Before I was pregnant with my second daughter, I read a book called “The Wife,” and copied down this quote:
“Whenever I was nursing, I felt as if there was nothing else in the world I needed to be doing. It didn’t matter to me in those moments that I had no career of my own, no standing in the world. I was a nursing mother, and that was all I had to be.”
The book wasn’t that great, and I certainly don’t feel like I have no standing in the world or career of my own. But I loved this quote because being a nursing mother was so important to my identity as a mother when my first daughter was small. It’s proving to be true for my younger daughter as well.
I breastfed my first daughter for 26 months, and that nursing relationship was a very healing thing for me after the disappointment of my C-section. I’m proud of myself and my body for feeding and nourishing her for so long. So I knew no matter how my second birth went I would be a nursing mom again for this second baby.
Thankfully, so far it’s going well again. I love the breastfeeding myth-busting the Mommy-Go-Round blog has been doing. I hope my first-person experience adds something useful!
Just as I support women’s choice for how to birth their babies, I also support their choice for how to feed their babies. But for me there wasn’t a question. I knew I would nurse my children, if I was physically able and I thankfully am. I’m drawn to the health benefits for mom and baby, the convenience and the low cost of breastfeeding. It really is easy once you get into the swing of things!
After the birth of my second daughter, her baby nurse came to help me get her latched. My doctor, as she was sewing me up, laughed and said “Mari is a breastfeeding expert. She probably won’t need much help.” It was an amazing moment, as I don’t think I’ve heard my doctor call me by name before, and I liked that she remembered my power-status as a breastfeeding mama. (Although I didn’t miss a chance to tell anyone who asked about my breastfeeding experience!)
With both my daughters I was able to try to start nursing right away. After the C-section I had to wait until recovery, but that was definitely within two hours. Both girls latched on and started working to get the colostrum – that magic first sticky milk that’s so full of antibodies and good stuff. During this most recent labor I’d used a breast pump to stimulate contractions, and I’d collected several CCs of colostrum that we fed our baby too. Never let that go to waste!
Newborns’ tummies are so small that they can’t take in very much at a time, but they can nurse for a while to get the colostrum out and to stimulate supply and encourage mature milk to come in. It’s also really bonding to be snuggled up with baby skin to skin nursing.
Be sure to make use of the lactation consultants offered by Woman’s Hospital. We met with three over the course of our latest stay, with varying impacts. The first hadn’t had her flu shot so she had to wear a mask to be in patient rooms. Totally weird. I wasn’t nursing at the moment, so she just gave me the basic information packet and the number to call for help. The consultant I remember best was so encouraging and helpful – our latch looked great, massage the breasts to encourage flow, etc. She weirdly told me I have short arms (I do not) but was otherwise very positive and made me feel good.
In addition to the resources available at Woman’s, I’d recommend The Nursing Mother’s Companion, an invaluable book that’s in its seventh edition. Kelly Mom is a website that has really good information that I find myself turning to again and again.I know for any problem help is just a phone call away with Woman’s Warmline and I can actually talk to a person!
You don’t HAVE to buy anything special to be able to nurse, but I’ve found I’m much more comfortable nursing around other people/in public when I’m wearing a shirt and bra made for nursing that doesn’t expose my stomach. The standard maternity stores have good choices, and I’ve had success finding inexpensive but functional nursing bras on Zulily.com. I also wear a stretchy bracelet that I switch from wrist to wrist to keep track of which side to start nursing on next. I don’t have a special nursing cover, but I use a muslin swaddling blanket if I really need more coverage.
I also really like nursing pillows. I’ve used the Boppy and My Brest Friend, both of which are good. They prop up the baby just enough that my hands can be free for typing or reading. (I spend some time gazing into my daughter’s eyes while she nurses, but I’m a realist and multitasker too.)
I have an electric breast pump because it was covered by insurance. I am a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom so mostly she eats “from the tap,” but the pump was used to try to jumpstart labor and now allows me to store some milk for dad or big sister feedings. Even if you have an electric pump, be sure to ask a lactation consultant or nurse for a hand pump while in the hospital. I used that for pumping milk for my first daughter, and it was enough for me to create a back-up supply in our freezer. It’s also handy to have for relieving any engorgement or if you’re away from power and need to pump.
Since I’ve been home, we’ve found our rhythm and we nurse on demand. It has meant frequent feedings during the day and a bit of unpredictability, but it’s great so far. My milk has been plentiful, and although I’m still very hungry, I’m not quite as ravenous as I was as my milk supply was getting established.
I would encourage any mom who wants to breastfeed to do it. It’s certainly within your power and is an amazing feeling. Even though it’s just a biological function, I feel so proud knowing I’m providing the nutrition my daughter needs and keeping her (and me) healthier in the process!
Mari Walker lives in Baton Rouge with her husband, Shawn, and daughters Jane (born November 2011) and Livia (born March 2016). A freelance communications professional originally from Oklahoma, Mari also blogs at silvermari.com.