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Nursing Isn't Quite What I Expected...

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Welcome to the sixth Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month the theme is "What I didn't expect when I was expecting." Below my entry, you'll find links to other bloggers' posts on that theme.

I've told the story before about talking with a friend about breastfeeding while we were both about halfway through our first pregnancies. She'd planned to nurse for "a couple of months" before switching to formula because anything beyond that was "weird." I, being the ever so enlightened one (lol) said that I planned to nurse for SIX months, but that I'd probably switch to formula after that because nursing after six months is "weird."

Oh how things change.

So how does nursing compare to what I expected?

Well, I expected it to be easy and I expected to not like doing it. (But was going to do it anyway because I knew it was important.)

Turns out that it's difficult and I LOVE doing it.

Oh how things change.

I never took a breastfeeding class before Elnora was born. After all, women had been nursing since time began. Why would I have to LEARN how to nurse? (Quite a strange line of thinking for someone who devoted tons of time to learning the Bradley method with the aim of a natural childbirth...you know, the ones that had been happening since time began?)

When Elnora was born, I had her nursing within about 20 minutes. She latched on and went to town, it was great.

Then the second night hit and everything went to Montana.

I did finally take a breastfeeding class...in the hospital, three days after she was born, just before we left and after things had already gone crazy.

As most of you know, that tale ended up with me exclusively pumping for about 14 months.

The second time, I STILL didn't take a breastfeeding class. After all, I was a lot smarter now. I was the Lactivist for goodness sake, why would I need breastfeeding classes. (yes, you can all roll your eyes now...)

Thankfully, Emmitt was the polar opposite of his sister. While we did hit a rough patch when I ended up with a cracked nipple, it only took one trip to an LC to get things in order. At almost seven months, we're still going strong with no plans to give up any time soon.

The things that surprised me most beyond just the difficulty of it all?

The time it took... With Elnora, I remember calculating the amount of time I spend pumping, washing parts, making bottles and feeding her each day. It added up to about 7 hours. That didn't count diaper changes or playing. It also didn't factor in that I was working 50 hours a week from home. I have no idea how I didn't end up institutionalized. With Emmitt...he ate 10-12 times a day until he was four months old. I learned to type one handed while nursing. I only work about 20 hours a week now. ;)

The knowledge I'd gain... Not just on the mechanics of breastfeeding, but on the values of it. I'm now known as the crazy "breast milk will fix that" person in my family. Got pink eye? Let me get you some breast milk. One of the kids sick? Let me pump milk for them. My great aunt is losing too much weight? Let's sneak breast milk into her milk shakes! (No one takes me up on it...lol.)

The fact that I'd become an activist... I remember talking to Greg when I got ready to launch this site. "It'll just be a fun hobby site," I explained. He laughed at me. "As if you could EVER do anything that was JUST a hobby." He's right...I now get as much mail each day about the Lactivist as I do about my real job (and believe me, that's no small amount.)

The fact that I'd become a crusader... This is different from being an activist... My Lactivist fun has me fighting and educating, while my crusader days mostly has me educating and informing and sometimes fundraising. I'd never heard of milk banks until after Elnora was born and now I'm trying to make sure that everyone else has heard of them as well.

What do I wish someone had told me?

I really wish someone had pushed me to get to a breastfeeding class early on in my pregnancy.

I wish someone had told me that I could pump for awhile while working on Elnora's latch...that it didn't have to be one or the other.

I wish someone had told me to read Misconceptions while I was still pregnant.

I wish someone had told me that just because sometimes you want to run away and hide from your kids, it doesn't mean that you don't love them.

I wish someone had told me that snuggling up to a happily nursing baby that will sometimes laugh when he's fallen into a milk induced slumber was one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

Well...maybe that last one...I'm glad I got to find out all on my own.

So what things surprised you the most about nursing? Was it the time? The difficulty? The enjoyment? The hating it? I don't think it ever goes quite how we expect it to and I know that my experience has been that each child is very different.

After you've shared your thoughts, check out the other entries in this month's carnival.

Motherwear Blog - What I Didn't Expect When I Was Expecting
Breastfeeding Mums - What I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding
Mama Knows Breast - Top Ten Things I Didn't Expect About Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - What I Didn't Expect When I Was Expecting
Spit Up On My Shoulder - Education is Key
Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother - What I Didn't Expect About Breastfeeding
New Mama's Next - The Surprises of Breastfeeding an "Early Bird"
The True Face of Birth - What I Didn't Expect While Pregnant
Down With the Kids - Goodbye Booby
The Spice Choir - How Breastfeeding Changed My Social Life


  1. Blogger Cairo Mama | 8:48 AM |  

    I think taking a class and knowing the contact information (or visiting)your local resources (like lactation consultants, La Leche League and support groups)before your baby is born is really important.

    It won't prevent problems--I did all of the above and still had problems--, but you will know where to go for help and you'll be less likely to be railroaded into giving up by nurses, doctors or family members.

  2. Anonymous Alena | 9:09 AM |  

    Great post, Jennifer.

    What surprised me about breastfeeding was:

    - How difficult and painful it was going to be at the beginning
    - How truly amazing and wonderful it is
    - How much comfort and happiness it can bring to a little human being
    - How nursing can really fix everything (heal a booboo, end a tantrum, put to sleep, make him happy every time)
    - How comfortable I would be nursing in public
    - How difficult weaning would be (my son is 2.5 years old and does NOT want to give it up)

  3. Blogger Nevanna | 10:38 AM |  

    What I wished I had known:

    - It's ok to put a baby to sleep by nursing him. (Works everytime!)

    - How haaaard it would be at first. Because I had to take him back to the hospital at 3 days old, it took us a *month* to get back to exclusive breastfeeding. Lots of tears from both of us during the relearning process.

    - I should have gone to breastfeeding classes. That's the one thing babies are born knowing how to do, right? ;)

    - That it really isn't supposed to hurt. And there's nothing better than curling up--and falling asleep--with my milk-drunk baby.

    I also never imagined that I wouldn't want to give it up! He's only six months...and I figured it was just one of those things you do because it's right...but I have *no* desire to stop anytime soon. :)

  4. Blogger Rebekah & Michael | 11:37 AM |  

    I did read Misconceptions before I was pregnant and it greatly influenced how I prepared for birth primarily but also breastfeeding. Naomi Wolfe and I are very different politically but that really doesn't matter even a tiny bit when it comes to birthing centers, midwives and breastfeeding.

  5. Anonymous Mary Jo | 11:41 AM |  

    Wonderful carnival this month! Thanks!

    The one thing that surprised me most about breastfeeding (at least right now):

    How much I'd miss it after DS weaned. He weaned at 20 months (SO much longer than I ever imagined nursing!), which was a year ago now. Since we're still waiting for another baby . . . well, I just really miss it!

  6. Blogger Stacy | 12:08 PM |  

    I was surprised that it was never the photo I always saw...the one where the baby is nursing and looking loveingly into his mother's eyes while she gazes back. It was never that for me. I have been nursing for 10 months now and I enjoy my time with my son and I love how he goes to sleep while nursing. But, I wish I had known that it wasn't as great a bonding thing as I was led to believe. I was also surprised at the need to pump so I could store milk. At first, when I planned on going back to work I pumped to have enoguh for my son while he was in day care. Then I quit working and just recently tossed 80 ounces of milk because it was over 4 months old. I hate pumping. But, I still do it so that my husband can give James a bottle at night whiel I sleep. Pumping is a huge amount of work. I think I would get more enjoyement out of BFeeding if I didn't pump. I also didn't expect the leaking. I still leak when I nurse and have to wear breast pads every day. My tops always lookk so bumpy thanks to the breast pads.

  7. Blogger Judy | 2:29 PM |  

    I guess you could file this under "I wish I'd known."

    If you want a baby to breastfeed do not let a bottle touch her lips until you both have it down pat.

    They swore to me at the hospital that the bottle would not cause problems and they never saw a baby refuse the breast because of a bottle, and they are wrong. They were not ill intentioned, just ill informed. My baby usually refuses to breastfeed now, and she is 4 1/2 months old. She always preferred the bottle to the breast and I can count on one hand how many times I completed a feeding without having to supplement with a bottle. As a result my supply is about an ounce a day, which I give her just to get the antibodies and other things in her.


  8. Blogger Analisa | 2:51 PM |  

    Here's my contribution!

  9. Anonymous auswoman | 2:56 PM |  

    * How great I would be at it. Yes, the first two weeks/month with both kids was hard. After that, it was a breeze.

    * How much I would love it. I really loved being able to nurse. I still remember that feeling of my boobs being filled with milk... four years after my last weaned. It was such a unique feeling and made me feel so powerful.

    * How I would become a role model. I was completely comfortable nursing in public, to the point where I was shocked when people seemed taken aback. One time, I carried on a business meeting nursing my daughter in a sling. My favorite memory was being at the Texas Renaissance Festival in full garb, nursing my son, and having someone ask to take our picture. I always wondered what happened to those shots.

    * That I would nurse past two. My daughter and I secretly continued nursing before bed until she was about two and a half. My mom would have freaked to have known that.

  10. Blogger evil cake lady | 7:06 PM |  

    Hi Jennifer,

    This is a great post; I forwarded the link to my latest round of Birthing From Within parents. I hope they come around and read it too. I really appreciate your honesty about your breastfeeding experiences--it helps me and the parents I work with immensely!


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