Welcome to my three part series of breastfeeding. In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, I decided to share the details of my breastfeeding experiences in three parts. I hope this can help you in your own breastfeeding journey, or that maybe you can relate to experiences you’ve already had. In this first part, I’d like to share the details that I wish I had known before I started breastfeeding…
#1 – Breastfeeding can be a challenge.
The first thing that I think every new mother needs to hear and to understand is that breastfeeding can be a challenge. I remember when I was pregnant for the first time, I was looking forward to breastfeeding in a magical way. I couldn’t wait for the endless cuddles and the bonding that nursing would bring. I had a chair set up in the nursery, complete with all the necessary things, that would be the stage for our middle of the night moments. My husband and I had taken a prenatal class, I skimmed the breastfeeding sections of the baby books, but I felt mostly confident that this was a natural thing and would happen easily. And then the baby came…
#2 – Feed within the first two hours of baby’s life.
I wasn’t able to nurse O for the first time until four hours after she was born. She was born two weeks early, was on the smaller side (5lb. 12oz.), and so they took her to run some tests. During the waiting time, I was being moved from the delivery unit to the mother/baby unit. Looking back, I wish I had been more adamant about getting to feed her in the first two hours. The first two hours of life is the best time for the first feed. So, my next advice to you is to be persistant if it is important to you. If the baby is not able to come to you, ask if you can be taken to where the baby is.
After O was brought to me, she was already past her most wakeful time, so she was sleepy. She had a hard time latching. This in turn caused me to beccome stressed out. I wanted this to work out so badly, and each attempt to feed seemed like my magical dream was slipping away. The nurses eventually convinced me to supplement, which devastated me, and I also began pumping at this point to encourage milk production.
#3 – Expect the unexpected and work through the difficulties.
We came home from the hospital with instructions for using a tiny tube (see picture below) near the breast during each supplemental feeding to continue to build my supply and hopefully encourage little O to latch and take to breastfeeding. I also had to continue to pump, and of course, my stress levels were rising. This leads me to the third thing I wish I knew which is expect the unexpected. Because breastfeeding is not predictable, don’t lose your magical dream, but add in a bit of knowledge that things might not go exactly as you had planned. Working through the difficulties is completely worth it.
(If you are a new mother, and in need of a supplemental feeder, this one might help. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. This is an affiliate link.)
#4 – Ask for help.
Let me say that one again, ask for help! Start with the lactation consultants in the hospital. Even if your baby latches the first time and things are going great (which did happen for me with baby #2), talk with the consultant. Gather more knowledge while it’s right at your fingertips, especially if you are a first time mommy. I saw a lactation consultant every day in the hospital, in hopes of learning as much as I could to make breastfeeding possible and successful. I also reached out to the lactation consultant at my pediatrician’s office, and visited with her regularly in the early weeks of O’s life. There are also mommy groups you can join. La Leche League is a great resource, a nonprofit organization dedicated to breastfeeding. I also found KellyMom to be another great online support.
Good news though, it’s not impossible to have a rough start and then have things make a turn for the better. Eventually, O latched and I was able to nurse her for most of the first year of her life. I did have to supplement, and there were more bumps along the way (we’ll save that for another post), but we did it. I look back now and remember the magical moments – the cuddles, the middle of the night bonding – and I cherish the journey.
Just remember, you’re not alone. While I’m certainly not a lactation consultant, I’d be happy to offer support if you are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding or just need someone to reach out to. Feel free to post your questions or share what you wish you had known below, or contact me here.