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NATURAL PARENTING Breast Feeding - As Natural As Breathing

Sharon is a young mother of two boys, 4 years and 7 months.  She and her husband live in the far north Philadelphia suburbs.

I always knew, even before I had children, that I would breastfeed my babies.  It was a no-brainer.  To me, breastfeeding is as natural as breathing, eating and sleeping.  It is a God-given ability that comes with being a woman, a mammal if you will.

My oldest son Luke was born on September 21, 2005.  He was a very sleepy baby, maybe due to the fact the he was born via c-section.  I had a hard time waking him to feed, which made it difficult getting him to latch on at all, let alone correctly.  We practiced and practiced.  The lactation consultant and nurses at Phoenixville Hospital were caring and helpful.  But the real challenge began when we arrived home.  Luke became frantic when trying to feed because my milk hadn’t come in yet.  He was losing some weight, which is normal, but made me panic a bit anyway.  I was already feeling emotional from the shift in hormones so having a hungry baby and not quite knowing what to do made for a weepy mommy.  I felt like I wasn’t able to provide my baby with what he needed.  I wondered if I should open a bottle of formula and do what doctors call “supplement.”  

I Knew in my heart that I really wanted my baby to exclusively have breast milk.  When the lactation nurse called to check in I told her about our problem and how it was affecting me.  She instructed me to pump in the hope that it might help the milk come in.  It worked!  Once the milk was flowing, Luke was able to latch on and it was smooth sailing.  Oh, except for the pain!  

My nipples were very sore for a few weeks while getting used to the sucking and while the baby learned the correct way to latch.  It was short lived and from then on everything was great!  He ate well and often; gained weight and thrived developmentally.  I breastfed him until he was 14 months old. He was drinking whole milk from a sippy cup and was down to nursing only a bedtime so weaning him was very easy.  It was a bit emotional for me to stop breastfeeding because of the strong bond we had built and because of the feeling of pure love I got from holding him close and providing him the most amazing nourishment available.  But it was time to move on.  I knew I had done my job and done it well.

My newest baby is Evan.  He was born on September 3, 2008 via a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian).  I nursed him almost immediately after he was born.  It was a very surreal moment.  I hadn’t experienced that with my first baby since he was a c-section.  Evan took very well to breastfeeding.  My milk came in within three days, sooner than my first time around.  

Unfortunately, getting used to breastfeeding can be very painful.   It is a very normal thing to have some pain or discomfort in the beginning.  Evan did have a bit of trouble latching on correctly which led to extremely sore nipples, much more sore than with Luke.  Every time he started to suck I would go through the roof.  It felt like little razors were cutting me.  I had some small blisters and some bleeding.  I took advice from doctors and friends and used lanolin ointment before and after each feed and before showering which prevented dryness.  I also gave each breast a break for a day each by pumping it instead of having the baby nurse on it.  I didn’t use nipple shields, but I’ve heard that they can be helpful as well.  After about two weeks things were miraculously better.   Evan, like Luke, did lose quite a bit of weight in the first couple of weeks, but quickly gained it back.  Evan is a great eater.  He eats often and has an incredible appetite.  He is thriving.  
I stay home with my kids during the day so feeding Evan is easy and convenient.  We really don’t have a set feeding schedule per se.  I look for cues to know when he’s hungry.  He wants to eat about every 3 hours right now.  Sometimes he nurses on one side and sometimes on both. He’ll nurse for 10-20 minutes.

There are, on occasion, times when I need to be away from him for more than three hours.  During these times I will have milk pumped for my husband or sitter to give to him.  Evan takes the bottle well.   I love it when my husband feeds him and can share the bond we have.  Others also enjoy feeding him, which is nice because it gives me a break.

I am very easy-going when it comes to nursing.  When I go out with Evan, if he’s hungry, I’ll feed him out in public.  I’m discreet, of course, and it doesn’t bother me that some people might not agree with mothers nursing in public.  It’s natural and it’s got to be done.

During the night Evan will nurse two or three times.  He usually ends up in bed with us mostly because I’m tired and would like to nurse him while lying down.  Evan nurses and falls back to sleep along with me.  So needless to say there are many nights where he never makes it back to his crib, he just stays with us all night.  I’m not really in favor of co-sleeping just because of the fact that I can’t get comfortable and get the solid sleep that I need, but I’m not totally against it either.  Co-sleeping makes it easy to nurse the baby, rather than getting up and sitting in a rocking chair at 3 am, plus it reinforces the bonding between mom and baby.  (Doesn’t do much for the love life between mom and dad, but that’s a whole other topic!)  Doctors or others may tell you not to nurse the baby in bed, but it works for me.  Did I mention that I’ve become a pacifier during the night and that my 3 year old ends up snuggling with us too?!
My husband is very supportive of my breastfeeding.  When I breastfeed I get really thirsty.  My husband has become my “water boy.”  We joke because, for some reason, I never remember to get my water before I sit down to nurse.  I start nursing, begin dying of thirst, and then scream for him to quickly get me water!  He never complains.  He also will get up at night and bring Evan to me in bed and when he’s not at work he’ll entertain Luke so Evan and I can have our quiet time.

I would encourage all women to breastfeed.  Don't say, "I'll try it" or “It’s not for me.”  Just do it!  Like I said, expect to have some challenges in the very beginning when you and the baby are learning and getting to know each other.  Embrace it.  Don’t give up.  I believe that breastfeeding is the most convenient, free, natural and nutritious gift you can give your baby!

Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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