Breastfeeding. It’s completely natural and something our body is meant to just know how to do, right? Raise your hand if you felt like that statement is a load of crap. Pretty sure 90% of the mamas reading this right now are raising their hands. There’s a reason that nipple cream is a multi -million-dollar industry, and it isn’t because woman feel like moisturizing their nipples for fun.
When I was pregnant, I used to dream about what it would be like to nurse my baby. It was going to be the most amazing bonding experience. We would gaze into each other’s eyes while she fed, and then she would slowly drift off into a milk-induced coma. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that at all.
The morning that I went into labour, I realized that I was petrified for the actual getting the baby out part. As my contractions began to speed up and last longer, I kept trying to convince my husband that it wasn’t time yet, but as they continued to get closer and closer together and my husband slowly began to go into panic mode, I realized that tightly crossing my legs and avoiding the hospital wasn’t going to keep that baby in there no matter how hard I tried. Clearly this baby girl was on her way out, and there was no stopping it.
We got to the hospital around 10 p.m. and she was born by 1 a.m. My usual doctor wasn’t on call that day, so I ended up with a doctor I didn’t know, and let’s just say she seemed like she had seen it all, and maybe wasn’t the most compassionate. I really think she had me start pushing before I was fully ready, which resulted in third-degree tears. This usually means surgery, but she decided she could get me stitched up right on that table, and when it was time to stitch me up, I wasn’t frozen. I honestly don’t know what was worse- labour or those stitches. Just thinking about it makes my vagina sweat.
Anyhow- I was so excited to finally meet my perfect little pink bundle, but I felt like I had been beat up down there and I was beyond emotional. I couldn’t believe we had had a human, and now it was time to take her home.
We were finally allowed to go home, and three days later- after no sleep, my milk came in and I was a wreck from all of the hormonal changes. I felt like I was off my rocker, and my nipples were already sore and cracked from three days of constantly trying to get her to latch and to stimulate milk production. But I was determined to make this work.
One of the things I think I regret the most was not accepting more help. I felt anxious about anybody touching her, and I couldn’t believe how hard getting a proper latch was. My doctors and nurses told me how to take care of my stitches to make sure there wasn’t any infection, but there were no additional tips on products I could use to help soothe the pain down there or on my cracked nipples, and no one told me you could ask to see a lactation consultant at the hospital.
My nurse only told me that when it came to breastfeeding, practice makes perfect. I won’t repeat what I said back to her.
It took me nearly 3 weeks to get comfortable with breastfeeding, and another 9 months for my perineum to fully heal.
Please ask for help in the early days if you need it.
Some things I realized over the next few months that I hope will help other moms with breastfeeding are:
1. It can hurt. Even when you’ve mastered the latch, there can still sometimes be a little pinching pain as your milk lets down.
2. Put the nipple cream on before you even start nursing. The nipples are extremely sensitive and if you keep it moisturized before, during and after, you’re a lot less likely to get cracked nipples.
3. The same thoughts will go through every mom’s head. Is the baby getting enough? Too little? Too much? Too much foremilk? Too much hindmilk? Should I supplement with formula? What if the baby likes the formula better? What do I do if the baby won’t latch and doesn’t like formula? Is that a plugged duct? Do I have mastisis? The next article discusses these common breastfeeding issues and concerns; but this point is just to let you know- all that worrying you’re doing? It’s completely Normal.
4. Just call me Bessie the Dairy Cow. Sometimes it will seem like your baby wants to nurse 24/7 and yes, it will make you feel like a human milk machine. It’s okay to love and hate it at the same time.
5. You might resent the fact that your husband doesn’t have a set of boobs. I mean what are his nipples for anyways? Useless...
6. Nursing covers can often seem like a scam when your baby won’t feed under one. Remember when you’re breastfeeding your baby that your baby is eating, just like every other human being does to stay alive, so if your baby won’t feed under a cover you just whip that boob out, and you ignore anyone who gives you side-eye.
7. You might pump for hours only to end up with 2 ounces. And you’ll feel defeated. If this keeps happening, try a bigger size of the breast shields.
8. You can get Mommy’s wrist/tendonitis in your wrist and hand from breastfeeding. Yup, just another thing to worry about. If this happens, it just means you need to switch up the positions you’ve been breastfeeding in every other feed. You can also buy a wrap for your hand to take off the pressure.
9. Try different positions to feed your baby. There is the football hold; on the pillow, the cradle, side- lying etc. There is no wrong way; just whatever works for you and your little babe. With my first, she would only feed in the football hold, whereas my second baby fed in any position.
10. It’s okay to decide that breastfeeding is not for you. If breastfeeding is not working out, then it’s okay to decide to go with formula. A fed baby is best, and your sanity is important too. Just remember whichever way you decide to go, you’re doing great, mama.