however long it takes for your milk to come in). This has to be the most challenging time of all. Thankfully my second daughter, Jorja slept most of the first 24 hours. However once she “woke up” from birth, boy was she hungry and I felt I had nothing to offer her. The nurse that was coming off her shift that evening kept trying to offer me formula to fix the situation. If there is ever a wrong time to give formula, my guess would be this time. Unless there’s a medical reason, the so called “nothing” you have to offer is probably the most important thing you could give the baby. Colostrum is full of antibodies, and nutrients that the baby needs at this critical time in his or her life. With this in mind, I politely declined her offer, however she left it on my bedside table and I just stared at it while my baby screamed for more. Once the my regular night nurse came on duty and it was 2am, I was at the end of my rope. I’ll never forget how she came in after I rang the bell yet again for help with latching, and told me all the mothers she sees as patients look like me on night two. It’s a necessary evil to endure, and she encouraged me not to give up. Simply pointing out that fact to me was enough to give me the strength to keep on going. Why didn’t they mention this in birthing class I thought?

      An unlikely form of support I found during the first few days and weeks breastfeeding was my husband. I suppose from watching me go through this with our first daughter and listening to all the advice with a more clear head then me, made him some kind of expert himself! The first time I noticed, was during a particularly hard time trying to trouble shoot with the nurse, why my daughter would not latch on to my “other side”. My husband, Scott suddenly spoke up and said “why don’t you try the football hold, that way her head is in the same position and it kind of tricks her into thinking its the same side”. The nurse and I just stared at him in amazement…What a great idea! It worked wonderfully, and soon our on going joke was he should have become a lactation consultant. Finding humour in a time like this felt wonderful, so we kept going with the jokes and decided to play a joke on the new daytime nurse that never met us before. She walked into our room and asked if the lactation consultant had come in to see us. I replied “Oh, you mean the nice man that was just here?” Her face dropped and a look of horror came over her, we burst into laughter for quite a while over that one. I still chuckle when I think of a male lactation consultant. Unless your name is “Jack Newman”, I don’t think males would be too popular in the birthing unit at the hospital. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I would feel strange having a male man handle my boobs like the female nurses do when they are trying to help you.

      Anyway, I am 3 months into round two with my second daughter Jorja and we are still having the odd issue believe it or not. I pump my milk a lot more then I did the first time thanks to a close friend who gave me her high end breast pump! It makes all the difference, compared to using “El cheapo” version the first time, when I finally said “to hell with this”. I have no problem introducing formula at this stage, however with my over supply in the freezer, I haven’t found the need yet. Last time, I felt like I had something to prove as a mother and demanded myself to exclusively breastfeed her for 6 months without formula. Looking back it seems so silly, but there really is a pressure to prove yourself when you are a first time mom. It doesn’t help when its 3am and you have a screaming baby you are trying to latch, enduring intense pain and the “Good Start” baby formula commercial comes on T.V. You know the one that says “Happy babies makes happy moms”? The commercial shows babies giggling and laughing. That can really play on your mind when you are sleep deprived and you have a screaming baby. I know it did for me.

      I suppose my message and point of this blog is only to encourage mothers what they are going through at the beginning is normal. Its suppose to be hell, and it’s usually hell for all of us. Remember, colostrum is not something you can find in a bottle so if you can only hold out for 2 days and give that to your baby, you’ve done your job. Even if you can’t, that doesn’t make you any less of a mother, there are a thousand different scenario’s and medical conditions that prevent mothers from breastfeeding. The point is, there’s a thousand and one different right ways to do the same job and its up to you to find the one that works for you!