About Breastfeeding

18 05 2008

First of all, it hurts.  At least at the beginning.  

All of the pro-breastfeeding lit I read prior to Masher’s birth said:  If you feel pain, you’re doing something wrong.  So, in the hospital, when I felt like he must have tiny knives on his tongue that were slicing me to shreds, the breastfeeding consultant couldn’t come to my room soon enough.  “Help!” I told her, “I must be doing something wrong!”  She checked out my positioning, Masher’s positioning, what his little Adam’s apple was up to as he fed, and what his excretions looked like.  “Nope,” she said, “You’re doing it right.  It hurts at first.”  Well, at least she was honest, unlike most of the breastfeeding advocates I’d encountered up to that point.  And it hurt, especially on one side, for at least a good three weeks after his birth.    

One of the pros to natural (or “intervention-free”) childbirth per the doulas we used is that you feel more confident and able to face small hurdles like the pain associated with breastfeeding if you’ve successfully weathered the pain of childbirth.  I can see some truth to this; each time I’d wince with pain when Masher latched on to feed, I was definitely reminded that the little twinges were NOTHING in comparison to what I’d experienced a few days prior.

In addition, watching Masher grow and thrive on a product that my body was manufacturing just for him provided enough motivation to push through the pain.  That’s the real miracle of breastfeeding.  

For the first month or three, breastfeeding seemed to provide the answer to every cry, much to my chagrin as I didn’t really love having to whip it out every hour or so.  It was a relatively recent revelation that Masher sometimes cries for reasons other than being hungry.  “A-ha!  He likes to sleep in his crib, and he actually hopes I stop trying to entertain him!”  It’s these small but important truths that make the world a livable place. 

As Masher approaches four months, the question now is when to start him on “real food,” or rice cereal, oatmeal, and mushed-up fruits and veggies, as the case may be.  Friends and family seem to advise that four months is the time to begin.  “He’s so big …  He needs more food!”  But I wonder …  After all, didn’t he get so big on breastmilk alone?  Why the rush?  From what I read, it sounds as though the decision is really up to the parents.  The American Academy of Pediatrics is somewhat split on the issue:  one section recommends breastfeeding exclusively for six months while another supports starting “real food” anywhere between four and six months.  

We’ll see what our pediatrician has to say on the issue at next week’s check-up, but I’m leaning toward waiting the full six months.  I’ve read that breastfeeding exclusively for six months (some even say 12!) can help prevent food allergies, and Masher can use all the help he can get in that arena since both his dad and I have allergies, his dad to several foods.  And the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months for a number of reasons, including reduced gastrointestinal infections.  So, as long as I can dissuade the well-meaning relatives who can’t wait to see his cute little face covered in green peas …

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