Before I begin this article I want to make it clear that is was my journey with breastfeeding. Your story either is or will be different than mine. Breastfeeding may have just clicked for you. Maybe you tried breastfeeding and it didn’t work out. Maybe breastfeeding weirds you out and gives you anxiety. That’s all ok! We are all different women who have had different experiences that have led us to think/act in a certain way. That doesn’t mean our actions are always perfect but we are all doing our best! You do what works for your family and feel confident in the fact that your child is being fed (whether by a bottle or a breast or both)! Let’s try not to be hating if a mom is doing something differently than the way we do it. Ok?
My Breastfeeding Story
I grew up knowing I wanted to breastfeed. My mom always spoke about breastfeeding in the most positive of terms, highlighting the many benefits of breast milk. While I was pregnant with Ariana, I was filled with confident anticipation about breastfeeding. I had been around it since I was little and it always looked so effortless – I was sure I’d be an old pro!
The big day arrived. I breathed (I didn’t even need to push) my beautiful baby out of me and they brought her towards my arms and laid her on my chest. It was the most joyful, beautiful moment. Staring up at my darling husband while holding our little angel.
She was so warm and her smell was somehow familiar. I felt such a high of happiness and accomplishment! A few minutes after she was born she began moving her head looking for something and smacking her lips (oh yeah, that’s the cue) so I held her near my breast, waited till she opened her tiny mouth, brought her to my nipple, and she began to suck.
I was surprised that although I’ve grown up around women breastfeeding, getting her into the right position was a bit of a challenge (holding a newborn can be harder than it looks). She unlatched after a few minutes and then we just held and cuddled her.
After that first feeding she started squawking whenever she fed. We actually called it her pterodactyl (umm… who decided how to spell that word?) cry. Ha ha. She would just screech and cry and pull away as I tried to feed her. She would get so worked up!
As each nurse came in, we asked them to watch and give us advice. Each of them said, “you’re doing great, it just takes time.” We believed them, I mean they’re nurses so they know about breastfeeding right? She must just squawk, we thought.
We got home from the hospital. I was feeding her every two hours but she was furious every time I tried and it felt like she was just fighting it. “It will just take time”, I kept repeating to myself. It was hardest at night! I was amazed by how exhausted I felt getting up to nurse during the night. It was overwhelming and I felt emotional; I hadn’t anticipated breastfeeding being so difficult.
People had said it would be an adjustment but somehow I thought because I had wanted motherhood for such a long time it wouldn’t be as hard for me. Haha, that’s not how it works. Sleep is sleep and going without it does a number on anyone.
Home from the hospital
A day or so after we got back from the hospital we noticed that Ariana had been having fewer and fewer bowel movements. We began to get worried and we called her pediatrician to make an appointment. When we took her to the pediatrician, they weighed her, and she had lost more than was normal since leaving the hospital.
The pediatrician told us her latch was poor and she was burning so many calories trying to feed (with all her crying and moving) and getting almost no food. He said he wanted me to bottlefeed for the whole weekend to make sure she got enough food. I felt so heartbroken and defeated. I had only been a mom for three days and already I was failing at the one thing I was certain I was going to nail. I was starving my baby?! I felt so terrible (like sooo many tears)!!! We asked if we could give her pumped breast milk and he gave us the ok.
Neal rushed and got me a pump (which our insurance covered, thank heaven) and I went to town! I pumped religiously, I was determined I wouldn’t let my baby go hungry or let my supply go down. Every two hours during the day and every three hours at night I got up and pumped.
Neal and I were so worried about nipple confusion (where baby begins to prefer the ease of drinking from a bottle rather than the breast) so we alternated ways of feeding her. We would use a syringe, or a spoon, or squirt it into her mouth. Each way would take FOREVER and she would get frustrated sometimes (which is what we were trying to avoid). After a day and a half, Neal ran to the store and bought a bottle that supposedly mimics a nipple and tried it with her. We were desperate to keep her calm! It was well designed and she did great using it. She peacefully drank away.
I had been searching for a lactation consultant the whole weekend, but since no one works on the weekend I was left to search YouTube videos. I watched everything I could find about getting a good latch and anything else breast-feeding related. In my search I found this amazing video put out by the global health organization about securing a good latch. This is by far the best thing I have found to help with breastfeeding as far as the latch goes. However, I will give a warning about this video – every woman they show as an example has very large breasts and I feel like if you are not as heavily endowed in the tatas category you might feel a little discouraged. If you’re worried about that, talk with a lactation consultant!!! Here is the link to the video.
Go and watch it! It is super informative and well done!
After finding this video I decided to try breastfeeding her again because I felt more capable of helping her. As I brought her to my breast to try again she opened her mouth much wider than she had before and latched on! I didn’t really do anything she just opened wider on her own. I think the bottle helped that click for her (open wide = get food). That was a huge blessing!!!
After that, I started breastfeeding exclusively. And she did much better!! She was having consistently wet diapers, she began gaining weight, she wasn’t fussy while she fed. It was just wonderful! I felt so thankful that I was able to breastfeed her.
She eats and I hurt!
… then the pain began. Most people say pain is a sign of a bad latch. The thing is I had zero pain the first few days, when her latch was horrible. After we fixed her latch though my nipples began to hurt like the dickens!!! I was using lanolin cream all the time, putting my own milk on the raw areas (which is supposed to heal it), and trying every natural remedy I could find. But oooohee, it was still so painful. It felt like I had a really bad sunburn and someone was rubbing a rough washcloth over it. That was really rough. It felt like it was going to last forever (even though logically I knew it wouldn’t) and that was just kind of overwhelming. Each time as she latched on I would try to breathe through the pain and not tense up. Neal wanted to be more helpful and I wanted that too but there is only so much men can do when it comes to helping with breastfeeding. It can be a lonely journey sometimes.
After about two weeks the pain started to go away (hallelujah)!
The bright side of breastfeeding.
This is the point where nursing became good for the most part. There are little things that continued to remain hmm, what’s a good word for it? Undesirable maybe. It took her almost 40 minutes to nurse every time. She was waking up every two hours at night to feed (which I think was my fault, I got her into the habit). That stuff was all tough and although it felt daunting at times, it wasn’t too much.
I would say things started to get “easy” between four and five months. I had figured out how to maneuver a nursing cover in public, she was feeding a lot faster (about 15 minute feedings), I could nurse while lying on my side for night feedings (this one’s a game changer), and I had a built-in instant soothing machine to calm my child (amazing). Nursing became wonderful. Up until then, I had wanted the benefits of breastfeeding for Ariana but I felt a bit overwhelmed by how time consuming it was. At this point it was the best option in the world!
It was so convenient that all I needed to leave the house was a nursing cover, a diaper, and me. This was a lifesaver at Disneyland when she was six months!!! I became pro at nursing in ride lines! I didn’t have to prepare that much and I really loved the freedom that it provided!!
Ariana has had a very healthy first year! I attribute that to breastfeeding and us not letting other kids get too close to her. Haha, but really though.
It has also been super nice to be able to comfort her whenever she needs. You got a nasty bonk? Just nurse it better! Need to get poked at the doctor’s office? Just nurse while they poke! That has been a balm when my mama heart is hurting for her.
Now I am still feeding Ariana twice a day (morning and right before bed), and I plan to continue for the next few months because the health benefits are just incredible (here is a great article listing some of the benefits) and I love having the time to be more present with her. So that’s where I am so far. It was pretty hard in the beginning but I feel that a lot of what was difficult was the lack of preparation/education. For me it didn’t feel like too much so I kept on going and it has been wonderful!!
My tips for breastfeeding.
If I could go back in time I would have changed some things. I definitely still would have breastfed her but here are some tips I would have given myself about breastfeeding.
- Let Dad take a night feeding! I had a bit of Mom guilt about exclusively breastfeeding Ariana. If I could go back I’d tell myself to wait until breastfeeding was solidly established and then pump a bit of milk each day so Daddy could take the first night feeding or so we could go on a date for longer than an hour and a half.
- Take that breastfeeding class! I had seen so many women nurse growing up and I had heard so much about it and read so much about it that I thought a breastfeeding class would be waste of money. Oh how I regret that! There is such a difference between watching something complex and being taught how to do something complex (watching the Great British Bake Off doesn’t mean I can make a perfect puff pastry). I would have known how important latch was and how to hold her while she nursed. Instead we had to go through some tough stuff to get that all figured out.
- Professionals know more than me. I wish I would have called a lactation consultant before Ariana was born to meet with when we got home or while we were at the hospital. These women know everything about breastfeeding and what a missed opportunity – I could’ve had one on one help! I could’ve asked about latch or sore nipples. If you really want to nurse your baby, I would highly encourage you to take a class and see a lactation consultant!
- Make comfort a priority! You are going to spend a lot of time feeding your baby (whether you nurse or bottle feed) and if you don’t have a comfy sanctuary to do that in, you might go a little nuts. Neal wanted to get me a glider when Ariana was born but I convinced him it was a luxury not a necessity. Because I didn’t have a spot where I nursed Ariana I frequently didn’t have what I needed when I needed it because things were scattered all throughout the house. I did have a good nursing pillow, which was a lifesave. Neal kept pestering me about getting a glider and finally I said yes. When I sat in that chair I thought, “why the crap didn’t I say yes to one of these sooner?!” It was life changing and I’m not exaggerating!
- Mama needs to eat too!!! Now I am a big believer in nutrition and healthy foods. I think it is so important to put the right things in your body but there are two times when I think it’s ok to give yourself the green light to eat whatever without feeling guilty: 1. during a nauseous first trimester 2. after having a baby. Why? Because survival trumps nutrition in those moments (obviously within reason). I would recommend buying healthier prepackaged foods because you need to eat Mama. And if you’re nursing, you need to be eating more because your body is using energy to make your breastmilk! Buy whatever you need that will make eating convenient for you! Granola Bars, Cereal (I survived off of Cereal), microwave dinners, whatever will get food in your body. I could have done a lot better at making sure I got food when Neal wasn’t around. Your baby is ok to wait three minutes, I promise. Also get disposable everything! Paper plates, plasticware, paper napkins = no dishes!
Breastfeeding has been a really positive thing for our family and I’m so happy that I stuck with it. If it hasn’t or doesn’t work out for you, be confident in the fact that your are still feeding your child! Keep on keepin’ on you beautiful Mamas and be confident in the the choices that work best for your family!
Aubrea (the Noob)
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