Nursing. I think out of all the parenting decisions we make for our infant, this is one of the most important. And of course that means there is a ton of online information to go through. I myself knew I wanted to nurse because allergies run on my husband's side of the family, and I wanted to give my little man the best chance I could at being healthy. So I researched. And I researched. And I researched. And you know what I found? Well, first that there are a ton of very opinionated (and often uneducated) blogs that pop up on Google that throw tons of statistics at you. "Breastfeed 6 month and your baby has X% less a chance of having food allergies." "Breastfeed 1 year and your baby has X% less a chance of having respiratory infections." "Breastfeed 2 years and your baby has X% less a chance of having Type 1 Diabetes!" But the statistics on different websites were all different. Another fun fact: when formula first came out, it was all the rage, and nursing became taboo, something only poor people did. Don't believe me? Ask your mom.
I'm not going to throw any statistics at you, because the end conclusion is the same. If you can breastfeed, do, because it is the best existing source of nutrition for your baby, can help you to lose some of those extra baby pounds, and will save you some substantial cash on formula. But if you want more health info, please don't read blogs. Go to the American Association of Pediatrics and do your research from an accredited source!
I've heard many women say that they weren't cut out for breastfeeding, just didn't have what it takes, etc. I never understood this because, well, what did women do before formula? Maybe they gave them cow's milk, I'm not sure. I'm not judging, and I don't have the answers. What I can tell you that for the first 2-3 weeks, it's hard. Very hard. And even after it becomes routine, there's always cluster feeding to deal with, and then you will feel like you are chained to your baby because you're the only person who can feed him. So what can you do? I'll tell you what I did, I hope it helps you.
Since my baby was in NICU and I was in the hospital for a week after having little man, we had both unique difficulties and unique opportunities to take advantage of. I had to have C-section because Little Man was what they called "Sunny Side-up", or facing forward. And since he was in NICU, I couldn't nurse him for a few days. So by the time they let me try, he was used to a bottle, and just did not want to nurse. It was unbelievable frustrating. I was sore from trying, and since we were still required to supplement him with formula, he didn't try very hard to latch because he got the bottle in the end anyway.
The lactation department at the hospital tried to help with a Medela nipple shield. It's like a bottle nipple that you put over your own to help the baby transition. The combination of that and lanolin helped, but it was kind of hard to use. You have to hold it on and it's constantly falling off... but it did help both with Little Man's latching and my soreness. That seems to be one of the main reasons women stop nursing, and for about $5, I would definetely recommend you try it before you give up.
Holding the baby in a position he likes also helps. One of the nurses helped me with this. If your little one isn't happy in a cradle hold, try a football hold. Once he learns to latch, you could hold him upside-down for all he cares and he could still find your nipple. My husband laughs sometimes because if Little Man is really hungry and I'm holding him, he'll flail around until he finds a breast and try to nurse right through my shirt, often in public. It's pretty comical. He's even given me bruises on my arms from trying to suck on them if he can't get to a breast. Impatient little guy!
An electric pump helps too. If you just can't breastfeed, consider pumping and bottle feeding him your milk. The number of hours Little Man sleeps at night seems to be directly proportional to how much he drinks before he goes to sleep. So often I will feed him a bottle of pumped milk at night, and pump another bottle once he goes to sleep, so I can control how much he has before drifting off. Since I'm completely draining myself at night, it seems to help increase my supply as well.
But I found that going out in public was impossible, because while I could bring a bottle, I would still have to pump every few hours or I would be in quite a bit of pain. And the electric pump is pretty cumbersome. So I got an inexpensive, small manual pump. It's great for travel too. It comes with 2 small storage bottles, a stand (which I never use), a size small guard, and a nipple. I don't like the nipple, Little Man collapses it. So I just use the storage containers. I keep it in the diaper bag so I have it wherever I go.
Nursing clothing is another real issue. Nursing bras are expensive, and not all of them are practical. There are side-sling and full-sling, one is just a strap and one is a hole in front, different websites seem to confuse them, I just know that the strap is best because it doesn't compress your milk ducts. And absolutely NO underwire! I don't even know why them make them with underwire, but they do, so beware! They cause mastitis. That being said, the Bravado body silk is the best one I've found. It's pricey, but my hospital lactation department had them for a better price than I found online. And I found a really smart idea for super-easy DIY nursing tanks. Me, I'm out on maternity leave, and even after my milk came in, I'm still only a C-cup, so I opt to wear just a bra-top cami sans bra. I bought a couple from my local maternity store, and not only were they expensive, but they fit weird. I thought, if only I could just buy the little clips, I could hand-sew them on! Well, here they are, and for only $0.95 each, what a deal! Even I can manage this tiny amount of hand-sewing.
Now for the controversial issue: public nursing. My opinion is that of course it's perfectly acceptable and most teenage girls show off more skin in public than a nursing woman, but in practice, well, I just never see anyone else doing it, and I'm so afraid of flashing someone, so it makes me uncomfortable. I've got a Moby, but I'm not very good with it yet. Once I am maybe it will be easier. Until then, I go to my car or a public bathroom. However, if anyone ever said something to another woman doing it in plain sight, I'd be the first to come to her defense! I'm such a wuss.
I think the only issue I haven't covered it nursing after you go back to work. I plan to nurse for 12 months. I'm going to pump at work. At least, that's the plan. We'll see how it goes when the time comes. Until then, I'll just enjoy my time with Little Man!