June 14th, 2013

planet

spacefem's guide to breastfeeding

Olive and I are having a fabulous time nursing, so I figured I'd put up an FAQ to help others. It's such an interesting adventure I'd hate for anyone to miss out on, see...

Why should I breastfeed?
I tell people it's for the health benefits, but really I'm just cheap and lazy. Hopefully you'll find equally wholesome reasons.

How do I get started?
After you have your baby, have her latch on casually whenever she wants and spend a few last precious bra-free days. Before the week is up, your milk will come in, which is the medical term for "OHMIGOD IT'S EVERYWHERE". If you have issues, call a lactation consultant, many hospitals provide them as a valuable resource.

What do lactation consultants do?
You call them, and they put you on hold. But it's okay if you get this GoGos song in your head... "Lactation, all I ever wanted. Lactation, time to get away." It passes the time, then when you talk to someone you're quite relaxed.

So milk comes out all the time?
No, only when your milk ducts "let down"... often this comes with a tingly feeling so you're not totally surprised that you'll need to change another nursing pad.

So you can control it?
Well, no.

What triggers let down?
The milk should start flowing whenever your baby latches on. It can also start if the baby cries, another baby cries, you look at your baby too long, your breasts are too full, you're driving down a bumpy road, you take off your bra, take a warm shower, think about nursing, or write up a blog post about breastfeeding where you mention the topic of "let down".

Should I use a nursing cover in public?
Depends on how coordinated you are. Some women can latch a baby while elegantly draping a cover on, no sweat. Others of us end up flailing around like we're lost in there, while our babies scream their fool heads off and spin their appendages exorcist-style just to add to the illusion of twenty chihuahuas trapped under a parachute, so everyone in the restaurant turns to stare at the train wreck that is you trying to be "discrete". With that in mind, sometimes it's just easier to wear an extra tank top so you've got a layer to cover your midsection and tell the public to freaking deal.

How often will my baby want to eat?
Depends. How often will you be in the same room?

What cues should I look for to see if my baby's hungry?
Did you just feed the baby? No? Then it's probably time to feed the baby.

Around 6-8 months, you can start teaching your baby sign language to improve this communication, and he or she will sign to ask for milk. But when he uses the sign 500 times a day it'll pretty much just confirm that he wants to nurse all the damn time and you won't be as excited about teaching any more sign language.

What if breastfeeding isn't for me?
Life will go on. Plenty of brilliant people were raised on crappier formula than what's out there today.

When should I stop breastfeeding my baby?
Whenever you damn well please. In my personal opinion though, you should probably start saying "no" sometime before the kid's old enough to go to the fridge and make himself sandwiches.

I've heard that around 12 months, my baby may just lose interest in nursing.
You just keep counting on that.

Thanks Spacefem, you've made this sound like a beautiful experience.
It's ridiculous. But it's also awesome, trust me, just like everything else related to motherhood. Pregnancy, childbirth, telling your toddler she can only lick interior walls... it's all rewarding and all insane. Might as well add breastfeeding to the mix, it blends right in.