You know what I really hate? I hate it when pregnancy magazines give stupid-ass advice to expectant mothers about breastfeeding. I hate it when I go into Mimi Maternity to buy giant underwear and I get handed a gift pack with a bottle, a pacifier, and a can of ready-to-drink formula, complete with another pamphlet with really bad breastfeeding advice. Like, Don't nurse for than five minutes on each side for the first day! Gradually increase to ten minutes per side! Never nurse more than that! Take your anger out on "boob nazis" when you- surprise! -fail at breastfeeding!!
And tell me, in the picture accompanying the article on midwives, why is the midwife, in the very official looking white coat, holding a bottle? And in the artice about feeding choices, next to the lovely couple feeding their baby a bottle, why does formula feeding get twice the column space that breastfeeding does? And why is half the breatfeeding column filled with Guilt Trip and the other half filled with bullshit? The only silver lining is that they only would have filled the extra column space with more Bullshit. They have formula to sell, you know. Oh, and what was on the facing page? An ad for formula, of course.
I don't think this would be bothering me so much if it was not on my first week on the LLL hotline. I've been getting at least two calls a day with some version of "what happened to my milk?". You know how many times I've heard "oh my god I had no idea!" this week? The lack of accurate information out there about breastfeeding is astounding. These mothers are genuinely trying to do what they thought they were supposed to, and genuinely confused at why it isn't working.
I thought I'd be dealing with people who planned to breastfeed and were fairly well educated about it. I thought with the ubiquitous pressure on women to breastfeed there would be good information to go along with it. But no, the tactic seems to be: tell women they must breastfeed, give them innacurate and incomplete information that almost guarantees failure, and then sell them this lovely canned food and stoke the fires of the mommy wars! Women will never unite, and nothing will ever change! Men will rule the world forever!
This is not about parenting philosophy. This is not about blindly doing what Dr. Sears says, although his books are a very good resource for accurate information about getting breastfeeding started. This is about the breast being a gland that's designed to function in a certain way, on a supply and demand system, in a delicate balance of hormones. After 4-6 weeks, the milk supply is much hardier and less affected by differences in parenting style.
So, a short, incomplete list of rules for the early weeks:
1. No pacifiers. Sorry. Until your milk supply is established you baby needs to meet all of his sucking needs at your breast, which basically boils down to breastfeeding at least half the time (an hour on, an hour off is what I remember). Stimulation begets milk. It's a perfect system. Don't mess with it.
2. Same goes for bottles, except if your baby has a specific diagnosed problem that requires supplementation.
3. Get some HELP. Mothers aren't supposed to be doing this alone. There is supposed to be a tribe of mothers, sisters and aunts fighting for their turn to hold the new baby when you're not feeding her. In the first four weeks, if it's not boob related, delegate it. This is not the time to alienate your mother-in-law. She managed not to kill your husband, there is only so much damage she can do while you take a nap, as long as she understands the first 2 rules.
4. Make sure you are getting enough to eat and drink. Food makes milk. So does water.
5. Get enough rest. Sleep makes milk too. You will have to be creative here. You have to cultivate the skill of sleeping while nursing. A neck pillow can help, so you can sleep sitting up. Also, learn to nurse lying down. Get yourself situated on the bed with pillows in place and latch accomplished, and slowly lean over so you are lying down and the baby is cradled in your arm. This may take time and practice, but it's a very useful skill to have.
6. Hook up with as many other breatfeeding moms as you can. You get a good idea of what's normal this way. You also get the comfort and camaraderie that only other women in a similar situation can provide.
7. If you have problems, seek professional help immediatly. Don't wait until the baby hasn't latched in a week and you can't even pump 1/2 oz. before you call a LLL leader and basically ask permission to quit. We hate that; it makes us feel useless and sad. We didn't get a chance to help you while we still could have made a difference.
8. Have a good breastpump on hand. I consider a good pump to be part of the cost of breastfeeding (still cheaper than formula). You never know when you'll need it, and when you need it, you need it FAST. And, no, you can't buy a good breastpump at the 24 hour drugstore. I've seen those pumps. They are crap. The only remotely good one is the Isis and that's made for the "occasional night out" stay at home mom kind of nurser. It's not great for emergencies.
Now I feel better. Off to bed.