The first time that you see your child so happy and satisfied from breastfeeding that he/she makes the “milk drunk face” you will feel so amazing because it is a lot of hard work. When I saw it the first time I was so proud that I supplied enough milk to make him that content and happy. That is not to say that it was easy.
(My son at 2 weeks, the first time I was able to see that face)
In fact, breastfeeding is hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, including giving birth without drugs of any kind.
Breastfeeding hurts. It makes you feel like you are a horrible mother when your infant is screaming and crying and he won’t latch and you don’t know enough to help him. You feel like you are leaving your child to starve and it makes you want to just look right at him and cry back. But that would make you even more useless than you already are.
It also makes you feel like the most amazing person in the world when you get that little smile when he’s full. Because you did that. You gave your child everything he needs. Knowing only you can do that is one of the best feelings you’ll ever have. Breastfeeding is wonderful.
Then you have to consider that everyone else has so many opinions. Doctors and lactation consultants tell you breastfeeding is better than formula. They say that you should not give bottles or pacifiers at all until at least 6 weeks. But for those going back to work, the baby has to be taking a bottle by 6-10 weeks.
Some people say feed baby on demand, in public or not. But then you have to worry about the stares. And the horror of someone coming up to you and saying something negative about you breastfeeding where other people can see you. No matter how strong willed you are, in that moment, it’s terrifying.
Believe it or not, this roller coaster of feelings is (unfortunately) completely normal. And I consider myself to be lucky with my breastfeeding experience so far. Even despite the fact that it is absolutely still not easy.
At the Hospital
I had a relatively easy labor and delivery overall. I started contracting at 1:30am. Nothing really moved forward until about 10am when my contractions got closer together. I had an ultrasound scheduled at 2pm and by then I was about every 6 minutes. So I stopped by my doctor’s office and she took me in right away. I was 5cm dilated at about 3:30. After pushing for 1.5 hours I had Tobias at 8:42pm. I had no tearing and everything went great.
Then it took me 20 minutes to deliver the placenta. At the same time I hemorrhaged and lost twice the amount of blood as you are supposed to during a vaginal delivery. At the time the nurse had put the baby on my chest. I had to ask someone to take him from me because I could feel a wave of dizziness coming. I thought I may pass out from the blood loss and I didn’t want to drop him.
After I hemorrhaged 2 more times, they pulled a very large clot from me. That was probably at least as painful as giving birth, if not more so. After the second time they gave me Tobias to breastfeed because I hadn’t been able to yet. They were hoping that it would cause more contractions and help me stop bleeding.
By now it was about 11:30pm and I had only gotten to hold my son for about 5 minutes. The nurse helped to get him latched because I was incredibly weak having lost far too much blood. I was incredibly lucky that he latched on well and was able to breastfeed.
The next time he was hungry I was also able to get him to latch. Then I ended up pumping colostrum the next morning. It was a mix of breastfeeding and using a syringe to give him colostrum until I was discharged. My milk started to come in the morning I went home. The nurse said she could tell because he was finally sleeping soundly and relaxed for the first time.
After I got home with him we did alright. The only problem I had was when I was engorged for 2-3 days he had trouble latching because I was too large. I would pump for only 5-10 minutes each side to try to take the edge off. I would get 2 ounces and leave my boobs just barely not hard.
Because my husband is in the military I am alone more than half the year on the schedule that he is on right now. He works 48 hour shifts then 72 hours over the weekend every other weekend. The night before the lactation consultant appointment was the last night I was engorged and the first night I was alone. Tobias screamed for over an hour because he was hungry.
I was up with him for 3 hours trying to get him to eat, and refilled the syringe 3 times because he couldn’t latch. With no idea what to do, except give him a bottle with some of my expressed milk, I got it ready. I had no idea what I was doing but it settled him down and that was all that mattered. He ended up spitting up most of what he got because I didn’t know how to give a breast fed baby a bottle yet, but he ate.
I spent another hour looking up benefits to breastfeeding and trying to decide if I needed to be an exclusive pumper instead. I thought that I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know how to help him yet. It felt horrible. But I pumped that morning, and gave him another bottle. Then he breastfed perfectly at the lactation consultant appointment and she encouraged me enough to keep going and call if I had any more issues.
Once I was no longer engorged he latched well. We went to see the lactation consultant twice and she was impressed with his weight gain. He was born at 8lbs 2oz, went home at 7lbs 9 oz, and was up to 9lbs 2oz by the time he went to first first doctor appointment at about 18 days old.
The next issue I had was when I got a clogged duct. I think I caused it by sleeping on the breast too much. My right breast has always produced more milk than my left. It over produces. So one night I slept on my right side most of the night and my breast became incredibly painful.
It was very hard to the touch in one spot, painful, and very uncomfortable. If you’ve had a clogged duct you know what I’m talking about. So I did some googling to find out what to do. I diagnosed myself (because who doesn’t do that) with a clogged milk duct rather than mastitis. By the time I figured that out Tobias was hungry again.
So I breastfed. Then I read that you should nurse at different angles and massage toward the nipple. That you could use the pump and massage toward the nipple to try to get it out. So for several hours I massaged my breast. It hurt. My nipple hurt because I nursed him a little extra on that side to try to get rid of it. My hand and fingers hurt from rubbing for hours.
But by that evening, my clogged duct was gone. And I made sure to stay off my breasts while I was sleeping for another week until the milk production settled down a little more.
Figuring It Out
So now, after 10 weeks of breastfeeding, I have figured out what works for me and Tobias. We nurse 99% of the time in the cradle hold. I use a boppy pillow as often as possible due to my back problems. I breastfeed on one side until he is finished. If he is still hungry (ie. popping off continuously then latching back on right away or crying) I offer the other side.
I’ve figured out the whole bottle thing. I bring a bottle of expressed milk with me when we go out. No more running to the bathroom to breastfeed for 10-30 minutes while standing and miserable.
I want to build a small supply of milk for car rides more than 2 hours. I am also going to have Stuart start giving him his bottle at night so that I am not the only one to put him to sleep. Also, for mixing with foods when we start giving solids.
So I pump for 5 minutes on each breast during his morning nap every day. Then I freeze the milk in 2oz-5oz batches. I always keep at least 2 ounces in the fridge ready to go in a bottle so I can grab it and go when we leave.
Everyone has an opinion on how to raise your baby. Formula vs breast milk. Cry it Out but don’t ignore them. Don’t give them a pacifier or nurse them to sleep but do what you have to so they sleep enough.
As long as your baby is gaining weight and healthy, you are doing just fine. Breastfeeding is not for everyone and if you give formula you are no less of a mother than one who breastfeeds.
I have only been doing this a short time, and I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I hope that I can help others to at least have the confidence to keep trying.
If you need help, advice, or just a place to vent please feel free to contact me. I am absolutely a support system for anyone who needs me. Tell me in the comments what the best and worst part of breastfeeding has been for you. And what tips do you have for mom’s just getting started?