What they don't tell you about breastfeeding...
My breastfeeding journey started out a little rocky.
Growing up, I always heard my mom rant and rave about the beauty of motherhood. I think she would still be having children if my dad allowed it! Not only did she love giving birth to all four of us, but she loooved breastfeeding.
As a mother now, I can agree. I do love motherhood, and I love breastfeeding BUT I really think there are some things people leave out when they talk about their love for breastfeeding. And honestly, I think the reason why there is such a bond and love for breastfeeding is because of the hard and trying road it takes to get there! When you finally get into the swing of it, you can't help but love it and have a sense of pride because of all the grueling hours spent hunched over, with sore nipples, and the sound of a pump machine in the wee hours of the night that you had to fight through as you learned your rhythm.
After my baby was in the NICU for the first 7 days of his life, I wasn't allowed to breastfeed him because it was crucial to keep track of his ml. of milk intake and weight gain. So this meant I pumped around the clock. For about 2 weeks straight I was pumping every 3 hours. Which made it almost impossible to go anywhere for any extended period of time. The nights were the worst! The doctors wanted Azariah to be eating every 3 hours. So this meant I would wake up to one of my many alarms, pump for 15 mins, transfer it to a bottle, feed my baby for another 30 mins, put him back down, and then wash all my pump pieces and bottles so that I could go back to bed and then wake up (by that time) 2 hours later and do it all over again.
By the time 2 weeks had passed, I told my doctor I wasn't sure how much longer I could do it. I felt like I was always hooked up to a machine, and running on no sleep! I was starting to feel really defeated that my son would never learn to breastfeed since the hospital ordered me to bottle feed for the first TWO MONTHS at least. Thankfully, my pediatrician must have seen the dark circles under my eyes and had enough sympathy for me to give me a chance at breastfeeding. He gave me 4 days to ditch the pump and try solely breastfeeding him. After four days, I would come back and if he gained at least 4 oz. then I would be able to continue breastfeeding and leave the pump and bottles in the dust.
I felt so much pressure and fear when I left the pedi office with the go for breastfeeding. This could be my only chance! What if he loses weight because i'm not efficient for him?? And if I couldn't successfully breastfeed him, could I return to pumping...? Formula at that point was looking really enticing.
For some God given miracle, after the baby had been on a bottle for 2 weeks, he took to my breast like a champ and gained the 4 oz he needed to! I remember praising GOD every time he latched and took big gulps- cheering my baby on as much as I could because we were a team, and we were doing it!
Since then, little man has continued to gain weight and grow nice and healthy. But, I still have had my hang ups and struggles along the way. I thought I would share with you some of the obstacles that came up along the way that I wasn't prepared for. The things they don't tell you! Honestly, I think they need to have college courses on breastfeeding, because it's an art!
Below is a small list. Feel free to comment any additional must knows!!
Things they don't tell you:
1. If you pump too long, too often, you may start producing as if you had twins. (guilty!)
2. If your breasts get too full, milk ducts can clog up and milk can stop coming out! Your boobs will get super tender and hurt like crazy! I learned soon that the best remedy for a clogged duct was a hot shower and massage, as well as soaking a diaper in hot hot water and holding it to the breast. You'll be surprised how much a diaper can soak up and how well it holds heat!
3. Breastfeeding in public is interesting. My son is 11 weeks now and a little more in tune with the world around him. Sometimes he feeds great, while other times he wiggles and squirms, popping his head on and off my breast to look around. If i'm wearing a breastfeeding cover, this can look especially silly in public- as if i'm hiding a wild animal under my shirt.
4. When your baby sleeps it's first long stretch through the night, don't assume you will too. I would wake up several times through the night as my son started to sleep 6-7 hour stretches. My boobs would either become so engorged it hurt, or I would wake up completely soaked from them leaking out all over me and the bedding. I quickly learned to wear a loose fitting sports bra always with my breastfeeding pads to take any pressure off my chest, and soak up any milk that did leak. Anything too tight would make things even more uncomfortable. When I would awake with engorgement, instead of pumping it out, I would hand express a little till comfortable. If you pump, you are telling your boobs that you are feeding your baby, which is keeping your supply up each night as if the babe needs to be fed. But don't worry! Soon enough your boobs will adjust, and the engorgement and bed soaking will stop as your baby continues to sleep long stretches.
5. 99.9% of new babies are gassy! Yes, your diet can have a play in your milk. But don't torture yourself with what you can and cannot eat, because chances are your babe is going to have those gassy pains whether you choose to eat cheese or not. It's your job to assess how extreme your baby's pain is, and then try adjusting from there. But don't assume gas pains = food restrictions. Their tummys will likely mature with growth and allow them less gassy pains.
Well, that's all I can think of for now. But if you have any questions, or anything you'd like to add to the list of "what they don't tell you", feel free to comment below!
Breastfeeding is beautiful and oh so special, you guys. But it's also something that doesn't always come "natural" and takes some time to understand and adjust to. So if you're having troubles or feel completely lost in the whole thing- you're not alone! Give you and your baby some grace, and remember you're both new at this thing! And if it's your second child and you're having issues you didn't before, you are diving into a whole new relationship with a different and unique little person. It takes time to learn what works and doesn't work for each of you. Don't hesitate to reach out to other mammas, and make sure to check out breastfeeding groups in your area! Often times you can find free ones. I promise you you won't regret the help.
Happy feeding, mammas!