When I was pregnant with Bebe I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I also knew that many women choose not to, or are unable to breastfeed, so I wanted to keep an open mind. Many people would ask me if I was going to breastfeed and I always responded, “I’m going to try!”. But over time, I became more and more committed to breastfeeding and hoped my body would follow my mind’s lead. By the time my little one arrived, I was hellbent on breastfeeding. I had even prayed that I would be able to breastfeed. Why this had become so important to me, I’m honestly not sure. But by the end of my pregnancy I had done exactly what I intended not to do-close my mind. After having to deliver by C-section a week after my due date, I felt my body had failed me and wondered if I would soon have to part with my desire to breastfeed the way I had said good-bye to the natural childbirth I had been hoping to have.
Luckily, my milk came in fine and Bebe had a good suck-the recipe for successful breastfeeding. “Mommy’s got milk” one nurse would say, as she thrust my newborn’s mouth over my nipple, latching her on because I couldn’t. I had milk. So why was feeding my child, a seemingly natural act, so damn hard? And why was I feeling so helpless and frustrated even though my precious girl was a champion sucker? And why the hell hadn’t anyone told me this was going to be so difficult? I wanted to quit. I was ready to give up. It didn’t seem worth it. Why was I doing this? But I just couldn’t stop trying. I was committed. Maybe because I had dedicated myself to breastfeeding beforehand, or maybe it was my fear of “failing” again, or simply my stubborn nature that kept me going.
Although every woman has her own experiences with breastfeeding, after five long weeks of substantial pain, countless tears, bleeding, cracked nipples and an abundance of self-doubt, these are some things that helped me persevere and finally move from feeling I was the only woman in the world who hated feeding her baby, to cherishing the moments she’s at my breast.
A Nipple Shield
What a life saver! Because I have one inverted nipple, this was a must for me. After three weeks, Bebe had already taken a preference to my normal nipple and was rejecting the flat side all together. However, once I discovered the nipple shield I used it on both sides. It did wonders helping with latching difficulties and protected my battered nipples as well. I only wish I had found it sooner. Moms-to-be, pack these in your hospital bag.
Comfort Gel Pads
After a few days of trying to nurse every 2-3 hours, my nipples burned. They were dry, chapped and on fire. During those early days, putting these gel pads on after refrigerating them for a few hours brought sweet relief between feedings.
At first I didn’t understand why so many moms recommended Lanolin. It didn’t seem very effective at easing my pain and discomfort and it was a pain to apply. However, after a week or so of consistent use, it made a big difference and really helped my breasts heal while continuing to nurse. The key for me was rubbing the thick ointment between my fingers to warm it up and thin it some before applying it. I also used the Lanolin to keep the nipple shield in place while nursing.
I was so glad to have a breast pump from day one of nursing. It was great to see how much milk I was producing and also helped soothe a clogged duct early on. For me, having a pump became a necessity even though I was exclusively breastfeeding because Bebe would only nurse on one side for the first few weeks, so I solely pumped the other side. The below pump has been perfect for me. Since I only pump at home, I don’t need a travel bag that comes with other, more expensive pumps.
A good friend of mine introduced me to the nursing tank about a month after Bebe was born and I immediately wished I had discovered them sooner. I consider these a wardrobe must for nursing moms and recommend new moms bring them to the hospital. It’s freeing to have an alternative to a bra when being bare chested really isn’t an option. Also, these are great to wear under regular shirts or cardigans to keep your back and belly covered if nursing in public, as my friend suggested.
I ordered the Boppy while I was pregnant, but wasn’t really sure how to use it or if I would need it. I actually didn’t use it for the first few weeks of Bebe’s life (I was later told by a friend that it’s great for women who had a C-section to use in the early days of recovery…). After about a month (and following an experienced friend’s guidance), I began using the Boppy anytime I fed Bebe unless I was nursing in her glider rocking chair. Once I was comfortable with it, which took a few days, I loved having my little one on my lap, and my hands-free. Now that Bebe is a bit older, the Boppy is great for her to lounge in and practice sitting up in when she’s beside us on the couch or on the floor. She’s very comfortable resting in it after a feeding. I hear many people like My Brest Friend, which I haven’t never used, but I’m sure offers similar advantages.
Without these items, a strong milk supply, a cooperative full-term baby, and a supportive husband, I don’t think I would have been able to continue breastfeeding long enough to get the hang of it. Although it gets so much easier over time, those first few days, sometimes weeks, are tough! Not to mention stressful and full of endless questions: Am I feeding her frequently enough? Is she gaining enough weight? Should she be sleeping so long? Why is she still crying?
Anyone else struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning? How did you get through it?