I remember while I was pregnant, people would constantly ask me "Do you plan on breastfeeding or are you going to give him formula?" It was always said in a way that made formula seem like I would be giving my baby some sort of Satan's poison. To this question, I always responded yes and that I would do so for 6 months. (Ha! Did I realize how long 6 months is?!) At this point, with my baby being almost 3 months old, I don't think this is a great question to ask expecting mothers. The way I thought about breastfeeding while I was pregnant was that it was a beautiful and natural experience and that my body would know just what to do to nourish my baby. ( I still thought this even after taking a breastfeeding class). Not to say these things are completely wrong but they're not exactly as magical and effortless as one might think. Breastfeeding has proven to be one of the more challenging parts of motherhood for me.
When my son was finally brought to my hospital room for the first time so I could breastfeed him, I thought well here goes nothing. The only real concern I had was, "Is it going to hurt?!" The nurse tried to reassure me that it should not hurt if done correctly. (Well that's partially a lie but I'll get into that later). My son and I didn't exactly have this first magical moment of perfect latching and feeding him these perfect little nutrients. It wasn't exactly working out as I had planned. However, the nurse wouldn't give up, she would just try shoving my breast right back in his mouth or squeezing milk out to see if a taste would get him interested. This is all while David is watching. To say this moment was embarrassing would be downplaying it but my baby had to be fed and I couldn't God forbid give my child the Satan poison. Even David attempted to help, my supportive husband who I dragged to a breastfeeding class two months prior. The nurse decided on plan B once we all realized how difficult this was turning out and here came this magical nipple shield. In essence, this little piece of silicone goes right on top of your breast and has a bottle looking nipple shape with little holes at the top so milk can flow out. While the baby is sucking the shield will draw out your nipple. (Sorry, there really is no other way to describe it). This thing honestly helped me not give up initially on breastfeeding. You'll hear a lot of negative things about it, the baby won't learn how to latch, nipple confusion, it's not direct contact blah blah. I used it for the first 3 weeks and trust me Miles did just fine with and without it. For any moms who are interested it's sold by medela.
Even with this mighty contraption, nursing was still posing some challenges. One thing is for sure, your at the mercy of your infant pretty much every 1-2 hours for the first 2 weeks. No matter how well of a latch your infant has, it hurts. If someone let's say sucked on your nose every hour for days on end, don't you think it would be tender, sore, bruised? Now apply this to a more sensitive area like a nipple and you can imagine the torture. Not to mention there's cracking sometimes bleeding on top of this which will only make things feel worse. There are certain creams for this type of thing but unless you can buy yourself some new nipples it's not all that helpful.
Breastfeeding during the day allowed for me to get the hang of things. Over time, you figure out how to position your baby, how to get the most out of an amazing boppy pillow some genius invented and when to feed your baby. This is great until you have to do this at night. Nighttime nursing is a whole different ball game that left me frustrated and beyond tired. I would use my rocking chair at first but realized the rocking motion would put me to sleep before Miles would even yawn. I would then go to my sofa and sit/lay on the L shaped section with my boppy and pillows surrounding me just in case I fell asleep. Well more often than not, I was snoozing away on my sofa while breastfeeding. In all honesty, you will do whatever to keep your sanity and attempt to get even a few minutes of sleep all while make sure your baby is fed. As long as I knew my baby wasn't going to fall off and was safe, I would take my cat naps as needed.
This is what David says I look like when he leaves for work at 5am and I'm asleep breastfeeding on the couch.
Another challenge I was facing with breastfeeding was how helpless I was. I wasn't helpless to my suckling baby but rather to myself and David. My husband would literally call himself "the Butler" because he would have to bring me food, water and whatever else I couldn't get up and get for myself. There was also the fact that there was nothing he could do to help with this burden unless he somehow starting lactating. If it wasn't for him, I would have skipped so many meals.
The last challenge I feel needs to be addressed is low production. During my first week at home, I started to notice some reddish smears in my son's diapers when I changed him. My first thought was that this was blood and it wasn't good. When we went to the pediatrician, she said it could possibly be from dehydration. Dehydration? Meaning all of the effort I've been putting into breastfeeding, all the hours I spend awake trying to feed my child is not enough? How could this happen when my son had only lost a few ounces after birth when some babies lose almost a whole pound. We ended up going to a urologist who confirmed that Miles was in fact dehydrated. I was devastated, deflated, and feeling like I failed. What I felt the most was guilt. My guilty feelings came from being so determined to breastfeed and letting others convince me that this should be the best and only way that I put my baby's health at risk. I was told my milk supply hadn't come in yet. After this, I began pumping out my milk so so I would know exactly how much my baby was getting and I could have some peace of mind. This was yet another contributing factor to my moping around and lack of confidence as a mother. Something that is supposed to be so "natural" was not coming naturally to me. Once my supply starting picking up, I had a good alternating schedule between boob and bottle going on that was working for me even if I was told it was too early to introduce bottles to a breastfed baby. Moms, go with your instincts and what you feel is best because there's always going to be a perfect way to do something but if it doesn't happen that way it does not make you any less of an amazing mother. Guidelines exist only to guide but not to make you so crazed that if you don't perform to these exact standards it means your failing. This has been a learning process for me to accept that striving for perfection will only set me up to feeling like I've failed. In fact, when it comes to motherhood I'm just winging it.
PS: I will put up a separate post in the future about pumping because it comes with it's own challenges.