Breastfeeding. Such a HUGE topic. I could easily write for 31 days on this topic alone. (Maybe I will next year!)
My Experience with Breastfeeding
I had a long, but good delivery. I was in labor for 27 hours and pushed for an hour and a half, so when my son was finally born, we were both exhausted! I did get to hold him skin-to-skin immediately. But he did not start to move around searching for my breast. He was just perfectly content resting on me and getting acquainted with me and letting me get acquainted with him. And that’s perfectly fine. BUT, even though I was at the birth center for another 6 hours and I did have a lactation consultant see me briefly two times, my son did not latch on and suck. He would attempt to latch, but I never heard him swallow so I knew he wasn’t taking in any milk. He would often just attempt to latch and then fall asleep. His nose was a bit stuffed up, and the lactation consultant thought that had something to do with his lack of staying latched on. She also saw that I was doing everything right and Ain had a good sucking reflex when we would stick a finger in his mouth. So she thought everything would be fine after he got more sleep.
Well, it wasn’t.
The Next Day
Overnight I tried feeding him. The next morning I tried feeding him. But Ain would not stay on the breast more than two sucks. He was also getting easily frustrated every time as well. It was NOT fun. It was like he couldn’t understand that he was supposed to eat this way. 24 hours after he was born we had a home visit from the nurse. She tried to help me get a latch, but she suggested I call up New Birth Company and come in as soon as the workday was done (at 6pm) and talk to two different lactation consultants who would be just finishing with all their other appointments.
We worked for an hour with each consultant. He never latched on. Instead of continuing to have Ain get frustrated when he was hungry, they suggested I give him some formula so that he would have something in his stomach next time it was time to feed him. This might help in getting him to stay on the breast. Plus, he was slightly Jaundice and we needed to get something in his belly!!
So, the plan was to try breastfeeding, give him an ounce of formula, and then pump (so that I could get my milk to come in – that might provide more of an incentive for Ain to latch). Looking back, I wish I would have thought to ask one of my friends for extra milk during this time to use instead of formula.
I was a happier Momma – glad my son was getting nourishment. But, at the same time it was so hard for me that breastfeeding was not working.
We went to the doctor the day after he was born, and two days after he was born. His weighed a little less (normal) but was providing wet diapers – proof that he was getting nourishment. He was jaundice, but it was still in the normal range.
When he was 3 days old we took the trip back to New Birth Company. At that appointment they asked how breastfeeding was going – still no change. He was only getting nourishment from the bottle. Thankfully my milk had come in and I was pumping so I could give him breastmilk from the bottle!! The lactation consultant at that appointment suggested I give the nipple shield a try. She specifically mention the Medela nipple shield. I am SO GLAD she mentioned it. The first time I gave it a try, he latched and began to drink milk almost instantly! I was giddy! I could breastfeed my little one after all. Even if I was dependent on a nipple shield, at least I could breastfeed!
I knew I would want to eventually try and wean off of the nipple shield, but for now I just wanted to establish a good breastfeeding bond with Ain. He was 3 days old and it hadn’t happened until now.
The Early Weeks
I was nursing Ain frequently and spending a lot of time at the breast (eating for 8-12 minutes on each side, every 2 1/2 hours). Sometimes his nursing was inefficient and he stayed on the breast longer – probably nursing for comfort. I was also still pumping (since I was so engorged). Cabbage leaves – they are great to relieve the pain!
The day after I started using the nipple shield I tried without and Ain latched!! I cried with relief and was beaming from ear to ear!! He had a shallow suck, which hurt a TON!! We finally got past that, with time. I just had to keep trying to help him re-latch properly. Moms, DO go to a La Leche meeting or call on others moms or lactation consultants to help you with the latch!!
I kept pointing it out to my husband, whom, I should mention was such a tremendous support to me!! Throughout this first week he had come to every appointment with me, had asked questions, and had taken in all the information. When we were home, he would bring me water, food, etc., change almost all of Ain’s diapers, clean up after us, provided encouragement in breastfeeding, and physically be a support in breastfeeding. In the early days, when we were trying to get Ain to latch, and then always when trying to keep him from falling asleep at the breast, my husband’s help was great to have. I needed a third hand to hold Ain’s head in place, or stroke his cheek to encourage him to suck, or tickle his feet to keep him awake, etc.
After 2 days of not using the nipple shield, for some reason Ain was getting fussy at the breast again. I had to go back to using it. (I think it was because I was no longer engorged so he had to work harder to get the milk. Thus, he wanted to go back to the nipple shield.) Even with the nipple shield sometimes breastfeeding was a struggle. I think the flow was a bit much for him.
I continued to use the nipple shield, and after attending a La Leche meeting and getting feedback from those moms, I decided to try weaning off the nipple shield after his first growth spurt. By 3 weeks we had gotten the side-lying position down and we loved it!! I switched to almost exclusively feeding him that way in the following weeks. By one month I was only using the nipple shield in the evenings when he was more fussy and at night. By 5 weeks I was no longer using the nipple shield! It was just kept on getting easier! Now, at 3 1/2 months breastfeeding is a breeze (most of the time)!
(Some of ) What I Learned
1. Don’t give up!
“Never quit on your worst day.” This is great advice I heard from a friend. My husband was such an encouragement in this regard. He knew that I really wanted to breastfeed going in, so he was good at reminding me of that. Yes, there will be bad days, frustrating feedings, and tiring hours. Vow to stick with it for at least two weeks, and let your husband help you keep your word! It will be worth it! It WILL get easier. Set a goal to stick with it for two more weeks and then reevaluate. Then go two more weeks, if possible. Setting these small goals will help you see the progress you had made!
2. The “Find 1 Good” List
I read this article about the “Find 1 Good” list by a breastfeeding consultant and it was spot on!!
- Find 1 good book on breastfeeding. For me, it was The Essential First Year by Penelope Leach. It’s not exclusively on breastfeeding, but it helped me in so many ways the first 2-3 weeks. I’ve also heard another good book is Breastfeeding Made Simple
- Find 1 good nursing bra and wear it the first 2 weeks. You will want something very comfortable, like this stretchy, sports-bra like sleep bras.
- Find 1 good breastfeeding class in your community. Visit it before you give birth. Take your husband or another support person with you to the class, so they can help you remember things. I went to the breastfeeding class at the New Birth Company – very helpful!
- Find 1 good lactation consultant. Here is a link to find one in your area!
- Find 1 good friend who is breastfeeding friendly. I was very lucky to have several breastfeeding friends in real life, and also a few Momma facebook groups. I could easily post a question to several of my friends at the same in a facebook group and whoever had the most time to answer that question could. It has been SO helpful to have a “Mama Tribe”.
3. Breastfeeding is based on Supple and Demand
Watch your baby, not the clock. It may seem like you just feed him, and maybe you did. Breastfeed him anyway. Babies need to eat often; their stomachs are small, breastmilk is easily digested, they don’t understand day and night, and their sleep cycles are shorter than adults’. Breastfeed your baby on cue whether it’s 3:00 A.M. or 3:00 P.M. Babies show they are hungry by smacking their lips, sucking on their hands, rooting around, or squirming. These are the early signs of hunger, when you want to feed them. Here’s a great list of hunger cues.
4. Keep your baby close
Building your milk supply is also achieved through this supply and demand process! Nothing stimulates milk production like skin-to-skin contact and nursing. Just when you feel like things are getting regulated, your baby may hit a growth spurt. It will feel like all you do is nurse. Again, don’t watch the clock, but your baby’s cues. Your baby is nursing so often to stimulate your milk supply. It works the other way too, sometimes you may feel like you have too much milk. Just keep nursing, follow your baby’s cues and your supply will regulate. Feeding your baby on demand is crucial during the first few weeks to establish a strong milk supply.
It’s so nice to know that you can’t overfeed your baby if you are breastfeeding.
5. Co-sleeping and nursing your child to sleep is NOT bad
In the beginning weeks/months, nighttime nursing is necessary for babies and for your milk supply. Breastfeed on demand (I can’t say that one enough!).
C0-sleeping (which may or may not include bed-sharing) can be a great way to ensure that you are meeting your baby’s needs and breastfeeding on cue. I’ll be talking more about co-sleeping and my experience with it in another post.
What experiences did you have with breastfeeding?
I really did only have minimal struggles with breastfeeding, but in the early weeks it really IS A BIG DEAL! If you have to only focus on a couple things, then focus on keeping your baby well fed and protect your milk supply with regular pumping (8 times/day). I’ll talk more about pumping in a later post.
I really didn’t know I would become this big of a proponent on breastfeeding. Since I did struggle a little bit in the early weeks with breastfeeding, I did LOTS of reading up on breastfeeding. I found out all kinds of information, so much stuff that I wish I had known sooner! So now I’m so brimful of knowledge that every time someone says something about breastfeeding, I’m just dying to speak up. That’s why I wanted to write this series. 🙂
Must-Reads for all New Moms!
My husband was a huge support to me in Breastfeeding, just like this: How to Support a Breastfeeding Mother