I thought breastfeeding was supposed to be second nature to moms but I was wrong. When I had my first baby, I was so excited about being able to breastfeed her. I was asked by nurses and doctors all throughout the pregnancy if I was planning on breastfeeding and I always answered yes. Little did I know that I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding.
After my baby was born, we did skin to skin right away; she was perfect in every single way. Then she fed for the first time and it was wonderful. I thought to myself “I’m doing it” and that it would be okay. A few hours later, the exhaustion of giving birth hit me, and the one thing I thought I should be able to do was not working out.
I tried so hard to breastfeed my little girl but my nipples were so sore, and it seemed like she wasn’t getting enough milk even after feeding her at every hour. But I didn’t want to give up, so I kept on trying every time she asked for it.
I cried so much because of the physical nipple pain and the frustration I was feeling at not being able to feed my baby. I tried pumping as well but I barely got anything.
Finally, at her first checkup appointment after coming home from the hospital, I was told she was losing too much weight and that I needed to supplement with formula. And so we did. After a couple of weeks, my baby didn’t want to breastfeed anymore because she was getting used to the bottle and so we just stuck with formula.
It was heartbreaking. I felt like a total failure. I should have been able to breastfeed, that’s what moms are supposed to do, at least that’s what I thought back then. But after trying so hard and having cracked nipples, I just let it go. Until this day, I feel like if I had had better support and knowledge about breastfeeding, I would have done a better job at it.
My second pregnancy was not planned, and it happened sooner than I thought. My oldest kids are only 15 months apart, so when my son was born, I tried to breastfeed again. But this time I wasn’t so sure I could do it and I wasn’t as adamant about doing it like with my first one.
Of course, on my pregnancy check-ups I would get asked if I was going to breastfeed and I would answer “if I can, I will”. But it was so annoying that I had to repeat the story of my first failure every single time. And those memories of failure came coming back.
My son was born, we did skin to skin and he fed afterwards. I was hopeful but careful not to get too excited about it because I knew what happened before. My son was born in the morning, and by nightfall I was so tired and again had sore nipples from breastfeeding, that we started supplemented right there at the hospital.
One can only take so much of the crying and constant feedings. So we gave in. We thought if one of our children had been okay with formula, the second one would be okay too.
I can’t even explain how it felt for me back then, and to some extent how I feel about this now today. But I do not let it get to me anymore. At the time, I tried 100% of what I had in me to do this for my children. It didn’t work out, and they are completely healthy and beautiful now.
Since I’ve gone through these experiences, here are my two cents on how to better prepare if you are trying to breastfeed your baby:
- Do not assume it’s second nature to breastfeed, do your research. I didn’t use Pinterest until after my second child was born, but there’s a wealth of knowledge there on how to breastfeed and do it right. And there are many other organizations that have a lot of support and information about the matter, such as La Leche League. There are also lactation consultants available that are usually covered by insurance.
- Ask for help. Hospitals have lactation consultants that are more than willing to assist. It is also my understanding now that nurses take training on how to help moms with breastfeeding. I didn’t feel like I had good support with my first born, but when I had my second one, the lactation consultant was awesome. Reach out to women you know that have breastfed before and ask them questions. Or join a support group.
- I’m not a medical professional, but there are certain supplements or foods you can take to increase breast milk production. Always check with your doctor about adding supplements to your diet but there are things out there that help. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about them until after my oldest two were born, but they do work.
- For some moms, breastfeeding does come naturally but for most, it is hard work. It is similar to starting an exercise program, the first few weeks are the toughest but once you get past that, it gets better. Give yourself time to get used to this new experience; I would say at least 4 weeks.
- Be patience with yourself and with your wonderful baby. Both of you are learning to do this together, and it’s easy to get frustrated and angry but be gently to both of you. Give yourself time and, as with anything else, practice makes perfect. If for some reason breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you either please know that it is completely okay to give formula to your baby; he/she will survive and thrive.
The Silver Lining
I hope that this is helpful advice and that you do your research before your baby is born. If breastfeeding is important to you, please know that there is a lot of information that can help you, as well as support.
Unfortunately for me, I was not able to breastfeed my first two kids. But fortunately, I am breastfeeding my third one now. We are on our third month and thriving together. It has been a roller coaster journey though, with our bad days and good ones. And I will be writing about my experience so far and more tips that helped me.
If I can help you in anyway with advice on your journey, please reach out. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I’m more than happy to help.