Every mother is faced with a challenge right when her baby is born, that is, how to care for and nourish her baby in the best way possible. As a first time mother, this was something I did not dwell on very much. I thought taking a breastfeeding and new life class at the hospital and reading a few blogs/articles was good enough. I imagined breastfeeding would come easy and that my daughter would do great. Moments after she was born the nurses helped me feed her for the first time and it was incredible. She did so well, and I felt like I had the hang of things. She nursed well during the night. Then, she just completely stopped feeding and went 14 hours refusing to eat. This scared me, traumatized me, and made me feel helpless. We were both doing so good, and I had no idea what happened. The only thing that got my daughter to eat was by using a nipple shield, which we continued to use for a few weeks until she was getting better. Many people have their opinions about nipple shields, but I didn’t mind it. If that was the only way she would nurse, then I would use it. One day, I just slipped it off mid feed and she never noticed or needed it again. Hallelujah! That thing was a pain to always have washed and ready to go again in 2 hours. I did not have cracking, bleeding, or severe tenderness, which I believe the nipple shield helped in this area. The shield gave me a break every once in awhile. After discontinuing use of the shield, there were many middle of the night feedings where I would cry when she woke because I knew I had to feed her and I knew I would be in pain. It was awful and I could not wait for my skin to get used to the nursing. After the two week marker, I was used to breastfeeding for the most part and the soreness had gone away. It really does take that 2 week time frame that most people tell you for breastfeeding to get better. So, if you’re in this window right now, just know it does get better and you will enjoy nursing soon.
Fast forward 6 weeks when I thought I was the breastfeeding superstar. Not only was she feeding well, but she was sleeping well also. However, my whole world completely turned upside down when we went to the pediatrician for a rash and then found out that our daughter had not regained her birth weight. I remember thinking, “But she nurses for 45 minutes each feed! What am I doing wrong?” As suggested, I visited lactation at the hospital weekly after that for weigh-ins and support from the consultants and other moms. I don’t know where I would be without those groups. They saved me and helped me get through such a difficult time. When I wasn’t nursing I was pumping, washing pump parts, warming the bottle, and spending a little time with my baby before I had to do it all over again for the next feed. I paid attention one day, and after I had finished all of this it was only 30 minutes before it had to be done again. It was exhausting. Between pumping, I was also popping fenugreek, blessed thistle, and Brewer’s yeast as well as chugging water and eating a ton to boost my supply. I supplemented with my own breast milk and used formula when I didn’t have enough breast milk. Being open to using formula took the stress off of me big time. I knew my baby needed nutrition and that was the most important thing. If she needed formula, then so be it. Did I feel defeated? At first, yes. But, as the weeks went by I realized it was more important to do what works for both of us. There were many times where I felt like it was my fault, like my milk wasn’t good enough, and I hated that I wasn’t producing enough to nourish my baby. We had a rough 4 months but slowly and surely, I was starting to pump and worry less. By 5 months, all of our breastfeeding woes had diminished, and it was smooth sailing until she turned one. My daughter pretty much weaned herself, and I stopped nursing her right at one. In the weeks before her first birthday, she would only nurse once per day in the morning. We were both ready. Looking back, I have learned A LOT. I definitely wish I had had it easier, but then I wouldn’t have learned all that I did. For any future babies, I know I will be more prepared and knowledgeable on what to do and hopefully stay on track from day one.
I wanted to share this story today since it is World Breastfeeding Week, but I want to stress that no matter how you choose to feed your child, just do what is best for you and your baby. I wish the mommy wars would end and there would be no judgement on this topic. I ended up not being able to produce much milk and had to do both. That was never my plan, but it didn’t matter because it’s what my baby needed and it is what worked for us. I hope you enjoyed this read and hope it was helpful or inspirational to those who are experiencing something similar.