I always knew when I had a child I wanted to breastfeed. It was something I felt strongly about. Silly naive me, I thought,
Breastfeeding is easy. Just pull the titty out, pop it in baby’s mouth. Simple as that!
I knew there would be a little pain as your nipples “toughened up” but I had no idea how complicated and trying breastfeeding actually is.
I recently gave birth. As mentioned, I wanted to breastfeed. While in the hospital my baby developed jaundice. For anyone who doesn’t know, jaundice in laymen’s terms is a condition where babies do not expel their fetal red blood cells fast enough through urination and bowel movements causing these fetal blood cells to build up in the baby. This buildup causes yellowing of the skin and eyes. If the buildup becomes too much it can affect baby’s brain and other organs. To treat jaundice baby must eat often so that they can poop and pee out the fetal blood cells and make room for their developing newborn blood cells.
Due to the jaundice, the hospital wanted me to not only feed baby directly from my breast, they also wanted me to pump right after each feeding to supplement the amount of food baby was getting in an effort to increase baby’s pee’s and poops. I thought nothing of it. How hard can it be?
My milk supply was never an issue. Because I was pumping on top of directly breast feeding, my mature milk came in before I left the hospital. My issues started with latching. I conferred with numerous lactation consultants during my hospital stay who all told me that baby’s latch was good and the pain I felt would subside in a few weeks once my nipples “toughened up”. I was in so much pain that I had to have my husband bite my shoulder whenever baby was about to latch to distract me from the excruciating pain I was about to feel. My nipples cracked and bled so bad that they scabbed over. They literally looked like two open wounds. However, I kept breastfeeding. Why? Because it was something I decided I wanted to do no matter what.
Fast forward, our pediatricians office has an in-house lactation department that likes to see new moms within 3 days of being discharged from the hospital. It was at this appointment I learned what I was experiencing was not at all normal. As soon as I unhooked my bra to show the state of my breast both the lactation consultant and doctor’s face turned up in horror!
Dr: Are you okay? You’ve been feeding baby through this?!
Dr. Stop! Now!
The doctor instructed me to continue pumping but to take a break from directly breast feeding for a few days until my nipples returned to normal. She prescribed me ointment to help with recovery (that I am still using to this day). Also while at the appointment, the lactation consultant wanted to observe baby’s latch. So I mustered up enough strength to let baby latch on the side that was in lesser distress. She watched and gave pointers on the things that needed correcting. Thank God for that doctor and lactation consultant!
After getting the ointment and pointers, I thought I was all good. WRONG! Latching continued to be a problem. Whenever baby and I would have a bad latching day, my nipples would be pink, irritated, and inflamed to the point that I would have to take a 24-48 hour break from nursing and exclusively pump. This is something I still struggle with. Recently I got so frustrated because I felt as though baby and I were taking steps backwards. My breast were not in as bad of shape as they were previously, but they were extremely raw, sensitive, and starting to crack again. I wanted to quit!
Along with latching issues, when we first came home I was not producing enough milk. Yes my mature milk had come in but I was not making enough to satisfy baby, which was devastating. I wanted to breastfeed and breastfeed only. I did not want to use formula. I struggled to accept the fact that my baby was hungry and I could not satisfy her. I felt like I was failing her. Until one day I looked into her eyes and realized that as a parent, I have to put aside my feelings and desires of what I want to do and do what’s best for her. After that, I was able to give my baby formula and not feel bad or guilty about it.
Through all of this my mom was a God send. She brought me fruit and water damn near everyday for the first few weeks I was home. She would bring me huge bottles of water. I’m talking 50 fluid ounce bottles! I was probably consuming 100 ounces or more of water per day. I noticed that the more water I drank the more milk I produced. I got to the point where I was pumping way more milk than baby took at one feeding. I was over the moon!
Here we are a few weeks later and I’ve noticed that my milk supply has dropped. I am admittedly drinking way less water these days (which I’m working on). I’ve also purchased some Mother’s Milk tea in hopes that it will help increase my supply.
Breastfeeding has not been all doom and gloom. It has some high points. Breastfeeding creates this indescribable bond between you and your baby. It’s more than just nourishment. For the 15-45 minutes that your child is nursing, they are studying your face, learning your smell, your touch, the feel of your skin. They learn your energy, your ora. It’s really amazing. Breastfeeding is also supposed to help you lose weight faster (although I can’t testify to that fact). Breastfeeding has also thrown all of my fucks out the window. I don’t care where I am, who may say see, or who I may be making uncomfortable. If my child is hungry, guess what, she’s going to get fed. Any time, any place, any where!
Breastfeeding has been a truly trying journey. It is not for the faint of heart. It comes easy for some and not so easy for others. It is something you need to think long and hard about. If I could offer any advice, it would be to make a decision one way or the other prior to giving birth. Even if you choose to formula feed, do your research. The sooner you decide, the sooner you can start preparing. The more prepared you are, the more steadfast you will be with your decision when someone tries to sway you (which I guarantee you will inevitably happen).
I am still on this breastfeeding rollercoaster ride. There are still times that I want to quit. But I look at my baby and talk to my husband, and I remember all the reasons I chose to breastfeed. My road has been rocky, but I would not change it. I’ve learned a lot!
I hope sharing my experience helps you or someone you know stay encouraged. If you are struggling with breastfeeding, you are not alone. It is HARD! But it’s also so rewarding.