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Conversations with a breastfeeding mother

Karen is a mother of three children.  Each child had their own breastfeeding experience.  Karen was gracious enough to answer some questions about her breastfeeding experience to be shared with you here on the blog.
What were some of the reasons you decided to breastfeed?
The reasons I wanted to breastfeed -- I prefer things that are natural, so breastfeeding seemed like the best choice for that. I had seen some people struggle with their babies having intolerances to formula and figured I was less likely to go through that if I chose to breastfeed. My sister breastfed her children, so the network of support was sort of built-in, meaning I didn't have even one person make me second-guess this decision, nearly everyone was very supportive. Also, I wanted to be a stay at home mom so I knew it was definitely the cheaper option (vs. paying for formula).  

What were some of your struggles with breastfeeding?
My biggest struggle was getting my first 2 babies to latch on... Luckily for me, I had worked at my OB-GYN's office and so I knew personally the lactation nurses, and I felt comfortable going to them for help. Plus I am very stubborn, and so quitting was just not an option!!! It just took a LOT of patience, and the feeling in your gut that you are doing the right thing and that you WILL get it if you can just keep at it. Those first couple days were very long, but looking back now I can see that it was just that - only a couple days.

Then I struggled with mastitis with my first baby. Again, I learned to just power through it, though I can see now that it helped that this was my first baby, and so I could just lie around the house waiting for the fever to break, not having to worry about taking care of any other little ones at the same time. God truly does only give you what you can handle!! 

With my third baby, we had a new struggle -- food allergies! So I had to change my diet to meet the baby's needs, as she was allergic to some of the things I was eating (and still is!). But when you have food intolerances or gastric issues, breast milk is definitely the best way to go -- it's the single most easily digested food available for them, and the most nutritious. I was lucky that my doctor was in complete agreement with this. Other doctors were trying to talk me into at least supplementing with formula (she was losing weight) but in my gut I knew that would only cause further problems, if she was having trouble digesting the one thing that was the most easily digestible!! I can haughtily look back now and say that I was right all along. 

What was the one thing you wish you knew before you started breastfeeding?
I think one thing I wish I knew beforehand is how different each baby is, and that babies don't always do things according to the "text book".. In the hospital with my first two, I was told they needed to nurse every X hours for X minutes on each side, otherwise they weren't getting enough... Blah blah blah   As long as they are eating several times a day and are peeing and pooping, then leave well enough alone!! My sister in law rented a baby scale with her first baby. She weighed him before and after feedings to see how much he actually took in. It helped reassure her.

What are some other experiences you learned from, while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding in public or at a family function was difficult at first. You learn what works for you as far as tricks to stay covered, or when it's better to just use your pump and feed with a bottle instead. Breast feeding is a bit more convenient when traveling - you never have to be afraid of running out of bottles or formula!

Some people think it's too difficult to breastfeed their second, third, etc because they have to take care of the older children. It's really no different than having to sit down and bottle feed the baby, is it??? And watching your little boy breastfeed their teddy bear is really funny Don’t worry, you are not scarring them...

I am not a fan of bed-sharing, though I did put a twin-sized bed in the baby's room right next to the crib, so it was almost like I was sleeping with them. I did that until they were either sleeping through the night or only getting up once or so. I have been blessed with wonderful sleepers.

What is your husband’s thoughts on breastfeeding?

He gives some typical man responses :) 
One - a benefit for him was he didn't have to get up at night!!! Now, this doesn't have to be absolute.  If the dad wants to feel included, I encourage them to get the baby up, change its diaper, clean the umbilical cord, etc, and bring the baby to the mom in her bed!! 

Also, he agreed with my reasons of it being cheaper, more natural, and just kinda "felt right," even though it was very hard with our first baby. He too was grateful for our network of support. We are pretty sure we would have given up if it hadn't been for the people who helped us. I can remember calling a La Leche League leader once with my 2nd baby.  She was busy packing for a long vacation with her family, but she still took time to help and answer my questions, and then gave me her cell number so I could call her any time, even while they were on the road. Her response was "I don't want you to feel like you have no one to help you!" How awesome is that! 

What advice would you give to mothers considering breastfeeding?
My best advice for new moms is to make the decision to breastfeed before the baby is born and stick to it. If you wait until you are tired and hormonal, then that bottle will seem too easy and tempting. You will most likely regret it later if you don't stick with it! Meeting with a lactation nurse ahead of time to establish a rapport, or even just a trusted grandmotherly type goes a long way.

Formula feeding is not evil!! There are circumstances where it is necessary and I completely respect that, but I would not give up my breastfeeding experiences for the world!! A friend of mine had to go back to work full time after one of her babies was born, and when she pumped and sent breast milk bottles to day care, she described it as being able to send "a part of her" with her baby each day. A lovely thought.

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