I haven’t written about breastfeeding at all, despite it being something that I’ve been doing multiple times a day for over a year now. To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), I thought that I’d share my experience/journey and provide some links to other women’s experiences, as well as some great breastfeeding references.
I reference breastfeeding as a journey because it’s definitely something that, for me, has evolved over time. Before I even got pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my children. The list of benefits is long and I was acutely aware of them. My hurdle? I had only known three women who breastfed, and could count on one hand the number of times I had seen a woman breastfeed a child. The fact that I hadn’t been exposed to breastfeeding helped to create a sense of fear about it. What if I wasn’t able to do it? I had heard so many stories about how difficult breastfeeding was, and known women who had been unable to do it or gave up. When the time for me to try came, it went a little something like this…
Due to the shape of my uterus, Declan was in the breech position from 5 months on, and despite numerous attempts to turn him, I ended-up having a scheduled c-section. I had planned on an out-of-hospital birth at my midwives’ birth center, but it just wasn’t to be. In terms of breastfeeding, my list of worries was long because of this c-section (my advice is not to read anything about c-sections and breastfeeding): I would be separated from my baby from the moment of his birth, c-section babies are often lethargic and not wanting to nurse, I would pass the drugs from my spinal tap onto my newborn baby…and so on, and so forth.
The reality is that my midwife, who assisted in my surgery, was my advocate. Yes, I was separated from Declan for 10-15 minutes after his birth (he had trouble keep his body temperature up), but, unsurprisingly (D has a big appetite) he came out of the womb rooting. The nurses had to assure him that he would be at the breast soon! The warming station was brought into my recovery room (thanks to my midwife) and my midwife walked me through getting Declan latched onto my breast for the first time. It was such a strange feeling! I was elated to see my baby, and couldn’t stop looking at him, marveling in the fact that this was the little soccer player that had been inside of my for so long. The week to come would prove to be the toughest.
While in the hospital, I absolutely struggled with nursing – getting the right position, getting Declan latched on…and staying latched. I remember calling for help in tears one night at 11pm. A lactation consultant came in and helped me – what a relief (for both Declan & myself)! I struggled getting D latched without help. The nurses constantly checking on how often and how long I was nursing D was absolutely stressful. To top it off, Declan was born with a particularly bad case of jaundice.
|My orange little boy – his diaper cover matches his skin tone!|
I left the hospital worried and stressed – Declan had lost 1 lb. in the 3 days since he was born (we were told that there was a discrepancy in the scales, but that his weight loss was still worrisome, especially with his jaundice). One of the ways get rid of jaundice is to flush it from a baby’s system through increased feedings (and subsequent bowel movements). I was stressed that I was having difficulty nursing, was incredibly afraid that I would be told to supplement with formula; all of this put an ever increasing weight on my shoulders. Thank goodness for our pediatrician’s office.
Declan had his first checkup, and we were told that the office had a lactation consultant (LC) available for consultations. I shrugged it off, assuming that I would get the hang of it in a day or so (at this point, Declan was 4 days old) and went home. Well, D’s biliruben numbers were not getting better, we were having to drive to the hospital each day to get blood drawn, and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because I still hadn’t gotten the hang of things. After an especially trying 30 minute bout of attempting to get D latched, my incredibly supportive husband suggested we call and schedule an appointment with the LC at our pediatrician’s office. We got in and I had 2 appointments in that first week of D’s life. What a lifesaver! The LC was actually the doctor’s (who owned the practice) wife, a Nurse Practicioner with a slew of pediatric credentials, and she was incredibly supportive — she saved my breastfeeding relationship! By our second appointment, I felt more confident and my LC really encouraged me by applauding my efforts and touting D’s weight gain.
|Plucked chicken on the left, plumper babe on the right|
I still struggled, but not as much. Thank goodness for my husband! He helped me when I was on the verge of quitting, those sample cans of formula looking all too appealing. There were times when my husband literally took my breast in his hand and latched D on because I would get so frustrated and start crying. I can not stress enough how important support is to your breastfeeding journey!
Around the time Declan was 3 weeks old, we had gotten the hang of breastfeeding…and I had gotten my first milk bleb, on top of my already sore nipples. My latch has always been off on my right side (and still is), even after trying to correct it, so I’ve gotten milk blisters on multiple occasions. Milk blisters are probably the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced (imagine someone taking a knife and repeatedly stabbing through your nipple & into your breast), and nursing through them has been excruciating. I’ve taken a sterilized pin to puncture them (it doesn’t tickle), nursed on all fours over Declan, massaged through the pain in a hot shower – whatever it took. I would not, and have not, let milk blebs or clogged ducts derail me from my nursing journey. The reality is that the best way to clear them up is to nurse them out. It happens, but please don’t let it stop you.
I could go on forever, but the best thing for me to do is to divide my journey into separate posts, as there are hurdles (and successes!) at different ages and stages. My advice for those early days is as follows:
- Line up your support before your baby arrives. Your husband doesn’t have to be on board (but it’s super great if he is), but make sure that you have a girlfriend, sister, mother, etc. that you can call if & when the going gets tough.
- Locate a Lactation Consultant in your area and have that number ready and available. If you’re having a hospital birth, use the LC while you’re there as much as you possibly can (I was too embarrassed to continue to call for one and I regret it).
- While I never used one, have the number(s) for local breastfeeding support groups or your local La Leche League chapter. This is especially great if you have absolutely no support around you.
- Don’t ever hesitate to reach out — so many women have been where you are. Breastfeeding is difficult at first, but it’s likely one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
Kellymom.com was recommended to me by a breastfeeding girlfriend of mine, and has proven to be an invaluable resource throughout my journey, from those early days to getting pregnant while nursing. If I ever have a breastfeeding question, I find my answer there!
Breastfeedingplace.com is another great resource you can consult, with a lot of different moms sharing their tips and experience.
One of my earliest resources? The Leaky Boob. I love her blog and Facebook page – amazing anecdotes and real people asking questions and getting responses from other nursing moms.
I love hearing other women’s experiences with breastfeeding, especially when they keep it real (because those early days are not all rainbows and kittens). Here are some breastfeeding posts from other bloggers:
Life as a Wife, Mummy, Nurse – it’s not always fun, but having a supportive husband helps
The Inquisitive Mom – overcoming early breastfeeding hurdles with the help of a friend
Simply Me Plus 3 – normalizing breastfeeding and correcting misconceptions
Spit Up Is The New Black – early breastfeeding hurdles & having a supportive partner
Sew Fatty – “…breastfeeding does get easier”