Breastfeeding was something I was very passionate about before and during my pregnancy. There was no doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed my baby. I remember envisioning him just being born and laid on my bare chest and he would nudge his way down and latch right on. Boy was I quickly slapped back to reality. Well, my reality. I know every woman’s journey is different. So here’s mine.
My son was two weeks early, born on a Friday evening in late May last year. He was beautiful. A full head of thick, silky black hair, and the most perfectly pouty lips. We immediately did skin to skin contact and after some time I tried to nurse. Tried being the operative word here. He wasn’t latching properly, but we stuck with it. I pumped what I could, when I could. I remember spoon feeding him droplets of colostrum desperately hoping my milk would come soon.
We’re very fortunate that the birth center we have in our community does a great job with breastfeeding assistance. Numerous lactaction nurses came to help me during our stay. It was determined that my son had a minor tongue tie that was preventing him from properly latching. My milk still hadn’t come in, so we were supplementing with formula provided by the hospital. I remember thinking that I had failed. That this would inevitably end my breastfeeding hopes.
When we left the hospital we were still spoon/cup feeding with whatever I could pump and then supplementing with formula if need be. During our first doctors appointment, the tongue tie was corrected (and I was traumatized at having to hold down my son’s little legs while he wailed during the 15 second procedure). I went back every week to the breastfeeding group and got guidance and reassurance at weigh-ins.
Something I learned very quickly in the hospital was to be open and responsive to help. Don’t be shy because your boob is out and it’s being jostled around. Ask for help if something doesn’t seem or feel right, because the lactation nurses there will be the best help you can get.
After a few more consultations with a lactation nurse I started using a nipple shield. What a game changer! He was starting to latch better and longer and my milk supply was flowing freely. Finally, at two weeks old he had surpassed his birth weight.
It was also during this time that my sister in law gave me a ton of her frozen milk. My niece was experiencing allergy issues and she couldn’t drink the precious liquid gold her mom had so diligently saved for her. That extra milk made a world of difference for me. I was able to give my cracking and extremely sore nipples a break by giving my son a bottle of that breastmilk every now and then. Or have the luxury of a meal or a shower while my husband fed him.
And still, the breastfeeding struggle continued to be so hard. I can remember just sitting there weeping as my son nursed because of the pain and soreness on my nipples. I honestly contemplated just giving up. I would be going back to work in a few weeks and didn’t see how we’d make it work. We had also been using a soothie, something I hadn’t plan on so early and felt bad about because it was frowned upon in many of the books and websites I read.
But I stuck with it. Eventually we found a groove. And soon it was virtually painless. My newest concern was how to keep it up while working full time. How many times a day would I have to pump? Would it be enough? It was disappointing to feel like we had finally found our routine, only to figure out a new one.
Thankfully I have a very supportive employer and can basically pump whenever I need to. It helps that I have my own office and can pull a blind & shut the door. At first, I kept the pumping schedule to every 2-3 hours. Now at 14 months I usually only pump once in the afternoon.
So yes, we’ve made it past the one year milestone! And we’re still going strong. My son drinks some cow’s milk, but mostly breastmilk or water. I’m not sure when he will wean, and for now I plan on just going with the flow and going off of his cues.
So you see, I basically incorporated all of the “don’t do these things if you want to successfully breastfeed your baby” and still managed to get to my nursing goals. It’s okay to do whatever you need to do to feed your baby. But also know that it can be a very hard and defeating struggle. Just know that as a mom you’re doing your best for your child and that’s what matters.