Nearly ten months into this breastfeeding gig, I've learned a few things that I didn't know going in. Often girlfriends and I discuss the items that follow as they surprised us so I thought I'd share them here.
1. Cushion for the pushin'. After complaining to other mums about the weight I gained at three months postpartum, I learned that you need a few extra pounds to breastfeed. How much? I've heard varying amounts and I bet it varies to each individual but take comfort in that you need a little extra cushion for pushin' milk. A friend even says that she doesn't lose all her baby weight until she stops breastfeeding.
2. Eat!! My husband theorizes that I gained weight while breastfeeding because my body went into starvation mode. Sweet, right? During pregnancy, I did really well at only eating to my hunger, nothing more so I didn't gain an exorbitant amount of weight. I kept that habit up into nursing. Oops. So many extra calories being burned and not taking the time to eat proper meals may have thrown my system for a loop. I suggest always having healthy snacks on hand. Trail mix, protein bars, washed fruit are all great options and can be eaten with one hand while nursing. I also found myself quite thirsty, always keep water close by. Throw some milk into the mix, too - it is filling and offers nutrients.
3. Get Comfy. In the early months, I'm pretty sure I spent more time in the armchair with Ember on my boob than I did doing anything else. Growth spurts had me on the couch every two hours for up to 40 minutes at a time. Cluster feeding, oh cluster feeding meant Ember on my chest for three hours per evening in those early weeks. At times I found it pretty annoying to have to stop what I'm doing to sit down and find my girl. But honestly there is no sense in combating it. Invest in a good nursing pillow and learn what nursing position is most comfy for you. Download a few seasons of Entourage. Sit back and relax. In the thick of it, I had moments where I wanted to pull my hair out but looking back, it doesn't seem so rough now. I loved Ember's little face looking up at me, smiling, playing with my hair and eventually dozing off. My heart swells.
4. It's not a bad habit!! For us, the only way to get Ember to sleep is for me to nurse her down. For the first six months-ish, it took a while for her to really conk out. For a while, I just called it a night early and went to bed with her. When I saw a breast-feeding specialist I asked how I should wean Ember of this habit. Very quickly I was set straight! This is not a bad habit, I was told, this is perfectly natural and that it provides my babe with confidence, trust and security. Just relax and go with it, I was instructed, she will grow out of it. 'Watch the Animal channel if you want parenting advice,' the doctor continued, 'you never see a monkey pull their baby off their body, put it on a branch and swing away.' I laughed and nodded.
Since it would take a while for Ember to settle, i just got into my comfy chair with my pillow (see number 3) and Andrew and I would watch a movie/TV together. Ember would nurse right into la-la land and I would move her to bed. Now, Ember nurses for five minutes to settle down and I move her to bed to fall asleep. As promised, she's moved past it.
5. Papier Mache. Nursing pads a boatload of necessary. I highly recommend Lansinoh by the way. Friends have had success with cloth pads but if you have a lot of milk, a la moi, those puppies won't cut it. I'll spare you an embarrassing story of me on the sideline of the rugby pitch with cotton saucers in my bra, oh white T-shirt and the bottom half of boobs soaked. What fun to discover that on a trip to bathroom?! Anyway, I didn't have nursing pads for the few days of nursing life and I was stuffing with Kleenex. Oh the irony.
6. The best. Despite the hardships and how taxing it can sometimes feel, it's amazing to know that those little chubby cheeks, pudgy ham hocks and buddha belly are because of me. 'Tis a grand feeling.
Those are the biggies for me. Is there anything I'm missing that you weren't expecting or really surprised me? Share, share!