Warning warning- This post is all about breastfeeding so if you would rather skip hearing about latching, boobs, and let downs I suggest you not read on! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
” Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
One word that would sum up my breastfeeding journey is perseverance…
I think many people prepare you for labor and delivery of children, but you don’t hear much about how difficult breastfeeding can be for some women. I think this was one of the hardest and most difficult things after having Malayna, but has turned into the most rewarding, beneficial things I have done. I want to share my story, because I had a VERY DIFFICULT start to breastfeeding and hope this post encourages some women that things do get easier and better or perhaps motivates you to try breastfeeding your next kiddo. I also share this story to be honest, and let others know part of my strong passion for breastfeeding- because it almost didn’t happen….
For those who missed my birth story check it out here. I was blessed to be able to deliver vaginally and breastfeed within 20 minutes of having her. When I went to breastfeed I had NO IDEA what I was doing. Honestly you think its easy- just latch the baby on to the boob. I was clueless and of course May had never worked for her food before 😉 The nurses would try to tell me what to do, but I still felt quite lost. We had a fairly good starting session to nursing. I have nothing to compare it to but at the beginning because their stomachs are so small but she would suck a little off and on for around 30 minutes. I also was feeling a bit “off”- I guess delivering a baby can do that to you! And I may or may not have passed out while attempting to go potty for the first time! 🙂
The two days I was in the hospital May struggled to latch on. Each nurse would come in and try to help me and she would latch a little bit off and on, but it was always quite a struggle. And your just so tired its hard to put the effort in!!! Anything is difficult when you haven’t gotten sleep and are recovering. By the next day my boobs already were in pain. Ah it even hurt to put a bra on. My poor mother saw way more of me those first few weeks than she would have liked! (best to air dry lol)
We continue to struggle with latches here and there, but I left the hospital pretty scared about going home and not feeling like it would go well. Hormonally I could already start to fill a shift in my hormones- not quite feeling myself and struggling a lot to sleep. We did find out just as we were about to leave the hospital May was tongue tied and needed to have the attachment part (not sure what its called) snipped. I thought for sure this would solve all the latch issues….
I left the hospital a little worried about doing everything on our own. Ok not a little, a lot. Many people hate the hospital and are so ready to be home, but for me it meant regulation her temp/weight, check ins by the Doctor, and knowledgeable nurses and doctors around in case something happens. First time mom alert! 🙂
My mom had asked if we wanted help that first night and I can remember telling her, “no I think we have things under control.” Really all May did that day was sleep and eat, so how hard can this be? But then bedtime came around. Sam and I both got ready for bed and placed her in the bassinet next to our bed- all ready to go to sleep…our first time as a family of 3. We layed her down and immediately she woke up crying. That night she cried off and on, but struggled to latch. I was so so so worried she would starve and was not getting enough to eat! Sam and I hardly slept, and that morning as soon as the sun rose, I called my mom. We called the nurse at the hospital and she recommended formula. We gave May a tiny bit of formula. I know some may think this is weird, but honestly trying to breastfeed with a newborn that would be crying so hard, trying to recover from delivery, and being sleep deprived all made things a lot harder. I was afraid once we started with formula, breastfeeding would become more difficult. She would stay full longer and find a bottle way easier.
The next few days we struggled to nurse, she would latch on here and there. I can remember my mom spending the night to help out and we would sometimes try for 2 hours to get her to latch on. You can ask my mom if you don’t believe me. When she would latch I can remember staying still- even if your whole body was in the worse position possible- to not break the latch. It was exhausting and very hard. She nursed here and there, but we were far from having it down. I pumped a lot as well.
My milk came in a little late- around day 4-5. And when it came in boy did it come in! I was extremely engorged. I was in even more pain, and now Malayna struggled to latch on even more. I tried cabbage, cold and warm compresses, pumping, but continued to be engorged for a few days. The best way to relieve engorgement is nursing, and that was not going well! Imagine giant rocks is all I can say!
My good friend Kim had connections to a wonderful Family Doctor (who I now go to who is fabulous) and lactation support at Kish Hopsital. She invited me to the Breastfeeding Support group on Thursday morning and I can remember to this day bringing in May, coming into the support group and everyone going around sharing questions they had. When it came to me, I just cried and cried- in front of those whole group of women I didn’t know. Immediately I got help from two of the most wonderful lactation nurses- Jennifer and Judy. They spent time with me, and got Malayna to latch on. I couldn’t believe it??!! The knew how to position my body and her to help us latch on. I felt encouraged and it gave me hope that I could do it. I also had other woman come up to me and share how they had overcome those first few weeks- and it will get better. Alright, this has to get better than right?!
Weeks went on and she continued to struggle so I got desperate and started to use a nipple shield. This helped tremendously but was also hard because I felt like I always needed a million props to help me nurse. I continued to meet with Judy and Jennifer, and go to support groups. Judy and Jenn were available to chat on the phone at multiple times. Each time I met with them I felt like they truly cared, listened, and helped me. They spent lots of time with me and didn’t feel the rush I often feel when meeting with people in the medical field. A lot of breastfeeding moms worry they are not producing enough milk and they would reassure me May was getting enough by allowing me to weigh her on a scale. Thankfully she always gained weight really well!
May began nursing really well using the nipple shield, but eventually I wanted to wean her from it. Around 6 weeks, we slowly took it away and she did well, but we had new problems. She grew really fussy especially in the evening and sometimes during feedings. I quickly leaned I had an oversupply of milk and a fast letdown. This caused too much milk to come in too quickly which resulted in gas and possibly overfeeding. I also was engorged frequently and had to pump to let some out. Jennifer and Judy, once again educated me on how to help both of these and eventually my milk leveled out and May could handle the fast let down. Here is some more information on an oversupply.
Around this time I had a lot of pain again (I had pain off and on these 6 weeks so I thought it was just normal). I had been using the nipple shield so I thought my nipple needed to get used to the sucking again. After being in so much pain I was in tears, it was time to call my doctor. Thankfully she is extremely knowledgeable in nursing and knew to culture my milk. What?! I didn’t even know they did that. After testing my milk they found out I had a breast infection. So just to summarize- pain, difficulty latching, oversupply, forceful let down, and now breast infection. Only by the grace of God and determination I had, did I not give up. There were many a nights I wanted to, but was encouraged over and over by Judy and Jennifer as well as my family and friends to keep trying.
After getting over the breast infection, we were now nursing without pain and May was doing great! She nursed quite frequently, and there were some days I felt like all I did was nurse. After going through all that I know full well why nursing does not work out for some woman. I also know why it is not possible for every woman to nurse. Honestly, if I didn’t have the lactation support and a Doctors help, I probably would not have been able to nurse.
It’s hard to explain the joy I feel while nursing May. There are moments she gets so excited to nurse and giggles on and off as she nurses. May is always on the move, and to this day it is a special time for us both to slow down and cuddle. I have to be honest and say that it wasn’t all a bed of roses. There were many nights when I just wanted one break to get some sleep, or times I had to nurse awkwardly in the car or with a dress on! I also struggled with getting plugged milk ducts- very painful! She struggled a lot to take a bottle so for the first year it was very hard to ever leave for more than 3-4 hours. And then there is the pump, don’t even get me started on how fun pumping is 😉 But its all worth it!
But at the end of the day, I love every moment. I enjoy slowing down in our days, looking down, and touching her sweet cheek. I love the look she gives me when she looks up at me or plays with my necklace or mouth. I love that I am giving her amazing nutrition that has lots of immunity, nutrients, fats, and protein fueling her growing body needs. I love that its all about sacrifice and yes, it is hard and yes its not always easy, but to me its so much more than the food- its the bonding that occurs between her and I.
So where am I today? May turned 13 months and we are still nursing. What?!! Yep that’s right. I read this article on extending breastfeeding, chatted with other mommas who did extended breastfeeding, and knew it was the right thing for May and I. I am so proud of my friends who have gone beyond a year, and to be honest am quick shocked how common it is to nurse beyond one year. My goal was always to get to 1 year, and when 1 year came and went, I knew it wasn’t time to stop. This article does a great job of explaining all the benefits of extending breastfeeding and the nutrition babies get the second year: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/ebf-benefits/. Honestly, it’s a little hard to share that I am still nursing because I know some people don’t think it’s needed after one year. I understand, I used to be one of those people too. You may think I am weird, but I’m pretty sure you already thought that! I also think at the beginning one advantage to nursing taking so long is to slow down and rest, but now that May is on the go all the time- I still enjoy those peaceful, restful moments with her!
My new goal is to get through flu/cold season, it is one of the worst viral seasons around, and I am hoping this will continue to help her.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the past year
Use lactation consultants!! I had two absolutely amazing lactation nurses who helped me and my sister multiple times those first few months. Kish Hopsital has an amazing breastfeeding center that woman can come into for free to get help and assistance.
kellymom.com has amazing resources to use! check it out!
Call your other breastfeeding moms and get tips from them. I was on the phone a lot with friends who had breastfed to get any advice from them!
Don’t go anywhere for a few weeks….just focus on breastfeeding all the time. To build up a good supply it is beneficial to breastfeeding your baby on demand!! Yes this does mean sometimes every hour. The more you nurse, the more your body will signal you need the milk and in turn it will product more.
Have snacks and water everywhere you go. You will be so so so hungry and need to continue to eat and drink to maintain a good supply. Let people bring you food. Your too busy and tired to prepare it yourself!
As hard as night feedings are- they are important for your supply. Many breastfed babies do not sleep through the night for a very very long time- this is normal!
How incredibly HUNGRY you would be!!
How hard it would be at the beginning, but how amazing and easy it would turn out.
How long and how much they nurse at the beginning. May would take 40 minutes sometimes every 1.5-2 hours from the beginning of her last session.
How difficult losing weight would be. I thought for sure I would be one of the woman who lost all their weight from breastfeeding. I had no idea some woman held unto the weight. Thankfully I was introduced to Cinch (now Shaklee180) and started losing my baby weight. It was packed full of protein and had lot of vitamins and nutrients that can actually help boost your milk supply, but before Cinch I could not lose the baby weight! I knew the protein was key!!
What a special bond and experience it is to nurse 😉 How passionate I would become about nursing and helping other woman nurse. How much it would change me. How much I would LOVE IT!!!
Thank you Lord for allowing me this opportunity with your precious precious child you have entrusted me with!