**If you aren’t the least bit interested in breastfeeding, this post isn’t for you and check back tomorrow :) I’m hoping this post can help another mother who is finding breastfeeding difficult, but wants to stick it out! You can do it! :)
Last week I told you about how I came to my decision to breastfeed. I’m following up today to tell you a bit about my breastfeeding journey over the past 7 months. Breastfeeding may come easy for some mothers, but it was an uphill battle for Eleanor and I. We stuck with it, asked a lot of questions, received a tremendous amount of help, and *FINALLY* figured out what works for us.
I’ve said before that I am probably a lactation consultant’s worst nightmare. Eleanor and I have an unconventional method, and I’ve broken many “rules” along the way. But my baby is healthy, our relationship is wonderful, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
Stage 1: Hurt
Eleanor 1st breastfed about two minutes after being born. I gazed down at my baby in awe, and *naively* thought, “we’ve totally got this down.” Wrong. By the following day, my milk had come in and my chest was as hard as a rock. I couldn’t get Eleanor to latch on the right side, and my left side was already starting to bleed. While in the hospital, I followed my birthing teacher’s advice and rang for a nurse’s assistance each and every time Eleanor was hungry.
They guided me through different positions and holds to try, taught me about compression, and offered words of support. They were wonderful, but nothing was clicking. I was sore, tired, and my baby hungry! When I got home, the 1st 48 hours were a blur. Eleanor screamed as I tried to get her to latch on the right. And I cried as she painfully nursed on the left. I made the decision to call a lactation consultant the very next day.
Stage 2: Help
I ended up going to my 1st breastfeeding support group when Eleanor was 5 days old. I started to cry as I asked the lactation consultant my long list of questions. She took the time to hear me out and suggested using a nipple shield. It’s a small, flexible piece of plastic that you wear while nursing. It would help Eleanor latch on the right side and allow my left side to heal. It made feeding SO much easier, but we still had our issues. Determined to make breastfeeding work, I glued myself to the couch and nursed Eleanor on demand (which was pretty much 24/7 for the first few months).
The additional problems we faced were extremely fast let-down and an oversupply of milk. This made Eleanor sputter and often resulted in a huge mess (aka: milk EVERYWHERE). The nipple shield helped, but the first few minutes of feeding were always a bit uncomfortable for both of us. Eleanor was overeating and spitting up almost every time she ate.
The lactation consultant suggested we try block feeding. That meant that we would feed off one side exclusively for 4 hours before switching Eleanor to the other side for the next 4 hours. It would be a signal to my body to slow down on milk production and ensured that Eleanor would get the fatty hind milk behind all of the watery fore milk. Both are important for the baby, and an imbalance can cause tummy troubles.
Stage 3: Hooray
Block feeding made a world of difference and I finally started feeling like we could do this long-term! The lactation consultant encouraged me to stop using the nipple shield after a few weeks because skin to skin is ideal. But every time I would try, the latch issues would begin again. I would cry, she would cry, and I would feel like a failure all over again. After a few weeks of off and on use, I decided that it didn’t matter to me anymore. Using a nipple shield worked for us and who really cares if that’s not the “normal” way to breastfeed?
Sure it’s annoying to have to wash it up after every feeding. And yeah, it stinks to have to remember to bring it everywhere we go. But it’s an extremely small price to pay for a positive breastfeeding relationship with my baby!
Eleanor and I still take breastfeeding one day at a time. Our strategy continues to evolve as we figure each other out and as Eleanor’s needs change. We both have moments of frustration, but I know with 100% certainty that Eleanor knows I’m there for her whenever she needs me. It’s comforting and safe for both of us, and I’ll miss it when it’s over.
Whenever Baby #2 comes along, I hope to use what I’ve learned with Eleanor. I also fully expect it to be a brand new experience with a whole different set of joys and challenges! :)
I’ve tried to be as candid as possible with this post, but it’s impossible to go into great detail without making this post 10 pages long :)
If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
What was your biggest struggle as a new mom?
Who do you turn to for a support system?