Breastfeeding is really tough and it’s not for everyone. We have all heard “breast is best” but I really think that we should just acknowledge that “fed is best.” If you are having a baby or have had one, you most likely know the benefits of breastfeeding. You don’t need me to preach at you. What you need is support. If you are choosing to breastfeed, great! If you are choosing to formula feed (no matter what your reason), that’s great too! I am so glad that you have chosen to feed your baby in a way that supports their growth and is what works best for your family.
I chose to breastfeed for many reasons. Besides the generic “breast is best” list of benefits for a baby, I chose this method of feeding because it’s free and natural. I had decided before being pregnant to switch to more natural products and a greener way of life. What is more natural than feeding my baby what my body produced for her? The top reason though, is definitely money. Formula is expensive. If I was going to be a stay-at-home mom then I wanted to do whatever I could to save us money. If I needed to use formulae, I knew there were ways to save money on formula, but free is the biggest money saver.
I went into breastfeeding with loads of knowledge from Pinterest, books, and the hospital’s breastfeeding class. I had no idea if I would be able to breastfeed and I was terrified that I would be unable to do it and would have to breakdown and formula feed. After R was born, I did skin-to-skin. I had read and watched videos of the breast crawl, where the newborn crawls to the breast and suckles. I wanted that experience so bad. I waited and R actually did start to wiggle her way toward my breast. After a few minutes, I felt bad for making her do all this work to get her first meal so I scooted her closer to my breast and then let her finish working her way over. I heard that babies who latch themselves the first time do an excellent job of latching. I don’t know if that’s true or not but she latched and after a few moments of sucking I heard the sweet sound of the soft “ka” as she swallowed her first taste of colostrum.
And that’s about where the beauty of breastfeeding ended while I was in the hospital. R hated being in the hospital. She was non-stop screaming her head off and throwing a fit. This often lead to a nurse (or two) coming in to “show me” how to properly feed my baby. The nurse would come in, grab R, pinch my boob and shove it in her face. After a while, a nurse decided I should probably try to pump and feed R that way.
Beginning breastfeeding is not fun. Your nipples hurt. I was lucky enough to avoid cracking and bleeding by putting coconut oil on my nipples after every feed. My biggest problem arose when they had me pump at the hospital. The pump flanges were the wrong size (I discovered this after I went home and measured my nipples using the information on the Medela website). The pump was such a terrible latch on my nipple that it actually gave me a blood blister (sometimes referred to as a milk blister). Despite the pain I continued to latch R on for her feeds. I was bound and determined to make this work.
When I went home from the hospital, R was less cranky but breastfeeding was still a roller coaster ride of emotions. My poor husband heard the same routine of “I don’t think this is right,” “I’m going to go visit the lactation consultant,” and finally “she’s latched!” There were a lot of tears and a lot of watching and rewatching of latching videos on YouTube.
When I went back to the hospital with postpartum preeclampsia, I met the lactation consultant and she helped me heal my nipples during the time I was pumping and dumping. She was amazed that my nipples healed so quickly. She had me use lanolin before each pumping session (it acted as a lubricant while pumping) and I wore Lansinoh’s soothies gel pads in my bra (with no lanolin). She told me I could wear the pads as long as I wanted even though they are “one time use.” I actually ended up using the same pads for the first two months of breastfeeding.
The day after my pump and dump marathon, my milk started to change over. I really expected it to be an instant change but it was more like a slow, gradual change. It took about a week for my milk to fully change over.
While at home I wore only a sports bra, a robe, & pj pants. R and I did skin-to-skin more often than not and the dairy was always open for business. If she was giving hunger cues it was easy for me to give her free access to the milk machines without a top on.
When we were out and about, I found it easier to wear tops that pulled down than to juggle holding my top up and latching a baby. I always used a cover, not because I was worried about others but just because I am a fairly modest person and prefer to be covered. I have yet to have anyone make any comments to me about feeding in public and if anyone has given me nasty looks I didn’t notice.
My pediatrician told me that while many people advocate for letting a baby nurse as long as they want, it would really only take 15-20 minutes for R to get all she needed from a nursing session. I decided to let R nurse for about 20 minutes and then unlatch her. I loved seeing her milky face which told me she was actually getting milk. I knew she was getting enough thanks to all the wet and dirty diapers I was changing (and washing since I cloth diaper)!
Nursing always made me super hungry in the early days. I was easily putting away 2,000+ calories a day to keep up with my hunger. I kept snacks in the diaper bag, beside my bed, and all over the house. I was also drinking a ton of water. I tried my best to remember that what I was feeding myself, was also going to help feed my baby.
The one thing that helped me through the early days of nursing is counting each day as a victory. At the end of everyday I’d congratulate myself for another day of getting through breastfeeding. Days became weeks and weeks became months. I am so glad that I still am able to breastfeed R. We have been at this for over nine months now and I am hopeful that we will meet my goal of at least twelve months!
Did you breastfeed? What were your experiences? If you’re planning to breastfeed, what are your fears? Let me know in the comments or by contacting me!