Last week was national breastfeeding week. I don't know about you, but I saw a lot of pictures and posts regarding it on my social media feed. So here's my story.
I had read books and talked to people about breastfeeding before my daughter was born, so I knew the mechanics and positions. Let me tell you, that did not help at all. The first time trying was about 5 minutes after she was born. I was still dealing with the after birth and post delivery exam, so that doesn't really count. But once we got into the hospital room, I tried. A nurse was there to guide me, but it didn't help. Sloane certainly didn't have a problem latching - this girl has jaws of steel! Something no one told me was how much it hurt! The lactation consultant and nurse told me that it should feel like they were being tugged, but not painful and if it was painful, then it was a bad latch and I had to do it over. So I would unlatch her and try again. Over and over. They would take her from me and latch her on. It still hurt! I had gone through child birth without an drugs and breastfeeding hurt so much more - and it could go on for months and months.
I tried and tried. Nurses tried to help. Chris tried to help. I got to the point where I gave up relatching her. I just wanted to make sure she was eating. I would stare at the clock and the second it had been 10 minutes, I unlatched her to be done with the torture.
Fast forward a couple days and we finally were home. We realized that she hadn't peed since before leaving the hospital (12 hours before) - which is not good at all. We called the emergency number at the pediatrician because it was after hours. Their solution was to feed her every 90 minutes instead of every 3 hours to make sure she's eating enough. EVERY 90 MINUTES???!!!! 3 hours was bad enough to psych myself up to deal with it. That was the only time I had a break down postpartum (so far). It was the middle of the night and I was balling because it hurt so bad. I felt like a failure - I couldn't even properly feed my child. I had seen my friends do it like it was nothing after working out, why was it so hard for me. What was wrong with me?
I was ready to stop then and there. A lot of women don't breastfeed - I don't have to do it. I totally understand why people wouldn't even want to do it. But I knew that breast milk is the best for the baby and the added benefit of burning 500 or so calories from doing it made me want to try and continue. Thank God for my husband though. He calmly leaves the room as I'm hysterical and comes back with the breast pump we had gotten from the insurance company and starts assembling it. As he's doing that, I'm babbling on about nipple confusion and how I read you aren't supposed to introduce a bottle until at least 6 weeks, etc. He told me it would be fine and helped me figure out how to pump.
I decided to pump on one side and feed on the other, giving more time to rest between feedings and hopefully heal. It sort of helped, although I think it was more mentally helpful than physically.
A couple days later, I went to the hospital to attend a breastfeeding clinic with lactation nurses to help. There were 3 other moms there struggling, just like me. The nurse that was assigned to me was wonderful and I am so thankful to her. I told her what was going on and showed her what I was doing. She told me that I was doing everything correct -that the latch was perfect. Just that breastfeeding sucks for new moms in the beginning and it will hurt until the nipples toughen up or Sloane learns to open her mouth wider. She told me it was perfectly fine to pump and feed her that way - and even supplement with formula if needed because I need to be happy too - and to forget what all the books and google says. She "prescribed" me to only pump for 24 hours to give my nipples a chance to heal even more. And gave me these nipple protectant things so that my nipples could breathe without hitting my clothes.
You can't imagine how relieved I was.
I don't know if it was the permission I needed or the confirmation from a professional that I wasn't a failure - that I was doing everything correctly and what I was feeling was normal, but it greatly helped. I still dreaded feeding her and it still hurt a lot, but at least I was more confident in it.
I know I am one of the lucky women though. My milk fully came in a few days after that consult and maybe it was that, or maybe Sloane learned to open her mouth wider, or maybe my nipples toughened up - whatever it was, feeding her became easier and less painful.
I still don't feel confident to do it easily in public - it truly depends on the clothes I am wearing, but I have done it and will do it if needed. I don't know how long I will feed her this way. I guess time will tell, but I am amazed at how amazing my body is. I grew a human and my body is able to sustain her and give her the nutrients she needs. And it's working because this little girl is growing and getting heavier!
And I do love staring at her while she eats. In fact, my neck is jacked up from looking down at her so much. Sometimes she stares back at me, like in this picture and my heart literally melts.