Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Post: Breastfeeding: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

I'm pleased to have dianthe hall guest post for me today on her breastfeeding experience. I discovered dianthe's blog in my Google Alerts when she wrote about nursing her toddler daughter, Sydney and I've been hooked ever since!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – My Breastfeeding Story

The Good

I always knew I would breastfeed my kids. My mom did it and I never questioned it because I thought that was just what you did. Plus it was free and I’m lazy. Kidding. Sort of. I had never considered formula feeding but having heard about the cost from friends, it was definitely a deterrent. I like to spend my extra cash on shoes! And the idea of making and warming bottles at 3am didn’t appeal to me either.

Though my original goal was to breastfeed for 6 months, I ended up breastfeeding my daughter for 3 years and 13 days. Currently, I’m breastfeeding my 19 month old son. For those of you doing the math, I’ve been breastfeeding nonstop for 3 ½ years including a year of tandem nursing. It was a great experience and I would definitely do it again, but it has been a lot of work … and I’m not finished yet! Like Sydney, Myles is all about the boob so I have no doubt that we’ll make it well past my goal of 2 years.

For the most part, my breastfeeding experience has been positive. From the moment my children were born, I’ve had nothing but support. I was blessed with a fantastic OB who supported my breastfeeding decisions (even nursing through my pregnancy) 110%. And while my friends and family may think I’m crazy, they’re still supportive! I was fortunate to find a local Mommy Message Board with a ton of nursing mamas who became my breastfeeding mentors. Even when things are going well and you don’t necessarily need advice, it never hurts to have someone to celebrate (or commiserate) those nursing milestones with.

The best breastfeeding advice I ever got was from my doula who taught me how to nurse side-lying. Sydney refused to sleep on her back so I slept with her on my chest for the first couple of weeks. Then she got her days and nights mixed up and I was literally BEGGING her to go to sleep. Once I learned to nurse her side-lying, we were a much happier family!

Another positive breastfeeding experience was nursing in public. When I was pregnant, my mom gave me a nursing cover. I will never forget how pissed Sydney was when I tried to practice feeding her with that dark cover over her head. Ever the diva, she was all about being the center of attention. Even if it was just the two of us sitting on the floor of her nursery. She wouldn’t even tolerate a light blanket. That’s when I knew I was either going to have to suck it up or prepare for a lifetime at home. Soon after, I figured out the whole “pull up-pull down” method and we were on our way. I was still nervous the first couple of times but when I realized that no one was paying attention to me, I began to relax. Since then, I’ve nursed just about everywhere – the middle of the mall, the library, even in a sling walking through Costco. No one has ever said a negative word to me though I have gotten many smiles!

And then there was that whole tandem nursing thing … Though Sydney nursed about 6 months longer than I would have liked (I was all about the “gentle weaning” method!), she was a lifesaver those first couple of months. Myles was a great eater but even he couldn’t keep up with my oversupply. Enter his big sister who was only too happy to pick up his slack! I was glad that she would be nursing through flu season and her scrawny behind even gained a couple of pounds! I also loved the bond that tandem nursing created for them. I was afraid she might be jealous having a new baby around, but despite a few incidents where she asked my husband to “hold Baby Myles”, she didn’t mind sharing at all! Looking back, I’d pay money to snuggle and nurse both my babies again. Those memories of Myles nursing while sitting in Sydney’s lap are priceless! Though I do recall it being a tad uncomfortable for me!!

The Bad

Now don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been roses. Those first couple of days were ROUGH! Both of my children breastfed almost immediately without any problems so I assumed it would be all good. Little did I know what would happen once we got home. The nurse at the hospital told me to breastfeed Sydney every 2 1/2 -3 hours. Which would have been fine except that my daughter needed to eat every hour to hour and a half. And in my post-partum haze, I recalled reading somewhere that I shouldn’t pump in the first few weeks, though I couldn’t remember why. The combination left me with boulder filled breasts, crying in the shower and hand expressing my precious liquid gold down the drain. And don’t get me started on my crying baby! Thankfully, my doula swooped in to save the day and talked to me about nursing on demand.

Many of my friends struggled with a low supply while I dealt with an oversupply. It sounds like a great problem to have until you realize that the reason your baby has green poopy diapers is because she’s filling up on foremilk and never getting to the fatty hindmilk. I could easily pump 12+ ounces in one sitting and over half of it would be foremilk. I leaked milk everywhere I went and couldn’t take off my bra without literally spraying milk everywhere. It took a good 6-9 months for my supply to level out.

And what about work? My daughter was 10 weeks old when I went back to work. At the time, I worked for a very small company in very close quarters. There was no extra space or empty offices and the only available place to pump would have been in my car (or the bathroom – no.) And because of my schedule and job duties, it would have been difficult to get away so I had to improvise. I pumped in the morning while I did my hair and makeup and then as soon as I got off work, I would race home to either feed Sydney or pump again. There were days where I would go as long as 8-10 hours without pumping and sometimes resorted to pumping in the car as I drove home.

The Ugly

For the most part, everyone has been supportive. I’ve had a few family members jokingly tell me it’s time to wean but they know me well enough not to push the issue. I’ll wean my kids when it’s time and not a minute before. And then there was that crazy phlebotomist …

I had to take Myles to the lab to have some blood drawn for some tests a couple of months ago. Of course as soon as they were done, Myles started screaming and I immediately tried to nurse him to calm him down. As I was trying to get him latched on, I heard the phlebotomist say, “Mommy, I’m too old for that." I was so caught off guard that I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly. But then she said it again. And of course by the time it registered, she was gone. Normally I would have gone off on her but I was so shocked that I couldn’t even put a sentence together. Fortunately I pulled it together when I got home and immediately reported her. Not even an hour later I got a follow-up phone call from her supervisor letting me know that she was out of line, her behavior was unacceptable and that they had already taken care of the matter. Breastfeeding – 1, Ignorance – 0!!

Breastfeeding has been an awesome experience for me, although there have been a few rough spots. I think if I’d taken a breastfeeding class, it would have been a little easier. I knew nothing about feeding on demand or engorgement issues and a heads up would have been nice! If you’re on the fence about breastfeeding, I would absolutely recommend it. I think the key is to do what you can, don’t stress yourself out and ask for help if you need it. Even if you only breastfeed for a little while or part time, something is better than nothing. Everyone has different circumstances and comparing your situation to someone else’s is detrimental to all of us. You can only do what’s best for you and your baby! Just like being a mom, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard!

dianthe hall (with a lowercase d) is Wifey to Kelley and Mommy to Sydney Jane (3 ½) and Myles Emanuel (19 months).  In her professional life she plans weddings, blogs for a syndicated morning radio show and masquerades as a wanna-be-writer at  In her spare time (ha!) she wastes time on Facebook and Twitter, watches reality tv and eats a LOT of Blue Bell ice cream.

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