As I mentioned in my post about the first month of motherhood, breastfeeding was not what I expected. Everyone had told me what a wonderful experience it is. You’ll bond with your baby through breastfeeding. You won’t want to stop. Since I knew it was the natural way to feed my baby and I knew all the benefits of my breast milk for her, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. There was no doubt in my mind. God created us to do this, so it will come easily and naturally — right?
My Breastfeeding Journey
The first week of breastfeeding was terrible for me. In the hospital, she latched easily and the lactation consultant said we looked great every time she checked on us while feeding. But once we got home, things got worse. I struggled to find a good position, especially at night. And it didn’t help that I couldn’t move around easily thanks to my fourth-degree vaginal tear.
My milk had come in and I was in major pain every time my daughter latched and began sucking. I cringed and my entire body tensed up. I was so disappointed that breastfeeding wasn’t this beautiful experience like I had expected. Instead, I dreaded feeding her. And that first week of life baby eats a lot! So every two hours I was in major pain. I was in tears. If this is what breastfeeding is like, I don’t want to do it.
By day five, we went in to see a lactation consultant. My nipples were completely scabbed. The LC gave me medicated nipple cream to use after each feeding. She also gave me tips on positioning, latch, and feeding in general. But the best thing she did was encourage me. She said she, too, had scabbed nipples with her first child. She told me it would get better.
It took several weeks, but she was right. It did get better. But it took time. I had to learn how to breastfeed. It didn’t just come naturally. And my baby had to learn too. There were many, many days that I just wanted to give up. For weeks, I went back and forth about whether to keep going or not. In all honesty, I sometimes wished I would just lose my milk supply so I could have a good reason for stopping. I didn’t want to give up, but I also didn’t want to keep going.
I went through a period where I was engorged basically all the time. I was leaking milk like crazy. I had heard of women leaking, but I thought it was very rare. I had no idea it was so common and normal to leak. I would even wake up with a soaked shirt because I had leaked so much!
Eventually, though, my milk regulated. Of course, I was then freaked out that I was losing my milk supply and my baby wasn’t getting enough milk. I was so used to my boobs feeling full and hard that I thought something must be wrong. Instead, I learned that my milk had regulated and baby was still getting enough to eat. It was a relief to learn that from the lactation consultant.
Now, here we are at seven weeks of breastfeeding. I can’t say that breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for us yet. But it is no longer painful, and I no longer dread it. (Well, expect for at night when I just want to sleep!) It has gotten so much better. I’m learning; she is learning. And we have a lot of things to thank for getting us through to seven weeks.
What Got Us Here
First of all, I wish we had a lactation consultant living with us! How helpful it would be to have someone constantly checking on how we are doing and someone to answer my constant questions. She would be able to reassure me when I second guess myself every other day. I’m really thankful that the hospital where I delivered has lactation consultants available for appointments, questions, concerns, etc. In fact, they even have a group that meets every week that is perfect for getting some help and making sure your baby is getting enough to eat.
My husband has helped me a lot. He went to my appointment with the lactation consultant and listened and asked questions. He was always around to help me with positioning or latching or just to bring me a glass of water. He is always reassuring me and encouraging me.
Along with my husband, my mom, grandma, and cousin, as well as a few others, have been great about supporting my breastfeeding journey. In that, I don’t mean that they encouraged me to keep breastfeeding. Rather, they encouraged me to do whatever it is I needed to do to stay sane and be the best mama I could be. They didn’t push me to keep breastfeeding or push me to stop. They reminded me to do what I needed and wanted to do and not to listen to the pressure of others. (And, boy, is there a lot of pressure and guilt that comes with breastfeeding!)
Getting into a routine helped me a lot. At night I first tried feeding her in bed. That just wasn’t working. Then I switched to feeding her in my desk chair in our bedroom. It worked for awhile, but then I just didn’t like it anymore. Now, I get up and go to her nursery. I have everything set up in there for myself. I always unswaddle her, change her diaper, and then sit down in the glider to feed her. Unswaddling and changing her helps wake her up so she will eat without immediately falling asleep on the breast. I keep a note on my phone with the time I started her feeding and which side I started on. This way I can easily check it to see which side I need to start on for the next feeding. I have a table set up next to the glider with all my essentials including a big bottle of water and some snacks. Breastfeeding makes you extra hungry and thirsty!
I don’t exclusively breastfeed. I also pump. We started pumping and giving our daughter a bottle a lot earlier than I had anticipated, but I needed to. I needed a break from the constant feedings. So every night I pump and my husband gives her a bottle so that I can go to bed earlier. It gives me an extra two hours of sleep usually. My husband also takes her in the early morning hours and if she’s hungry, he gives her a bottle. Then I pump when I wake up. That gives me a little extra sleep too. It helps so much!
There are also some items that have helped me keep going when it comes to breastfeeding.
Boppy Nursing Pillow — I have two of these. One I keep downstairs, and one upstairs — this way I don’t have to carry it around back and forth. This pillow helps me position my daughter correctly so we can get a good latch and keep me from being in pain.
Medela Electric Double Pump — I got my breast pump along with all its accessories at no cost thanks to our insurance, Tricare, and The Breastfeeding Shop. All I had to do was send them my prescription from my doctor and they sent the pump to my house.
Medela Breast Shells — If you have sore nipples, everyone says to let them air dry. Of course we can’t always just walk around topless! So you put these shells over your nipples and it lets them air dry so they can heal. I wore these a lot while my nipples were healing. And they catch any leaking milk too!
Medela Tender Care Lanolin — This is my favorite nipple cream to use. I always like to put it on before I shower, too, because it repels the water so it doesn’t hurt as much with the water pressure.
Hands-Free Nursing Bra — At first when I was double pumping, I just sat there holding the bottles to my breasts the whole time. Ugh. I got this bra, and it works great! It holds everything in place and lets me be able to do things with my hands.
Medela Disposable Nursing Pads — I got a huge case of these at my baby shower, and I have been using them like crazy. I love that they stick to my bra so they stay in place.
Organic Bamboo Nursing Pads — I also got some of these nursing pads. They are really soft and washable so you can reuse them over and over. They also come with a laundry bag so you aren’t losing them in the laundry. I even use that laundry bag for baby socks too.
Soothies Gel Pads — These things are amazing if you have sore nipples. They are cool and help your nipples heal. They feel really good. You just have to make sure you wash your nipples off before feeding.
Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy — I’ve only used these a couple times, but it did help. I put them in the microwave and put them on my breasts to help my milk flow while pumping. You can also freeze them and put them on to help with soreness or swelling.
Nursing Tanks — I have had a hard time finding nursing clothes. So I bought three nursing tanks from Target — black, white, and grey — and I wear them all the darn time. It’s nice because I don’t have to wear a bra with them and they give easy access to my boobs. I wear a cardigan over them when going out in public.
Medela Nursing Bras — When I am wearing normal clothes or clothes that require a bra, I like these nursing bras because they are super comfortable. I’ve also gotten nursing bras from Target that I liked too.
Do you have any other breastfeeding essentials you used to get you through your own breastfeeding journey?