#Breastfeeding Is A Team Sport?

Welcome back to Risky Baby Business, our Saturday series about babies and pregnancy here at More Cowbell! If you’re new, the previous posts in this series can be found here.

My hubby and I were having a chat with another couple about breastfeeding. (Yes, I know…we’re so MARRIED.) Anyway, he made me laugh when he said, “Oh breastfeeding was a team sport in our house.”

And it’s true. He was an integral part of the process before we even got home from the hospital.

I’m not saying this to rub it in for those of you who are going the single route in your child-rearing. I’m just saying that if you have back-up person in the hospital or house when you have your baby, USE THEM.

What do I mean?

There is now a “breast-feeding designation” given out to hospitals who promote breast over bottlefeeding and I considered myself lucky to be at a hospital with this designation. I knew they wouldn’t supplement my baby without my knowledge.

They institute a “Golden Hour“: a quiet time with only the parents and baby when the nurses ensure that your baby latches on right away and rests skin-to-skin with the mother for a bit.

The issue when you have a C-section is they’re moving you from here to there after surgery. Plus, I was whacked out from the morphine so I quickly went to sleep. I woke up briefly to the sight of the nurse laying the baby on my husband’s  naked chest. I remember having a passing thought about how sweet that was, then I was out again.

They were best buddies by the time I woke up. He changed all her diapers while we were in the hospital, partly because I was moving slow and partly because I was in compression boots for the first few days to prevent blood clots.

What about that breastfeeding?

I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding if you can do. But…

I’ve spoken to one woman who had no issues whatsoever with breastfeeding. Her preemie daughter latched right out of the gate, nothing hurt and they sailed through a year plus of nursing.

ONE. WOMAN.

Everyone else I’ve spoken to had issues (which is why I think everyone should at least chat with a lactation consultant or a doula). Baby Girl blistered me right out of the gate.

Basically, for the entire time in the hospital (and another few weeks at home), I had to do Lamaze breathing just to get through breastfeeding. I had Lanolin, etc, etc but it was pretty important to me to have a baby who would go 3-4 hours between feedings. My poor breasts needed a long intermission after feeding (plus we wanted some sleep).

Four things got me through those early days:

1. My husband fussing with the baby to keep her awake so she nursed longer.

As the lactation lady in the hospital said after she watched me nurse: “It’s not a snack bar.” (yes, she said it in that tone of disdain) “Make her work for it! Pump her arm. Rub her head. Keep her awake.”

That lactation consultant was a Baby Drill Sargeant. But she was RIGHT. We thanked her every night those first weeks as we slept for 3-5 hours stretches. (p.s. We know all bets are off if you have a preemie or a child with physical ailments that prevent sleep.)

2. Breastmilk will naturally heal any wounds from breastfeeding.

This one was a shocker to me. I had no idea that breastmilk actually heals skin. So when you’re feeding,  save a squirt for YOU to rub on your nipple. After you’ve let that soak in, then move on to the next tip.

3. Medela Tender Care Lanolin

I found the Tender Care much easier to apply than Lansinoh. The Tender Care was more liquidy so I didn’t have to rub or press on top of raw flesh. I know it sounds disgusting to put it that way, but I was wrecked. Plus, I’d ASKED the teacher in our breastfeeding class if I should use a washcloth to “rough up my nipples” prior to birth and she said NO. (Yes, I hated her like poison by the second day of breastfeeding.)

4. I was committed to breastfeeding itself.

That last one is a biggie, and was the best tip I got prior to birth. A very close cousin said, “Be sure you’re committed to breastfeeding itself so you don’t give up too quickly. I promise that by the end of the first month, you’ll be fine.”

I know I’ve said this before…everybody withholds the good stuff. You take classes and people tell you stories but, unless you have a great lactation consultant or a practical mom who comes to visit, no one tells you the “why”…especially about breastfeeding.

They don’t tell you that breastfeeding is a two person job if you want a kid who stays full for more than an hour or two between feedings (i.e. SLEEPS).

My three fave sleeping/breastfeeding tips:

1. Take maternity AND paternity leave from work if at all possible.

My husband did all the feedings with me for the first three weeks. He followed Baby Sargeant’s directions and would rub Baby Girl’s head, crank her arm, tickle her feet, poke her face…all so she would eat enough to sleep for a few blessed hours.

When he went back to work, he’d still do the evening feedings with me and it made a huge difference for both of us.  He was connected to that baby from day one and I had help. It was a win-win.

2. Read up on sleep and breastfeeding prior to birth

For those of you who already had the baby, read Baby Wise if you can stay awake long enough. The first three weeks are supreme suckage for everybody but Baby Wise let us get 3-4 hours in between feeding (that was just us, mind you…don’t hate me if it doesn’t work, but it SHOULD work). We also recommend the Happiest Baby on the Block book/video.

3. Sometimes you have to counter the “rules” to have a happy baby.

The best example I can think of happened the first night we brought Baby Girl home. She screamed bloody murder the entire first night, every time we put her in the crib, which was agony.

Note: When you bring a new baby home and it screams bloody murder, you freak. You can’t help it. It’s a little better if it isn’t your first baby, but you always have to learn what makes any new baby tick and it’s a process.

We were afraid we’d roll on her if she slept in the bed and her crib was right next to us. After trying everything else, I finally watched the baby.

After sitting at eyelevel with her while she screamed (for the longest 15 minutes of my life) I finally realized she was staring at the bars of the crib in abject terror. Since I thought newborns couldn’t really see, I was a bit shocked, but I followed my gut and took action.

I know all the books say NO BUMPERS.

After 7 hours of screaming, I tried bumpers. The moment they were up, she calmed down and went to sleep. She did the same thing at 9 months when we took them off for good. We had to weave sheets between the bars of the crib for her to calm down. The kid just doesn’t like to feel caged…go figure.

What breastfeeding or sleep tricks did you discover? Do any of the new moms have questions? Do you experienced moms have life-saving tips to share? We’d love to hear about it!

Jenny

REMINDER: Completely unrelated to this post…Kait Nolan made it to Round 2 of the DABWAHA tournament! Voting is open until noon EST TODAY to help her advance – click here. #TeamKait thanks you for your support.

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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20 Responses to #Breastfeeding Is A Team Sport?

  1. Hi Jenny! Breastfeeding brings up so much for me. I nursed my first born for an entire delightful year. And it too was a team sport in our house. When my second born arrived 4 months prematurely, I was desperate to get her my milk, but after trying everything (prescription drug, fenugreek, a nightly pint of Guinness) my body simply wouldn’t produce milk. After delivering a preemie, it’s like getting an extra order of guilt on the side! I guess I just want to echo your message that breastfeeding IS difficult and for some, just not possible.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It’s amazing how much guilt we can build up about SO many subjects as a mom, isn’t it?! I’m terribly sorry you had to go through that.

      Thank you for taking time to comment, and I love your Twitter pic with that preemie now a gorgeous seven year old.🙂

      (FYI, Kasey wrote a memoir called PREEMIE that’s on my TBR list!)

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  2. Jenny, I don’t have kids yet, and my husband and I aren’t ready to start our family, but I read your Saturday posts every single week because this info is priceless. I have friends who would have really benefited from some of your tips when their kids were born, but you’re right, no one told them.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Marcy, I had no idea you read my Saturday posts! I think it’s fantastic that you two are studying up now. You’re going to have so much fun when you try it.🙂

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  3. Cristin Harber says:

    My c-section baby is four months old. I knew to fight for a few minutes of breastfeeding when I was brought into post-op was because of my breastfeeding classes. I mean, instinctually I knew I should feed as soon as possible, but the urgency was instilled in me by the nurse who taught the class.

    It was important my husband knew also. In between vomiting from the anesthesia and passing out, my husband held the baby to me so I could nurse the first time. We both remember the post-op nurse saying that I couldn’t do it (she wasn’t pushing formula, she just said I need more time to recover first). But the heck with that. I did it and my husband is still so proud of me that he brings it up in conversations. (I know, we are so married too!)

    And when we got home, baby girl slept all of the time because I took pain killers and she was slightly jaundice. My husband worked the arms and legs I couldn’t and if that didn’t work, he’d run to get a wet washcloth. And he kept it wet. Best tip I ever learned to keep her awake– a wet washcloth on her foot will wake her up pronto.

    Also, I had a hard time getting her to latch. We tried every position under the moon and because I was recovering from the c-section, I needed help re-positioning her and me. I would holler out, “Football position!” or “I need more pillows… Put me on the floor… Help me in the chair…” And he was on it.

    When problems popped up, I had no idea what was going on with me. I talked to a few LCs before I found someone that didn’t interrupt my woes to say, “stop eating dairy, garlic, chocolate, (fill in the blank).” My mommy instinct told me it wasn’t the taste or tummy irritation. Turns out, I was a fire hydrant (forceful let down) and she had a problem swallowing the spray while having a growth spurt. She grew almost 3 pounds, 3 inches in 3 weeks. Oh my god.

    Wow, I can’t believe how much I’ve written. Guess your post hit home for me. So, yes, I agree breastfeeding is a two person job. The second person doesn’t need to be a husband, but they sure better be comfortable with you walking around without a shirt on.🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I love this comment! It’s so awesome for the other moms and moms-to-be to read things like this and to know that you need to always, always trust your instincts about what is best for your baby.

      Congrats on persevering through the nursing woes. I really didn’t warm up to the entire process until about 5 weeks in when it stopped hurting. I loved that I always had food for her and all that, but I hated nursing her in public because she would NOT stop ripping the blanket off me. Good times…

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  4. Chihuahua0 says:

    Very interesting post…considering I’m a teenage boy which would most likely not have to use this information for decades…if ever.

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  5. tomwisk says:

    Ain’t the human body amazing. There must have been a lot of thought when it was designed. Except for the man parts thing. Sometimes you have to double-team a kid, it’s good practice for when they want to drive, date, move in with a BFF etc.

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  6. Julie Glover says:

    I am a big proponent of breastfeeding if a mom can do it. And most moms can. For one thing, money saved. My body made food for my baby for FREE! How cool is that? Second, convenience. I didn’t have to tote bottles, nipples, formula, water, etc. I had a blanket and my chest — all the equipment I needed. What can I say? I’m a slacker mom. Third, it helped me heal from childbirth quicker. Fourth, I felt bonded to my child in those times (not that formula-feeders don’t; I’m merely describing my feelings).

    All that said, best advice I ever received was from a mom who showed me how wide your child’s mouth is going to be. You can’t put your baby on lightly; he/she needs to have that breast fill his/her mouth. Hope that’s not too graphic! But it really helped me once I understood how close my infant would be and how wide his mouth would be to nurse properly.

    Great stuff, Jenny!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I know, that whole “shove it into the baby’s mouth” thing is just crazy, isn’t it? Had I grasped that earlier, she couldn’t have blistered me right out of the gate. I was in SO. MUCH. PAIN.

      I’m glad you had such a great experience with it, Julie!

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  7. When my daughter was born 43 years ago, we had no paternity leave, and no one ever mentioned having the father participate in the breastfeeding. However, my pediatrician/father advised us to use a bottle for 2am feedings (we still did in by schedule back then, which I strongly recommend), and I immediately took that feeding for myself. That was my chance to begin bonding with her – a bond that’s been unusually strong ever since.

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  8. I just have to point out that for those of us who have trouble breastfeeding, it can be much more expensive than formula! I spent thousands (no exaggeration) on lactation consultant appointments, renting a Medela hospital-grade pump, multiple cases of mastitis and, crazily enough, physical therapy for my boobs. And despite all that, and my best breastfeeding efforts, my baby still didn’t grow. Turns out she wasn’t absorbing my milk–something that nobody told me could happen. She got my milk for the first year, which was my goal, but let’s just say that I knew my lactation consultant so well she came to my daughter’s first birthday party!

    Thankfully, the second time around it’s going better. The baby is growing, despite being colicky and screaming all day, and never sleeping, so that’s saying something. I’m thinking about writing a post or an essay about all the things I’ve learned about breastfeeding, since between both kids, I’ve had just about all the possible issues! Except thrush. I missed out on that one. (So far…)

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, Laura, I’m SO glad you commented! I had no idea that could happen either. This is my very favorite thing about these Risky Baby Business posts – I learn an incredible amount and people get a forum to speak up and help other women.

      I’m so sorry you went through all that pain and hassle and expense. I’ve never even heard of “PT for the boobs.” Dang. You went well above and beyond in my book.

      I’m going to bring some wrath onto myself by admitting that I didn’t love breastfeeding. I felt like it was an important gift to try to give her but it wasn’t when i bonded with her. I enjoyed the bedtime bottle and singing routine far, far more. Breastfeeding hurt and I got damn tired of having her flash my boobs in public because she refused to have her head covered.

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      • It’s not supposed to happen! I ended up pumping pretty much exclusively and dumping a scoop of formula into each breastmilk bottle, which I then felt the need to apologize for or explain around other “normal” breastfeeding moms. That gave me a sense of alienation around other moms for the longest time, which, I suppose, is why I wanted to share my story here. As you pointed out, breastfeeding can be hard! And even the moms who make it look easy have often gone through a lot to make it look effortless.

        Your point about breastfeeding being a gift is why it’s so emotional when it isn’t going well, I think. We can nourish our babies for 9 months during pregnancy, and then they come out and we have to learn how to feed them, and it doesn’t always feel natural. I was frustrated at first with #2 (the piranha I called her–apparently a fast birth can cause babies to really clamp their jaws down and nurse too hard until they settle down). It helped that my lactation consultant told me “this baby likes to nurse.” So simple. But that was a touchstone for me and helped me focus on the idea that this baby was different from #1.

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        • Hey, Jenny. I am still thinking about your breastfeeding post, and all the baggage it brought up for me, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in a guest post on colic for Risky Baby Business. We found some unusual methods that helped our little one, and I would love to share what I’ve learned with other parents. You can reach me at laurastanfill at hotmail dot com if you’re interested!

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  9. Breastfeeding is sooo important, there is nothing more perfect for baby. I love how involved your husband is too. I remember when we first brought our youngest home from hospital my husband bragged to a couple of his buds who had stopped by, “and breastfed babies pooh doesn’t stink and it doesn’t stain!” That just cracked me up. It was probably more than his buddies cared to know. great article, Jenny.

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  10. Pingback: S is for Sleep (for You and Baby) #AtoZchallenge | Jenny Hansen's Blog

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