10 things I wish I knew about breastfeeding

Pain

I loved my pregnancy journey and really enjoyed my breastfeeding journey with my now 9 months old baby. I am still exclusively breastfeeding and I love the bond it created between my baby and I. At the same time I know that not everyone is able to breastfeed and that means that their baby will love them just as much as they would love their momma anyway, the bond you will have or already have with your baby is going to be strong no matter how you nourish your child. I am simply sharing my own experiences.

These days there are many resources available online and at different medical facilities. Maybe you are like me and found it too overwhelming and simply too much information. I was feeling the hormonal changes right away and it resulted in a heightened ability to worry, not that I needed this one to be a side affect of pregnancy.

When I read up on breastfeeding and almost everyone was saying how painful it was. I was expecting pain, naturally. However, it was far from truth for me. Baby and I had a rough beginning of our breastfeeding experience and once we both learned what to do it was a breeze. Sometimes I was uncomfortable, sometimes I had sore nipples during a growth spurt where my baby was attached to me for what felt like 20 hours out of 24, but nothing that lasted and a little bit of nipple balm wouldn’t fix. If you are expecting your first baby and don’t know what to expect with breastfeeding, I hope this gives you some comfort, your experience may not be painful at all.

NICU baby

My birth plan was simple: delivery a baby into the world in the healthiest and safest way. I certainly did not plan on sending my newborn to NICU, but he was born with a swollen head and a high fever. I barely had a chance to hold him but for a second as they pressed him against me and then took him away.

NICU experience significantly influenced the initial bond and made it harder on our nursing journey. The nurses at the hospital were great and do what they need to make sure that the babies are safe and recover. When I held my son for the first time he was recovering wonderfully and had a pacifier in his mouth. I don’t believe he needed it, and if I am ever in that situation again I will make sure to ask that they don’t give a newborn a paci. When I held him and tried to latch him on he would just fall asleep, as he did with the pacifier. The nurses were trying to help and kept trying a few times every couple of hours. I was given a nipple shield when he still wasn’t latching on, and that’s when we had first success.

If you plan on breastfeeding, my advice is to avoid the paci before you have a chance to teach the baby how to latch on, and definitely DO NOT use a nipple shield if you don’t need one. I did not need it and using it actually hurt me and gave me a lot of soreness (also because they gave me a size too small). Once we started out this way, my baby would not latch on by himself without the nipple shield. We kept working at it and I was honestly starting to hate it and was praying for a change.

Day 7 was amazing. Baby boy decided he was done with the shield and wanted to latch on by himself. My discomfort was gone and it became so much easier for both of us. Maybe it was because my milk came in by that point and he wasn’t getting enough, I was just happy to throw that nipple shield away. Did you have to use one? Was breastfeeding successful for you after having your baby in NICU?

Education

The first thing you will teach your baby is how to eat. I think that’s so incredible! I love that my body was made for this and is doing the job of growing this baby boy into a little moving crawling chatty curly head of hair! If you’re like me you were probably worried about some things and started to read books.. Well, that didn’t last long because I became more overwhelmed while doing research on how to educate and help my baby become the best learner. Now he is 9 months old and I think he’s doing amazing. I trust my intuition, I always have, and I know that no matter what I will always do my best trying to take care of him. That’s basically what we all do right? Just our best effort at screwing up the least while being super sleep deprived, hormonally unbalanced and hungry most of the time.

I certainly didn’t expect to have to teach my baby how to do this eating thing. After about 2 months he really got good at it and didn’t need much assistance in latching on or nursing in general.

Professional help

I had great advice from mom friends who were also nurses or in the medical professional field. From the beginning a couple of them recommended to talk to a lactation specialist at the hospital and after we came home. It was excellent advice and I am so glad I listened! Maternity nurses are great and I loved mine, but the most help and guidance I received was from a lactation specialist; and trust me I needed it!! Every hospital should have a lactation specialist and it’s often free. My baby was in the NICU for the first 10 hours of his life and we did not have skin to skin right away, more on this below, so it really made a difference in talking to professionals to help me figure it out when I was already exhausted from labor and worried about my baby’s health especially if they didn’t let me see him right away.

Another cool thing was going back to get help at 2 weeks and then at 2 months. They helped me measure how much the baby took of my milk at one feeding, it was really helpful since I was not using a bottle.

Bras

Buy a really good, even if very expensive, nursing bra right away! First of all, can Victoria Secret finally come out with a nursing line?! Because we ladies need good support and pretty bras after the baby too. I had a hard time finding a bra with the perfect fit, comfort, function and sexiness. I believe those are all key to a good nursing bra!

I ordered a couple soft nursing bras on amazon to go into my hospital bag and I still use them, but they’re back up only at this point. My favorite nursing bra right now is from Third Love, they just came out with one literally within a couple weeks ago and I love how fast mine came in the mail. The fit is perfect, there is a clasp in the front, and I wish I had it from the beginning of my breastfeeding journey! I also LOVE this one from Heidi Klum collection, so far Heidi’s collection is my favorite and I only wish there were more options with an underwire bra. My advice – buy a good bra right away, it should be so comfortable that you never have to think about it.

Changes

I wish I knew the changes my body would experience. But then again if I really knew everything that would happen I am not sure I would have gone through with having the baby pushed out of me thing… Right?

Two months postpartum I had one really really rough night. I was trying to nurse, my baby was obviously hungry, he kept crying and wanted more but I knew that there was no more milk for him. I was getting so frustrated, I was sobbing, emotional hormonal mess, and really sad that this may have been the last time I would breastfeed my baby boy. We just got good at it and now my milk is gone? Well, we survived the night, and in the morning I went to the lactation specialist extremely worried. We live 2 blocks away from a hospital, so this was very convenient! She was very helpful and encouraging, so many more reasons to seek help from a professional. We weighed the baby before he ate and after, he took in 4 oz, and I still felt like he wasn’t getting enough. What I learned is that right at that mark of 8-12 weeks postpartum boobs change, basically, they don’t feel full all the time like in the first weeks and when baby is going through a growth spurt at 2 months there isn’t enough for him to drink, but its so important to keep breastfeeding him extra (even if it feels like 24/7) because it will help communicate to your body that it needs to produce more.

When you feel like your body is failing you, push thru! Your body will go thru so much in such a short period of time, but it’s designed for this! We are going 9 months strong through every step and challenge.

Milk blisters

I wish that I still didn’t what these were! Yikes. I know you will probably just google it, but trust me it’s not good, not comfortable and definitely painful. Essentially it is a thin layer of skin that covers one of the openings on the nipple so milk can’t come out and results in a clogged milk duct.

One morning I woke up and I knew my breasts were more full then usual, I knew I had a clogged milk duct but it didn’t go away after baby nursed. I also started to feel very sharp pain in my nipple and knew something was wrong. After about 4-6 hours it wasn’t going away and I consulted google. After trying absolutely everything on the list of recommendations nothing worked, so I used a needle to basically break the skin and everything went back to normal within five minutes. If you have more questions about my experience and want more details just message me, this is not a fun experience to go through!

Mastitis

I wish I knew what to do to avoid mastitis from the beginning. Sure, I read up on what helped others, but honestly, there is so much to keep track of I just wasn’t paying attention. (This is where professional help is super!) I wish I knew to make sure that I was pumping and switching sides regularly to avoid being too full. After mastitis hit me once, I was really paying attention to what my body was feeling like and it was easier to take care of the early symptoms.

I hope it doesn’t affect you. It’s so painful!

Pumping

My worst enemy.

Some of my dear friends are exclusively pumping and I applaud you! Seriously, it is such hard work and so much dedication to push through and provide nourishment for your baby. My boy hates the bottle, even at 9 months he will still not take it, so I stopped pumping around 3-4 months because it would just go to waste at the end.

I was still able to create a good freezer stash using this awesome silicone pump, and I believe that if I got my hands on it from the beginning I could have avoided some overflow issues and probably mastitis too… You can read more about my freezer stash without pumping here.

Now when I try to pump with an electric pump 6 months postpartum and after, I just run into issues and pain. I also could never get much out that way anyway, so I just stopped and put Medela into storage. (has anyone else experience this?)

Comfort

What I didn’t expect at all is having this need to take care of my baby and feed him. Sometimes after a bad day full of unexpected or everything going wrong I would just hold my baby, nurse him in the rocking chair and everything would feel so much better. Maybe it’s the hormonal mess of a mother’s life, maybe it’s the true mystery, I still find breastfeeding comforting and very calming to my soul. I’m not the only one in that right?

 

 

I hope that my story is helpful to someone else, I believe we all experience the same things but receive them differently and thats absolutely ok! If you’re taking care of feeding your baby you are a super star in my eyes; and if you are exclusively breastfeeding – I feel ya!

xx

L.

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