This week, I’m devoting my blog posts to my breastfeeding journey. It’s not a path I ever thought I’d walk, but it turns out, it’s a route that I loved and traveled down several times. I’m hoping that my experiences and breastfeeding advice can help someone else learn to love it too.
When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I was asked several times if I was planning to breastfeed my baby. I was so worried about just taking care of the baby, there was no way I could comprehend learning the mechanics behind breastfeeding too.
I really had no idea about breastfeeding. My mom didn’t do it. I hadn’t grown up knowing many who had. I was the first of most of my friends to have babies, so I didn’t have built in resources. I did a little research and decided that maybe I would give it a try. Our hospital offered a class, so we decided to take it, but I still had no idea how this would all actually work.
The books made it out to be so easy. The baby would be placed on my belly shortly after she was born and she would move her way up and instinctively start nursing. It would be great and I’d gaze at her lovingly while my body magically morphed back into shape and my husband gently stroked my hair.
Um, that’s a great picture, but it does no happen that way. Breastfeeding is hard.
Once our baby was born, we were in our room alone with the nurse and I finally asked if it would be okay if I tried breastfeeding her. I literally asked permission to feed my own child. I had no idea what to do or how to do it. And things were a struggle. None of it was like the book.
Despite the fact that I had an epidural, I still felt most of her birth. As it turns out, epidurals don’t work well for me so I was able to experience every inch of birth. And for the first few days of breastfeeding, flashbacks of those contractions and the pain came back with every suck.
That’s because the baby sucking actually helps the uterus to contract back down to size. But, contract…yes, it’s the same thing as labor and yes, it hurts.
Of course, there is the pain that comes along with the nursing. The bleeding and cracking and the pain from engorgement and plugged ducts. It’s not quite the peaceful process the books make it out to be, especially at the beginning.
Not every baby jumps right in.
All three of our daughters had some sucking issue at birth. The first liked to suck her own tongue, but nothing else. The second was better, but she was a sleepy girl and was often too tired to suck. Our third, the premie, was just too young. She had a hard time getting it all together.
It can be very frustrating, but it’s not your fault.
Consider that the baby is just a few hours old. You just met face-to-face and you need some time to get to know each other and learn to work together to get this feeding thing down. Try different positions, move the baby around until they seem comfortable and you are relaxed. My first baby hated the Boppy. I had to use pillows with her. It was all trial and error, but you’ll get there.
There is help.
I wasn’t clicking with my first baby. I saw lactation consultants in the hospital, nurses tried to help, they even had me tune to a channel on the TV for more tips and tricks to try and make the process better. I was determined but I lacked any confidence. I figured that once I was out of the spotlight of the nurses, once the visitors had come and done, once I was in my own house–everything would just click and I’d be able to successfully nurse my baby and nourish her myself.
That didn’t happen.
Our first night home, I took her into our room, turned on the TV and decided I would sit there until it worked. She screamed and cried. I did too. My husband came in and said something I will never forget. He said he admired my dedication. She appeared to hate me for trying to make her eat and I didn’t want this brand new baby to be scarred by my attempt to keep her alive. But I kept trying.
When, two days later, we just weren’t getting anywhere, my husband suggested we call the hospital and meet with a lactation consultant. Totally worth it. She worked with me one-on-one for about an hour. She showed me different holds, looked at my latch, analyzed the process and really helped us establish the missing connection.
Then, she referred me to the La Lecha League and other breastfeeding support groups to help me get through the potentially rough weeks ahead.
Pumping is part of the deal.
I had no idea how a pump went together and I was horrified the first time I used it, but it’s just part of the deal if you plan to be away from your child for any length of time while nursing. It’s not fun. It’s work to clean it. It can hurt. But it’s necessary. There is no other way to stock milk or keep up your supply if you aren’t able to feed on demand. Plus, if you plan to go back to work, your baby has got to try to take the milk in a bottle or you could really have a rough transition to childcare.
So what else is there to write about when it comes to breastfeeding? Plenty. I’m looking forward to sharing with you how I made my own nursing cover, my favorite ways to cover up, traveling and pumping, nursing clothing, storing milk and ways to keep up a healthy supply.
I never thought I’d breastfeed my children, but I did. And now I hope my advice can help someone else succeed at it too.
Check out my other breastfeeding articles:
Breastfeeding Series: Nursing is hard, here’s my story
Breastfeeding Series: DIY Nursing Cover
Breastfeeding Series: Clothes for Bresatfeeding
Breastfeeding Series: Developing a Good Breastfeeding Now