Breastfeeding: What I Wish I Knew Then

I exclusively breastfeed my daughter. I knew prior to having her that I wanted to breastfeed her if I was physically able to. I was adamant though, that if I couldn’t breastfeed her it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Afterall, a baby needs to eat regardless of how they are fed. This is the same advice I gave to my pregnant friends.

Everything changed though once I had her. When she was placed on my chest, this instinct inside of me urged me to place her on my breast. It was a weird sensation knowing that she needed to eat, and I needed to provide for her. Excitedly, I held her as best as I could, skin to skin. I gently brought her to me. She looked up at me with her big, beautiful eyes. We had an understanding that we needed to work as a team. After we gazed at each other and were good and ready, she opened her mouth, and together we . . . failed miserably.

Seriously though. She couldn’t latch. My nipple was flat. I had stage fright with my husband and two nurses staring at me. I finally got her to latch (sort of) and it felt like nothing came out. Almost as soon as she latched, she slipped off. My daughter was only 6 lbs 14 oz, and trying to position her was awkward. It really was a whole production. We ended up supplementing with a bit of formula that first night in the hospital, and I went to sleep stared at her, feeling like a complete failure.

It was awful because I thought I had done my research. I watched a video on piglets being born. They came out of their mama pig and immediately went to the nipple, like the little piggies they were. It was actually fascinating. Wanting to know more about how humans breastfeed, I signed up for a breastfeeding class at our local hospital. It was a two-hour class where I learned about all the benefits of breastfeeding, which are plentiful. I learned about the anatomy of a breast. I saw more diagrams of nipples than I ever thought I would see. I practised holding a teddy bear in different positions to mimic feeding a baby. I learned that breastmilk has every nutrient that a baby needs EXCEPT vitamin D. Babies need to be given some form of vitamin D. We use Baby D-Drops, but there are other brands available. I learned about nipple cream, flat nipples, inverted nipples, engorgement . . . the list goes on. I left feeling pretty confident, and excited to finally use what God provided me with as a woman.

Fast-forward to two days after returning home from our daughter’s birth. We took her to our local public health clinic to be measured and weighed, a standard appointment. It turns out that even though I was trying to feed her both by breast and by formula, we had essentially starved her and she had lost a significant amount of weight. I actually cried in the room as the nurse tried her best not to sound judgemental when telling me this. We were sent home with precise instructions that we had to feed her formula every two hours and I had to pump to help bring my milk in. That night was exhausting, but when we returned to the clinic the following day she had gained a good amount of weight overnight, and we had her back to her birth weight in less than two weeks. The nurse examined my breasts and determined that I could use a nipple shield to help my baby latch, even though a different nurse on the previous day had said not to use one. I was so confused but decided to give it a try. It worked wonders. Now, we have absolutely no issues with feeding. I was eventually able to stop using the nipple shield, and now my daughter is a happy, healthy, chubby baby.

Even though everything turned out fine, here are some things I wish I had known:

  1. Breastfeeding is really hard. Unlike the piglets in the video I watched, many babies do not come out and latch right away. It is a learning process. Although baby has been inside you for 9 months, you are both strangers and need time to learn about each other. Baby will eventually know your smell and your voice better than anything.

  2. You probably won’t have much help breastfeeding at the hospital. I was told beforehand that there would be a lactation consultant to help me figure things out. There wasn’t. My little one was born after 4 pm, and the lactation consultant only worked until 4 pm, not on weekends. Go figure. The nurses are usually too busy to help. They will come in and try for a few minutes but they have many patients to juggle. Apparently the weekend we were there was one of the busiest weekends they had seen. Again, go figure.

  3. Every nurse has a different opinion and they will be sure to tell you, leaving you confused and frustrated. It is absolutely okay to follow your gut, and find what works for you! The nipple shield saved me. Had I listened to the first nurse who was anti-shield, I may have given up altogether.

  4. Some people will make you feel awful about not breastfeeding. The ironic thing is that many of these people have never actually breastfed. Nobody has the right to make you feel bad about yourself. You just pushed a tiny human being out of you, so if you are too exhausted to breastfeed, or you simply don’t want to, then don’t. If you choose to formula-feed your baby for no other reason than you just want to, that is totally fine! Just make sure baby gets fed, and forget everybody else.

  5. Exclusively breastfeeding does not mean you won’t get your period. I literally got mine again before finishing this post and my kid is only 3 months old. I was looking forward to not having it for a while, but apparently, once you start nursing less (ie. when baby sleeps through the night) anytime is fair game. Oh well! I guess that means my body is working on getting ready for baby number 2 😉

Despite the troubles I had in the beginning, nursing my child is one of the most amazing things I will ever do. I will never forget the moments that I have with my baby girl in the middle of the night when it is just the two of us and she is nestled into me. Anybody can bottlefeed her, but only I can provide her with the comfort she is looking for. That being said, you can have these moments in the middle of the night with a bottle too. The bond between a mommy and her baby is so special regardless of a real nipple or a plastic one 🙂

#nursing #babies #encouragement #advice #Motherhood #breastfeeding #breastmilk

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All