In the months leading up to Little Bear's birth, breastfeeding was never something I worried about. A lot of people told me to "be prepared for it not to work out," or to buy some 'back up formula.' I smiled through their doubt and told them I understood but I thought it would be okay. No one told me why I should be concerned with breastfeeding being hard, they all just told me it was.
I didn't read a single breastfeeding book, but I did attend one La Leche League meeting. Our Bradley Instructor is a lactation consultant and led one class primarily about breastfeeding. That's all I thought I'd need. I had leaking from about 20 weeks on, and it really ramped up around 28-32 weeks. I did not think milk supply would be an issue and knew the different holds/positions, therefore; did not think breastfeeding would be an issue for us.
I knew not to supplement with formula, not to use a pacifier, and not to use a bottle until our baby was 6 weeks old (to avoid nipple confusion). Our hospital had over an 80% rate of mom's leaving the hospital breastfeeding.
|breastfeeding has been a |
family affair from the start
(note the stupid saline lock)
She slept for quite a while, then I tried to feed her again later in the afternoon. She nursed for almost an hour, but when she was done, I was in pain. My nipples weren't just sore--they HURT. They were blistered and bruised, including some blood blisters. I didn't know nipples could even look like that. I still shutter thinking about it.
Apparently, G's latch was NOT good and I had let her suck for an hour with a bad latch. That's just asking for trouble. Anytime she tried to nurse after that, I winced in pain, curled my toes, and bit my lip. I actually cried through nursing sessions. The lactation consultant (LC) was called. My mom and mother-in-law also weighed in with their opinions. Ya, every woman in the room was getting a good look at my breasts. I'm not the most modest person in the world, but I never thought I'd let my mother-in-law get a full frontal view of my chest.
It was the end of the lactation consultant's shift and she was anything but pleasant. After checking G's latch by putting her gloved finger in my daughter's mouth, she announced the latch was fine. She chalked our issue up to my nipples needing to 'toughen' up and that I would feel less pain as we went on. Um. Thanks? She brought in a nipple shield, but that didn't help. She suggested supplementing to let my nipples heal some. I balked at the idea. She suggested pumping and giving a bottle, I denied that option because I didn't want nipple confusion. When I set my mind to something, I do it, no ifs, ands, or buts.
The first night was SO ROUGH. G was crying a lot because she was hungry and I couldn't handle nursing for very long. My nipples were only getting worse. I didn't sleep. My husband barely slept. The nurses tried to help, but their encouragement didn't change anything.
We had the LC come in first thing in the morning. I could have sworn it was a different woman because she was so nice and understanding...turns out a good night's sleep makes a world of difference because it was the same LC!! I'm pretty sure I commented to her about the mean LC from the previous night...before I realized it was the same woman.
She checked G's latch multiple times, but it didn't seem to be wrong. G would do one thing when she sucked on a finger, and an entirely different thing on the breast. We really don't know what the deal was, but I personally think it was her tiny mouth and my big nipples. They just didn't match up. I was dead set on breastfeeding, though, so I was texting and emailing our Bradley Instructor. It was really bad timing because she was sick and couldn't come visit us in the hospital to help. She suggested hand-expression and spoon feeding it to G. Hand-expression was difficult, and didn't go as well as I had hoped. The LC kept suggesting a pump.
|the pump I used in the beginning|
Just because we started out pumping doesn't mean we instantly gave G bottles. Due to our desire to not have nipple confusion, we used droppers and tubes. Yes, we fed her kind of like you might feed a puppy.
Here was our routine:
Nurse on one side for about 5 minutes, until the pain was unbearable.
Feed G what I was able to pump the last time.
Pump on both sides.
Repeat at the next feeding, but nursing on the other side.
|these are the bee's knees!|
We chose to stay in the hospital the extra night, despite original plans to leave early, so that we had additional lactation support. After several feedings using the dropper, we decided that using a little bottle would be to everyones' benefit. G needed to get more milk to keep her weight up, and the dropper just wasn't cutting it. When it came down to a decision between supplementing with formula or using a bottle to feed expressed milk, we chose the bottle.
I worked really hard to ensure that breastfeeding was successful for us, and the LC applauded my efforts. She told baby G that she should be "very proud of her mom, because most other moms would have given in." I don't know if that's necessarily true, but I do feel that the experience I had with G's latch/small mouth was very tough and was only a preview for how breastfeeding would continue to go for us in the next few weeks.
|after nursing in the hospital, 2 days old <3|
- Use everything at your disposal: nurses, midwives, lactation consultants, the internet, other moms, La Leche League, anything. Be an advocate for yourself.
- Electric double pumps are an amazing invention for those that need them. Easy to use and the parts are easy to clean. The hospital grade ones retail for $1500, but we were able to rent one for $50 a month. I think that's a great deal to get you by in a pinch.
- Breastfeeding should NOT be painful. Soreness, sure, but if you feel pain something is wrong.
- If you are dead set on not supplementing, you can find a way to make that happen. You may just have to get creative. We gave in on some little things, so that we could avoid our big "non-negotiable" of supplementing.
- As long as your baby is having "enough" wet/dirty diapers and their weight isn't "dramatically" low, don't let anyone force you into supplementing!
- Are you aware there are milk banks and online milk exchanges? I'm not advocating for one or the other...simply letting you know.
Disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant, nor am I formally educated in breastfeeding. I am simply writing from personal experience. Check out La Leche League's website.