How a mom chooses to feed her baby is 100% her decision. Everyone has their own journey. Here are my keys to breastfeeding success and personal benefits. Being successful at anything, especially breastfeeding, is all about attitude, support, and setting realistic expectations.
Dedication and perseverance to give my babies the best food:
I definitely felt anxious at the thought of nursing two babies at once, but where there is a will, there is a way!
Everyone experiences hiccups (like a blocked duct, flat or inverted nipples, mastitis, soy/dairy sensitivity, or excess lipase), and it takes a good couple of weeks or months to really get the hang of breastfeeding… until you get to the place I call “the sweet spot.”
You don’t need me to go on about all the biological, physical, and bonding benefits of breastfeeding. “Breast is best” and you can do a simple google search to learn more about all the amazingness breast milk offers. ‘Nuff said.
I signed up for breastfeeding. I know what it takes, and I was all in. I think a lot of people give it up because of the level of dedication it requires. I have heard people say they stop nursing because they want their life back. When I hear this I think, “What life? Your life is not the same anymore and it will never be the same again.” You cannot return a baby and you still have to feed them if you stop breast feeding.
If you really want to nurse, then getting social support and talking to a lactation consultant (IBCLC) or Certified Lactation Counselor have been major factors in my success. I love helping other new nursing mamas (it’s like paying it forward), and I’ve been able to help my girlfriends, who live hundreds of miles away from me, nurse their little ones and feel confident about it when they ran into issues, despite the long-distance.
Nursing is such a great experience, but it can also feel very isolating. My girlfriend could call me at 3am with a crying baby and feeling frustrated because her little one isn’t latching and I would walk them through it. A lot of new moms feel overwhelmed, so talking through issues/concerns in real time with someone who has been there before is a huge boon. Hoping it gets easier on its own will not work. There is no harm in asking for help. I think a lot of people would stick with nursing if they have a girlfriend reminding them: YOU CAN DO THIS! I was lucky to deliver Esther just 4 days after one of my best friends delivered her first baby. We started our pregnancies and breastfeeding journeys together and it was really invaluable to know someone was experiencing the same thing right along with me.
A supportive partner:
It’s no secret, without Josh I would not be nursing. It was his suggestion in the first place.
Dads have an interesting role in the relationship between a mama and her breastfed baby. This is a separate topic worth recognition all of its own. Right now, the purpose of mentioning a supportive partner is to give props to all the papas who support their breastfeeding wife in so many ways, like during a 2am feeding.
Here is a typical night with two newborns in the Dickstein household.
1:46am: <<baby wimpers>>
I hear this and hope and pray the baby is going to fall back into a deep sleep instead of ramp up and start crying. I start sending the baby “sleepy thoughts” as if my brain waves could soothe her back to sleep.
1:50am: <<baby is crying>>
I tell Josh (learned the hard way he does not like to be touched when being woken up in the middle of the night): “Honey, the baby is crying.”
Josh: “Huh?” Josh, like many men, do not hear babies crying in the middle of the night. Moms are blessed with a Reticular Activating System which wakes us up. Google it.
Michelle: “Honey, we need to get the baby.” (I say “we” as if I am getting up too, but we both know he’s going to do it)
Josh still mostly asleep stumbles out of bed and walks down the hall to retrieve the crying baby
Michelle: I lay in bed like I am dead to the world, because I am dead tired, but I manage to sit up and position the breastfeeding pillow just in time for Josh to arrive with a hungry baby.
Josh gets the other baby while I get the first latched. Waking a sleeping baby goes against everything I want to do, but I learned if one twin wakes up for a feeding, the other twin should eat too or I’ll be up in less than 30 minutes and it’s pure torture.
Josh comes back with the second baby and I nurse for 15 minutes while he falls back into bed and sleeps for 15 minutes.
2:05am: I wake Josh up again to participate in a round of diaper changes.
2:10am: We each walk a baby back to their room and place them in their side-by-side cribs.
The fact my husband willingly crawled out of bed multiple times each night and helped me with every step of the feeding process, drawing the line at putting his own nipple in their mouths, is remarkable. This is just the tip of the “a helpful husband/daddy is worth his weight in gold” mountain (yep, lots of metaphors here).
A realistic attitude and remembering boobs are magical:
I am supportive of any feeding method a new mom chooses. If you’re not nursing, the baby still needs to eat, right? Preparing bottles and giving formula still needs to happen, and I find it very easy and convenient to just pop out a boob. I have a never-ending supply of milk (it’s supply and demand production led by the babies), my boobs do not have a shelf life, and it’s always ready whenever the babies are hungry. I don’t need to prepare anything, the milk is warm, the milk is ready to go, and there is no follow-up bottle cleaning. The convenience cannot be beat.
Boobs are magical! They not only nourish, but also calm any fussy baby. I witnessed a new mommy friend lament, “But she just ate, she can’t possibly be hungry!” When you think about it, your baby is coming from your womb where he is being fed 24/7. Who is to say how often or how much he will want to eat straight out of the womb? It’s really something to see a baby freaking out and immediately calm down like nothing happened once they latch onto a nipple. MAGIC!
The personal benefits of breastfeeding for me
I’m so pleased I could help all my close girlfriends remotely from Ohio. Breastfeeding mamas understand one another on a different level. It’s a really lovely sisterhood because we’ve all “been there.” I honestly feel a kinship with breastfeeding mamas because we have made the decision to give it a shot, and we are all experiencing the same thing, albeit sometimes at different times throughout the process. I feel connected to other nursing moms because they are “my people.”
Breastfeeding provides me and my babies so many advantages physically and psychologically. Beyond this, I did not intend to be a crunchy-granola mom, but I made all of Esther’s food, and I make all of Miriam and Ilana’s food, first with my boobs, and now in the kitchen! I have never bought anything from Gerber or “kid food.” You will not find a frozen pizza or chicken nugget in my house. My pantry is not littered with tiny glass bottles of mushed fruits and veggies or puffs of some rice/veggie mixture. Organic pouches hold no water with me. Real food I purchased and cooked in my kitchen is my preference. I’m not trying to be all-natural, I feel like I’m just being practical. I want my girls to eat what I make and this makes the most sense for me. The processed stuff companies sell is just not packing the nutrition and quality I want my kids to eat – I am all about delicious, nutritious and high-quality food. If baby food companies started making a super fresh roasted chicken dinner, then I would consider it (but I still make a better roasted chicken). The only additional kitchen item I need is a blender (preferably an immersion blender because they are so awesome to use, clean and store)!
Bottom line – you are going to be an AMAZING mama, you are already a fantastic mama to your little nugget! Your baby is so incredibly lucky to call you mama! And I hope you know you are not alone in this journey.