Raising Richmond: Feeding our babies

Breast? Bottle? Both? Today we’ll talk about how we fed our wee ones and what it was like for us. We hope you’ll share your thoughts, too.

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the newest installment of our parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a little while). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

We’ve touched on the topic of nursing before, but we wanted to open up the conversation a little bit. So…

Today’s question: Did you breastfeed or bottle-feed your children? What was the experience like for you?

The Salgados

I’ll never forget the third day of my firstborn’s life, as the first two days were mostly rainbows and unicorns. All of real life starts when you’re home by yourself and the baby starts to “wake up.” We were fortunate to have a home health nurse come to our house to check on us.

“How’s the breastfeeding going?” she asked.

“Fine, I guess. I am getting a little sore,” I replied.

She watched me nurse Josiah like I was some sort science experiment and then shook her head.

“Your latch is a little off! No wonder you are sore…”

Before I knew it, she leaned over, grabbed my left boob, and rearranged stuff. I was slightly mortified but tried to act cool. Thus began my breastfeeding experience.

As crazy as the moment was, I was later grateful for her, umm, input as it dispelled the mystery. She was so comfortable; it made it feel like feeding my baby this way might be more natural than I was feeling as an awkward new mother.

It wasn’t long before I was a pro and felt like I had been a mother for years. I was amazed by the connection with my baby and started to understand the breastfeeding advocates I had heard so much about. Without even realizing it, I was stepping on Internet soapboxes on parenting boards, going to La Leche playgroups, and using terms like “tandem nursing” in conversation.

I wasn’t sure how long I would breastfeed but I just knew it seemed an integral part to my parenting and relationship to my child, not to mention the health benefits. A year passed, then 18 months and even at two years old, we were still going strong. I will admit at that point I was starting to feel touched out and getting closer to closing that chapter. A couple months after Josiah’s second birthday, we discovered we were having another baby. A couple more months later I gently weaned him. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated.

Three kids and almost 10 years later, all of the rest followed pretty much the same pattern giving me nine years of breastfeeding experience. My opinions on the matter have softened a bit after meeting all kinds of different moms and hearing their stories over the years, but I think in my heart I always hope every mother and baby have the chance to know its rich goodness.

The Catrows

I have a confession to make…

I didn’t really like nursing my son.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t like it at first. But it was touch and go there for a good long while.

When JR was born, nursing was a struggle. In fact, I believe the phrase “pencil sharpener” was used in describing my infant son’s mouth. He was also a huge baby (10 pounds, 2 1/2 ounces thankyouverymuch) with a huge appetite. Meanwhile, I was exhausted and in pain (22 hours of labor and a C-section will do that to you) and had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

And, guys, I prepared. I read all of the books I was supposed to read, had all of the conversations I was supposed to have, took all of the classes I was supposed to take, but yet I vividly remember when time came to put baby to breast, I uttered to myself “Here goes nothing.”

Despite the challenges of those first few days, with some support from the lactation consultant (and, yes, a little Similac), things got to be in working order fairly quickly.

Then they weren’t.

When JR was almost two weeks old, I got mastitis. I know there are legions of women involuntarily twitching and holding themselves at the mere mention of this word.

With the mastitis came fever, chills, and sweating, combined with redness and shooting pains in my boobage area. Plus, I had a newborn. “Hellish” is not an inaccurate description.

Fortunately, the infection was short-lived and I was back on my feet in about 48 hours. I’d like to say that things were smooth sailing from there, but I spent the majority of the next 7 1/2 months dealing with engorgement and plugged ducts (oh the plugged ducts, my constant, brain-meltingly painful companion). I was always asking myself (and everyone I knew who had ever nursed, who had boobs, or knew someone with boobs) if I should keep going. I didn’t oppose using formula at all, but I suppose my cheapskate nature made me keep at it, despite the discomfort and uncertainty.

But right around JR’s eighth month on this planet, it just became… easier. We had finally, finally found a rhythm and I got a glimpse of what all of those other mothers had been talking about. He was healthy and gloriously fat – and I put every ounce of that chub on him. Me! I finally got it. And I started to love it. Really, really love it.

Then, two months later, the stinker weaned himself.

And I, the woman who spent the first eight months of her son’s life slightly wincing whenever meal time came around, shed big, fat, ugly tears at the bittersweetness of it all.

Ok, now it’s your turn

Tell us about your experiences feeding your children. Did you breastfeed or bottle-feed? Maybe a little of both? What was it like for you?

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Patience Salgado

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. I’m not mommy, but my wife went through both extremes. Our first child refused to breastfeed. Even with a “lactation specialist” (we found out with our second that she was full of crap), he’d never latch, and thus began a solid year of pumping, formula (I hate that smell), bottles, and spoon feeding as soon as we could get there. Our second child latched on the very first time and consequently never took a bottle (OK, once or twice he did, but I swear he went from breast to sippy cup), and interestingly, he REFUSES to be spoon-fed. During the breastfeeding phase, he wore his mommy out…he’d pinch and bite, especially in the middle of the night, and for a long time wasn’t happy unless she was holding him.

  2. Justin on said:

    This is a serious, important matter and I will refrain entirely from making one hundred thousand jokes.

  3. I breastfed both my children and also bottle fed them – with breast milk. I have always had to work full-time so I did a lot of pumping. I had wonderful breastfeeding experiences with very few problems. I was sad when they self-weaned themselves around 20 months old or so. I could easily have become a wet nurse if I’d lived in a different time and had a different life. I loved it and I miss it a little bit. Those sessions were downtimes I looked forward to the most. I could put my feet up, read a book and let nature do all the work. There was nothing sweeter than holding a baby whose fallen asleep after being breastfed.

  4. Elizabeth on said:

    Wow, you’re opening a whole Pandora’s Box of trouble with this topic. Anyway, I nursed both kids for about 8 weeks each. I wished I would have nursed longer, but I knew that pumping at work would not work for me. Also, Baby #1 was colicky and I was about to have a nervous breakdown, so I stopped so that my husband could help out. That being said, both of my children are extraordinarily healthy and neither one are emotionally or physically scarred from being bottle-fed.

    I will say that I think it’s totally weird to nurse for more than a year. When your child is old enough to walk over and pull up your shirt, that’s just plain creepy.

    (waiting for the La Leche crazies to flame)

  5. Elizabeth on said:

    I would also like to add for all of those moms-to-be or new moms who are struggling with nursing, hiring a lactation specialist is the best money you will EVER spend if you are serious about nursing for any length of time. There are many excellent ones in the area. I saw one with both of my babies even though I only nursed a few months and it was money well spent.

  6. Kristi on said:

    My son was very frustrated by nursing — the nurses/docs guessed the flow was too slow for him. At one week, we learned his horrible diaper rash was likely caused by breast milk passing through his system too quickly and burning his sensitive skin. A 50/50 mix of breast milk and formula spared his skin, so I pumped for 5 months while working from home.

    My little girl latched on right away and with a few days of practice, we had no problems beyond the incredible soreness of the first 2 weeks. I just returned to work full time and we had a big challenge transitioning to a bottle (with breast milk), but she’s doing well now. I nurse her whenever I can and I just love that sweet smile as she falls asleep in my arms. I hope to keep up the nursing and pumping for several more months.

  7. True, Elizabeth, we knew it would open up a conversation. But we think it’s important for people to share their experiences. Breastfeeding was such an unknown to me and I wish I had been able to hear more about it from other women. Hopefully this will help get rid of some of the mystery of it for new moms and mothers-to-be.

    Kristi, thanks for sharing your experiences with both of your kids. I often hear that it’s easier the second time around. Is this true for most moms?

  8. Susan on said:

    I love(d) breastfeeding. It is so convenient and there are many benefits. I breastfed my first child for 14 months and am currently breastfeeding my daughter, who is 13 months (I hope to ween her soon). I work full time so I was able to pump in my office and at least once I day I could walk down the street and breastfeed them. Neither had anything other than breastmilk until 6 months.

    The frustrating part of my experience was the misinformation that is in some of the books. “If you latch properly, it won’t hurt”. BS. It hurts no matter what, at least for me. With my first child there was a few weeks in the beginning when I would wince every time he latched on. That passed and then it was easy going from there. The nurses at Henrico Hospital are excellent and really work with you. I didn’t mind the hands on demonstration and found them very useful. Many local pediatricians also have lactation specialists on board that will work with you.

  9. Susan, I SO agree with you about the latching on. I definitely used some Lamaze breathing while nursing those first few weeks. And I also had a great experience with the nurses at Henrico Doctors.

  10. charbatkin on said:

    I’ve exclusively breastfed all of my children, and found it to be one of the most rewarding aspects of parenting. But it helps so much if you have good support.

    La Leche League is a wonderful resource for nursing moms. LLL Leaders are available by phone and in person for FREE, to provide emotional support, technical information, and even physical assistance with latch and positioning – whatever. They provide support for *all* nursing mothers – new moms struggling to get started, expectant moms looking for information, working moms facing issues with pumping or coworkers, seasoned moms looking for camaraderie, moms looking to wean, moms looking to tandem nurse, even moms who *gasp* supplement with formula. They help celebrate the joys of nursing, and share in its challenges, not from some authority on high, but as fellow mothers. They can provide a wealth of information and resources- available even after hours – about thrush, plugged ducts, or mastitis; interfering relatives, ignorant doctors, unsure husbands. They even have access to more accurate information about medications and breastmilk than most doctors who are likely to prescribe to you.

    I think it is unfortunate that Elizabeth referred to ‘La Leche crazies’, because that leaves the impression that the organization is about activism and coercing mothers to conform.

    There are all sorts of militant breastfeeders and lactivists out in the world (and particularly on the internet), many of whom probably attend or have attended La Leche League meetings. However, the organization itself has a very focused purpose – to provide mother to mother breastfeeding support. Its leaders are all mothers who have undergone a thorough accreditation process, taking anywhere from 6 months to 3 years to complete.

    La Leche League’s philosophy is that only the mother knows what is best for her family, and the organization seeks to provide information and support so that she can confidently make the best decision for her.

    LLL Leaders represent the organization’s philosophy, not their own personal feelings. They are trained in both technical support and information, as well as interpersonal skills. So please, forgive me for being so particular, but “La Leche crazies” is such a mischaracterization of the organization, and potentially damaging to new mothers looking for resources for support.

  11. I decided that I wasn’t going to breastfeed and got all kinds of flack for it. I feel it should be a mother’s choice. People told me, oh your children will be more sick or they’ll get ear infections etc…, but it’s the opposite. My kids are less sick than many and my oldest daughter didn’t get her first ear infection till she was 4 and that’s the only one she’s ever had. The doc was amazed! So, it was the right choice for me and my kids and hasn’t affected any of us in any way. So if you’re pregnant and deciding, decide for yourself, don’t let people pressure you either way. Also, for all you pregnant and new moms, I’d also like to recommend that you read the free ebook at http://www.babydirect.com/t-pregnancybabyebook.aspx because it absolutely covers all of this and all of your other questions you could have.

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