Recently I have felt like a lot of people have been asking me about my experience breastfeeding. I love the word “journey” to describe my breastfeeding experience because it has not been a simple thing.
Before my baby was born, I was nervous and a bit hesitant about breastfeeding. I assumed it was what I should do, but I had no idea what I was getting into. So I just plodded forward assuming things would work out.
Why did you decide to breastfeed?
In nursing school, we had an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) come in to talk to us about breastfeeding. I thought it was so neat because many nurses don’t seem to have sufficient training in breastfeeding. At this point, I knew I wanted to have kids, but my breastfeeding journey was still a few years away. Still, I loved the way the IBCLC taught us about positioning, latch, and other tips and tricks.
My main take away from the IBCLC was that breastfeeding has SO MANY benefits for mom and baby. Some of these benefits are:
- Decreased risk of postpartum depression
- Mom’s antibodies are transferred to baby through breast milk, helping baby not get sick as much (this is WAY cool!)
- Breast milk is easier to digest than formula
- Breastfeeding helps moms lose “baby weight” faster
If you want to learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding, I recommend Kelly Mom’s website: https://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/bf-benefits/
Even if all those benefits didn’t persuade me, the fact that breastfeeding is FREE definitely did! And although it didn’t seem obvious why in the beginning, breastfeeding is really convenient. No bottles to wash, no worrying about whether you packed enough formula, no mixing formula in the middle of the night…
What was it like when your baby was first born?
Honestly, it was great for about the first 24 hours. I felt like things were going okay. I was able to handle the idea that even though I wasn’t great at it right then, I knew I would get better at it.
But in the hospital, there was so much pressure to nurse my baby every 2-3 hours. That combined with the fact that every time I tried to nurse my baby she either fell asleep or start screaming and I just couldn’t handle it. By the third or fourth day (at home now), I gave my baby a bottle and she seemed so satisfied. It was so easy. So I thought maybe I should just pump and bottle feed. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that breastfeeding might not be for me or my baby.
But then, my wonderful mother (who was staying with us) told me in the morning, “Today we are just going to rest and figure out breastfeeding.” I was so grateful for her support, but still skeptical that it would work.
At the hospital, the nurse gave me a feeding tube and syringe that I could use to feed my baby breast milk or formula while she was latched on. Since my milk didn’t come in for about 4-5 days (It felt like FOREVER!), I thought she was probably just starving and needed some reward for sucking/latching.
I pumped every 2-3 hours and gave every drop of pumped milk to my baby through the syringe/tube system. Sometimes we would even feed her with it while she sucked on our finger when she was really hungry, just so we could avoid the bottle. It was hard. It took a lot of time and patience. I’m so glad my mom and husband were there to help me, because it took a lot of hands to hold the baby, help her latch, and feed her with the tubing.
After about 2 weeks, I was breastfeeding my baby without any tubing. It felt like forever, but it worked. I felt such a feeling of accomplishment. I was so proud of my baby for being patient and learning with me, too. And I am so grateful for my mom, who didn’t let me quit.
So was it easy after the first few weeks?
No. The first 2 weeks were the hardest, but I am definitely still learning how to breastfeed. There is always something new to learn.
When my baby was about 2-3 months old, she had her first “nursing strike.” I thought that maybe she just hated breastfeeding because she would only take a bottle. I texted a friend to ask if her babies had ever done this and she said it was normal and usually lasted for a few days, then they went back to nursing again. I read that sometimes when babies learn that the world around them is really interesting, they have a hard time sitting still to nurse.
At this time, I just nursed as much as I could (my baby was usually still good about nursing when she was sleepy, like during the night) and made sure she got enough to eat (pumping and bottle feeding after she refused to nurse). I don’t know if I did the “exactly right” thing, but it worked for me. There are a lot of ideas of what to do for a nursing strike. Here is a great site on Kelly Mom that shares some ideas: https://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/nb-challenges/back-to-breast/
What resources are there for nursing moms?
I could not have succeeded in nursing my baby for so long without a wide variety of resources. Here are some that I have used and found helpful:
- Close friends and family that you feel comfortable asking questions to
- I asked a few people before I had my baby if I could call/text them with questions about breastfeeding once my baby came. They were all happy to help! It was so nice to hear that certain things were normal and to know how others handled it.
- Professional Lactation Organizations
- International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are excellent sources for breastfeeding support. You can ask your hospital, pediatrician, or OB/GYN what IBCLCs are closeby that you can talk to. IBCLCs are great for medical breastfeeding questions, like tongue ties and other concerns.
- La Leche League has meetings almost everywhere, with a trained leader that can give you tips and help you find resources. Their meetings are great places to go if you want to learn from other breastfeeding moms, ask questions, or just feel like you’re not alone in your breastfeeding journey.
- Reputable websites:
- I love searching KellyMom.com because it has research-based information that I can trust and see the sources of information.
- Your Pediatrician
- Sometimes I don’t agree with what my pediatrician has to say about breastfeeding, but other times I think they have great advice. I figure it never hurts to try something new! Your pediatrician can also put you in contact with other sources.
- Your local health department
- The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program has dietitians and lactation consultants you can talk to, call, or even text for breastfeeding support.
Good luck on your own personal breastfeeding journey! Remember that no one’s breastfeeding experience is the same. Let me know if you have any other tips and tricks for breastfeeding! I would love to hear about them!