*Disclaimer: this post will contain all sorts of nursing related terms and vocabulary. Ye be warned.
To nurse or not to nurse. I'm not going to tell you which to choose, because it's a highly personal decision, one that is different for everyone for all sorts of reasons. What works for me doesn't work for everyone, and quite frankly, as long as your baby is gaining weight, you're good.
I can only give advice and knowledge on the stuff I know, so, that means ya'll get nursing tips. Woo!
So. Nursing. The perks are, as follows:
*It's free! Free is good.
*You can walk out that front door knowing you have enough food for the munchkin. In fact, in most cases, you could nurse that kid forever if needs be. (I don't recommend it...but..que sera sera....)
*Nursing burns approx. 500 calories per day. You really can't diet since you are feeding your baby, but it is pretty awesome to sit on the couch knowing you're burning calories without so much as lifting a finger.
For a complete list of perks, see here.
Of course there are disadvantages. You are their only source of nourishment and so getting a break is a little more complicated. I didn't get a real break until April, an entire 5 months after Wyatt was born, though part of that was my preference. You can certainly pump, and I do recommend it, but you'll need to also pump for that "missed" feeding, otherwise your boobies will be rocks and trust me, it's not comfortable. Nursing is entirely on a Supply and Demand system, so you can't continually skip feedings without it affecting your supply. Also, breastmilk is so easily digested by the baby that they need to be fed more often. (This is also a perk though, because constipation isn't an issue, they're less gassy, and don't spit up as much) This means more feedings at night, for a longer period of time. Many babies still wake up during the night to feed up to 9 mths. So. There's that.
Time for tips.
Firstly, I advise you to do as I say and not as I did, and learn about it beforehand. I naively assumed it was natural and would come fairly easy, and a lot of it does, but sometimes issues arise, you'll have questions, and if you're anything like me, will worry you're "doing it right". Read. Learn.
Also, take advantage of any and all lactation nurses while you're still in the hospital. I didn't do this either, and wish I had. One thing I learned is that nursing involves two people, and you can learn and read all you want, but you also need to teach your baby proper latching.
Speaking of which, it is ALL ABOUT THE LATCH. Latch, latch, latch. There are all sorts of articles and videos about it online, but again, nothing is better than a professional standing there showing you. We went through a few days of improper latch, and believe you me, it is painful. Unnecessarily so.
It IS painful at first though, so be prepared. If I remember right, it was a good few weeks before the pain went away, but it does, and before you know if you won't even hardly feel it.
For the first few days after you deliver you'll only be producing colostrum. It's chock full of nutrients for your baby, but there isn't a lot of it, so it will feel like you're nursing nonstop, and you almost are. Thankfully though, it's short lived and when your milk does come in you'll be able to fill up that belly quicker and nurse less often. 2 - 3 hours. (I swear there's a difference!) Mine came in by the 2nd morning, and it was the strangest feeling. It's called engorgement, and that's precisely how you feel. Full. Heavy. It's slightly painful.
Also, you look like Dolly Parton. They're absolute rocks.
(Not sure if this is a perk...your husband might think so, but he is wrong. VERY, VERY WRONG.)
And when you are engorged, and you will be on and off until your boobies figure out how much they need to make, breastfeeding can be a challenge. I remember one morning in the beginning, I was in my room, Wyatt was hungry and crying, and I was desperately trying to get him to latch. He couldn't however, because I was too full. His mouth was too tiny. I didn't know what to do and was nearly in tears myself, and then my mom popped her head in with a suggestion that saved me. (Let me know if you want details.)
Other breastfeeding moms are your friends. (So are non-breastfeeding moms of course, but I'm talkin' as far as nursing advice goes...)
So are these products:
*Lanolin. Do not plan to breastfeed without it. This stuff is GOLD. I bought Medela's from Target, but I'm sure any brand will work. You apply it after each feeding, and it's perfectly safe for the baby, no need to wipe off before the next feeding. Do this from the very beginning (even if you don't think you need it) and you'll save yourself a lot of nipple ache. Of the raw, bleeding variety. Trust me. You won't need it forever, but it's more than worth it.
*Nursing pads. There are a ZILLION different kinds out there, my favorite one is Lansinoh's disposable pads. I originally bought a cheap box, very thin, thinking that's what I wanted. I choose tampons for a reason, who would want to wear some thick pad in their bra?
ME. I DO.
I quickly discovered that thin meant leakage, and there is nothing more embarrassing than having a conversation with someone and glancing down to see your shirt wet. Very wet. Increasingly so.
Do yourself a favor, whether you go with my preference or not, pick something substantial.
*Nursing bra's. You're going to need them. I just picked up a couple from Target (do you see a pattern here?) and they've been fine. I have one with an underwire and one without, and they're both fairly comfortable, but I do prefer the one with a wire for vanity's sake. As big as your boobies get while pregnant, they get even bigger if you breastfeed. 'Nuff said.
- Nightime nursing bra. You need one. I didn't think about this until AFTER I had the baby, and spent the first night trying to make a tank top work. It didn't. I woke up the next morning informing Caleb that he'd need to go get one for me, and then a package arrived from my wonderful friend containing just that. I almost cried with joy. (Actually I probably did...) I'm fairly certain it's this one from Medela, I'm not positive because I ripped it out of the package and didn't look back. I love it, it's comfortable and keeps the nursing pads in place all night long. You'll be using it every night until you're done breastfeeding, so make sure you love it.
*Nursing cover up. You don't NEED one, a blanket will do, (and trust me, you'll have a million of them) but I really enjoy the cover I have and am so grateful I bought it. I got it from (yup! you guessed it!) Target, and use it all the time. It loops around your neck so you won't have to worry about it falling (or your baby pulling it down once he / she is older), and it has a piece of plastic sewn in to form an arc at the top so that you can see your baby. It also has a small terrycloth pocket sewn in at the bottom to hold your nursing pad while you're feeding. Genius. An errant used nursing pad is a conversation killer. If you know what I mean.
One more tidbit of advice: the second you feel that something is off, your breasts just don't feel right, call your doctor. Mastitis, and other breastfeeding issues, can quickly escalate if you don't get help soon. I was lucky enough to get it while on vacation, and wasn't able to get in right away. I quickly went from lounging on the beach to moaning and sweating with a 103 degree fever. If you catch it quickly, like I did, you'll get some nice antibiotics and it will clear up quickly. If not...well. Let's just say scalpels are involved.
Alright. I'm sure you've heard enough of me and my girls. In summary, arm yourself with knowledge. And lanolin. While it's a sacrifice, it's something I've never regretted. Not once. 103 degree fever and all.
As always, comments, questions, and your own tips are welcome. Share the wealth!