Saturday, April 25, 2009

Breastfeeding Myths

I have a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding.  For me, nursing has been the most stressful part of having a baby.  It is also an incredible feeling to be able to nourish and comfort your baby using nothing but your body.  There is this strange tradeoff for me between feeling trapped by the never-ending nature of being the sole source of nutrition and loving the convenience of always having a ready supply of food for the boy.  You can't beat waking up in the middle of the night, rolling over in bed, and feeding the hungry baby without ever opening your eyes.  At the same time, it would be nice if some nights it was possible to let someone else do that job!  For today, I want to talk about a few "myths" about breastfeeding which have not been true for me.  I'll go into some more of my thoughts on the subject in future posts.

Myth #1 - Breastfeeding is less expensive than formula feeding

For me, this has not been the case.  Between buying a pump, numerous visits to lactation consultants and doctors, and the medication that I had to take for six months in order to maintain my milk supply, I estimate that nursing Jude costed us about $100 a month.  Since Jude has a stomach of iron and pretty much any kind of formula agrees with him, we would have had to spend about $60 a month to bottle feed (Costco formula, which is what we use now, costs about $2 a day).  

I completely understand that my experience here has been different than most.  Brand-name formula costs about $5 a day, and most women don't need either the medication I took or so many doctor's visits to make nursing work for them and their baby.  However, for me, it turns out that I had to pay an extra $40 a month in order to nurse Jude. 

Myth #2 - Breastfeeding is always painful at first

I was very lucky - I never felt pain when nursing Jude.  He had a good latch right from the start.  I think it really helped that I took a breastfeeding class and also had help from the nurses in the hospital.  I've heard many nursing mothers describe the pain they felt during the first few weeks, and although I had plenty of problems with nursing, I have to say that I never had that one.  I think it would have been a lot harder for me to stick it out through all of my supply issues if there had also been a lot of pain involved.

Myth #3 - Breastfeeding helps a nursing mother lose weight

It takes about 500 calories a day to produce enough breast milk to feed a baby.  So a nursing mother should be able to eat enough food to maintain her current weight and still lose about a pound a week, right?  Not for me!  Within two weeks of giving birth to Jude, I was down to a few pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight.  I wasn't very hungry and I was exercising a little bit every day.  The only problem was that I also wasn't producing much milk.  Eventually, after trying pretty much everything else to increase my milk supply, I decided to start taking medication.  It worked - but my appetite went through the roof.  I gained twenty pounds over the next few months.  Every time I tried eating less or exercising more, my milk supply would drop and Jude and I would both be unhappy.  I decided to just go with it and worry about losing the weight once Jude was eating solid foods and no longer dependent on me for all of his nutritional needs.  I stopped taking the medication about a month ago, and I've started focusing on my fitness a bit more, but I think it's going to take some time (and a lot of work on my part) before I regain my former shape.  Even though I'm still nursing!

Up next:  my breastfeeding saga from birth to eight months...

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