BREASTFEEDING! Ahh… what a word. Little did I know that it meant so much more now that I have become a mother. I learned all about breastfeeding as a nursing student and during my prenatal classes. I knew that I would have to do it one day as a mom. I didn’t think much of it. Or better put, I didn’t know what I was really getting into. It was just one of those things you knew you were going to do or going to have to do one day. I felt like I was educated and knowledgeable in breastfeeding. I mentally “prepared” myself by thinking that I might not get to breastfeed. That it might not work out. I didn’t even get a breast pump.
When the time came, I felt like I knew nothing.
I wasn’t expressing my milk properly.
I thought my milk was coming in more than it was and that my baby was being fed.
I thought my latch was fine.
I didn’t ask for help…from the start.
I kept telling the nurses, “I was ok”.
Boy, was I wrong.
The first week of breastfeeding was the most challenging for me. My milk came in slowly; it took 4 days to fully come in. My latch wasn’t correct and to make things worse, my baby was losing weight.
Here’s how the first 4 days of breastfeeding went:
Here I am, a confident momma-to-be thinking I have prepared myself fully for the task of breastfeeding. The day of the C-section comes and I don’t get to do skin to skin or breastfeed my baby right away as I thought I would. I feel groggy and dazed post-op and can barely hold my baby to breastfeed her in the recovery room. I latch her on but I feel pain. It was probably more painful than what I felt because I was on pain medication so I keep latching her on. I see a bit of colostrum come out so I think my milk is coming in slowly but surely. The pain keeps getting worse and I cringe as I latch my baby on every time. My baby cried a lot and would want to feed so frequently, I felt like she was always on my breast. It was causing me anxiety to have to feed her because it hurt so much to do so. I powered through the pain on the first day and night because I knew it was going to get better and that maybe my nipples would toughen up eventually. No one checked my latch or my milk expression and I didn’t ask for help.
The nurse came in to weigh her the next day and she has lost a little weight. I was disappointed but knew that it was normal. The nurses weren’t too concerned right now and said that they will re-check later in the evening. At this point I still felt confident and still believed in my body. That night the nurse came in and Daisy lost even more weight. They said I could keep trying to breastfeed her, try to pump, or try to give her formula. I still felt confident so I said I would keep breastfeeding her and try to pump. Nothing came out from the pump the first time so I stopped and didn’t bother. I just figured I’ll keep letting her feed. One of the nurses finally came in a showed me how to express my milk properly. I was actually surprised because I thought I was doing it correctly and I wondered why I wasn’t getting any colostrum out.
The next day she kept losing more weight and she was beginning to be less consolable at the breast. We finally gave in and fed her a small amount of formula and she was satisfied right away. I felt a little disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to feed Daisy and that I had to resort to using formula to feed her; I knew this could happen but I still couldn’t help but feel upset. Daisy got formula after I breastfed her and she was still showing signs of hunger but I still kept latching her on. Oh and yes, my nipples were still in pain.
We got to go home on the 3rd day even though Daisy was still underweight. The next day, a nurse from my midwife group came to check on us and to weigh Daisy. She had lost too much weight and she advised us to start giving her more formula. I wasn’t fully prepared because we didn’t even have any formula at home. Dustin had to go and get formula and we fed Daisy as per the nurse. I still continued to breastfeed and would top off with formula after. I also got a breast pump from my bestfriend (#blessher) and started pumping that night.
The nurse also looked at my latch and corrected it. She gave me some tips and informed me of how I can deal with my nipple pain. Other than lanolin, Nipple shields and the gel pads are seriously gifts from the gods! I only had to use the nipple shield for a day to help my nipples heal and I continued to use the hydragel pads longer because it felt so nice and provided me with so much relief from frequent breastfeeding.
I remember feeling so upset when Daisy was weighed and when the nurse said that she lost too much weight. It felt like I starved her and the thought made me want to bawl my eyes out. On top of feeling let down by my own body and feeling disappointed by my expectations, I felt worse that I thought I was starving my own baby. I felt even more upset when I could see how satisfied Daisy was after finishing a bottle of formula.
I started pumping after feeds or when Daisy was sleeping longer than 2 hours. My milk finally came in on the 4th day and I no longer needed to use formula to supplement or top off. I felt a sudden wave of relief and it made me happy that I could finally provide nutrition for my baby.
I felt so proud that my body could produce milk and that it was helping Daisy gain weight. Breastfeeding truly is a remarkable thing. Nourishing your baby from something that your body makes is actually an amazing feat. I exclusively breastfed Daisy up until 2 months. I thought the struggle was over. Little did I know, my journey was about to become more challenging.
But that story is for another time.