I wanted to add something to the great blog about the benefits of breastfeeding. It has to do with my experience having breastfed four babies that are now all teenagers. I had many difficulties with breastfeeding. My mom was encouraging, having breastfed all four of hers, too, but I had one problem after another. I could write a book on my stories, but I’ll simplify to make my point. I struggled through with determination, having to bite down on leather at some points because of the pain. I came down with multiple cases of mastitis with each child. There were times I thought my immune system had abandoned me! I even turned to pumping with my 4th, thinking that would help. It did ease some of my pain, but I still got mastitis once. It was through the advice of a great pediatrician that I ended up asking my OB for Diflucan (one pill) for a thrush (candida) infection for which my son also needed to be treated. Taking this medication completely changed my breastfeeding experience. I discovered that the pains I thought were from breastfeeding were actually from a candida infection. And that when I would feel the first pins and needles pains, that was the beginning. Obviously you need your doctor’s help with these diagnoses, but I was surprised at how little they knew about this. (FYI, I needed to be treated several times over a six-month time span, so don’t be surprised if this helps for a time but then comes back.) I have given this advice to many women over the years, and never once has it failed to help them. So although I personally will not need this medicine for breastfeeding, we are preparing for our own daughters’ future needs by having it on hand. It has a generic form now: fluconazole. A pleasant side effect for us from taking the meds was that my babies had gotten a nasty diaper rash. Somehow, this was all connected, because when I treated my candida, their diaper rash subsided. I don’t understand it all, but I do know this was a real life saver for us.
Also, on the idea of pumping instead of breastfeeding. I’m sure there are more professional opinions than mine, but I found it to be a great choice even though I was a home schooling mom and didn’t need to be away from my babies. The two things I liked about it were you get to see how much milk your babies are getting, and others can feed the baby too. One of the complaints of new moms is that they think their babies aren’t getting enough milk. This is rarely true, but without a meter to measure, it’s a concern. Pumping removes this unknown. It also allows dads and other family members/friends to be able to feed the baby. Now, it means you’re doing double duty, pumping and feeding, but I was also able to freeze the extra milk and use it for months after I had to stop feeding. So keeping a breast pump (double sided is best) on hand for future needs is also an important prep, and, as I mentioned earlier, it helped cut back on the number of instances of mastitis for me, reducing the amount of times I had to use antibiotics. If you’ve ever had mastitis, you’ll know just how miserable that can be!
I hope this information can help those of you who “try” breastfeeding and feel like quitting. It is the single most important choice you can make for your children when they’re first born and growing. Additionally, you can’t go back years later when they’re faced with health concerns that might have been prevented by breastfeeding them and redo it. So many things in our society are, well, “if you don’t like it, just quit”, or “if it gets too hard, just give up”. In the future, you might not have that option when it comes to feeding your baby, and you might be able to use this information to help you through it. – P.M.