breast is best
Let me just preface all of this by saying that 4+ years ago when my daughter was born, I was not very successful at breastfeeding. I was new to my job, so I had to return to work after only six weeks with my baby girl. I nursed her almost exclusively during that time, but once I returned to work I had to start giving her formula during the day. I nursed her at night and in the morning until she was about 4 months old. I had a cheap breast pump and was extremely unsuccessful at pumping. I blamed it on the pump...until now.
With this pregnancy, I purchased a Medela, the Cadillac of breastpumps. It's electric. It can pump both breasts simultaneously. Should be a slam-dunk, right? Not so much. I started my pumping efforts a few weeks before I was to return to work. It took several days for me to accumulate enough for one storage bag of milk (approximately 5 ounces). When it turned out that I would be able to quit my full-time job, I did not make such an effort to pump. After all, it was challenging and I didn't think I would need the stored milk so urgently. I had stored up 4 or 5 packages, and we used them up on a business trip to Florida during which my husband kept the baby while I consulted onsite with a client. Since this trip, I have made several attempts to pump some extra milk, but haven't been able to get much. A friend suggested a larger thingamajig, but that didn't help much. It's more comfortable, but I wasn't able to procure more milk. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but I sure would like to figure it out so I can have a few hours to do what I need to do once in awhile. But for now he comes with me wherever I go. We are a unit. A package deal.
Aside from the pumping issue, I have found breastfeeding my son to be a very rewarding experience. He seems to really like me - mostly for my boobs - but I don't mind that. We have bonded quite well. Other benefits that we have experienced include: very few dirty diapers, smooth skin, excellent baby weight gain, and a relatively healthy baby. Anytime he starts to get sick it goes away fairly quickly without incident. I haven't had to take him to the doctor for any reason other than his well checks. He has a little cold right now but it is very mild and he hasn't run a fever with it at all. We have saved a ton of money by not buying formula. We actually tried to give him some once or twice, and he didn't tolerate it well. He just seems like a really healthy, chubby baby, and I think it has a lot to do with the breastmilk that he has been getting since day 1.
A few things I will point out that are on the "downside" list for breastfeeding: Feeding every 2-3 hours can be a little exhausting. Over time, he has become more efficient, but the frequency hasn't lessened. Breastmilk digests more quickly than formula, so he is hungry a lot sooner than his formula-fed counterpart. Now that he is old enough for solid foods, I can try giving him cereal before bed to help him sleep longer at night. However, he doesn't really like cereal, and he isn't always in the mood for a spoon-fed meal. While breastmilk is always ready and available - no warming, mixing, or the like required - sometimes it is inconvenient in public because it's hard to get comfortable, and I don't care for people looking at my boobs. I suppose I will get used to this eventually.
I really don't care what the literature says. It does hurt sometimes. Just like you get chapped lips if you sit around chewing on them all day, your nipples are bound to get a little chafed from time to time. In the beginning it hurts because you aren't used to it, and you are still learning technique (as is baby). Then I've noticed that every couple of weeks we will go through a sore phase again. I don't know the cause - maybe he's producing more saliva because he's teething, or maybe he's gotten a little lazy and isn't nursing correctly. I usually work on getting him back on track and then apply lanolin liberally until it feels better. For the first couple of months, my breasts would burn after a feeding. I have no idea why. It doesn't happen anymore, though.
Breastfeeding is supposed to make you lose weight quickly. This hasn't been true for me, so I just started Weight Watchers. I have a theory - I am most likely not getting enough calories nor a well-balanced diet to support nursing, so my body is hanging onto the fat for reserves. That's why I'm confident that Weight Watchers will work - they give you a point value to hit each day, and this takes into account the extra needed for nursing.
I almost forgot to mention how difficult it is to nurse a baby with ginormous boobs! I don't really know what it's like to have anything smaller, so I couldn't tell you what it is like to breastfeed with small boobs. I do believe it may be easier. In the beginning I was concerned that my breasts would smother the baby. Each one is bigger than the baby's head. I guess that's why public nursing is so awkward for me as well. There is no discrete way to pull a watermelon out of your shirt. We make it work, but I just wanted to throw it out there in case anyone can relate.
My goal is to nurse for one year. I think we will make it just fine. I'm so incredibly thankful that I quit my job rather than returning after he was born. I don't believe I would have been this successful with nursing had I gone back to work. I do intend to try to figure out this pumping thing once and for all so that I can get out of the house occasionally. In the meantime, I will continue to provide my baby with all of his nutrients, every 2.5 hours as he demands. I love my son and I am so happy to be giving him this healthy foundation in life. I truly believe that breast is best for baby. Yay for boobs.