I’ve been lucky enough to breastfeed exclusively for the past three months, but, oh boy, I wanted to quit many times.
Here’s what I’ve learnt so far on my breastfeeding adventure. I wanted to share some of my ‘downs’ and report, that there are ‘ups’ along the way and it will, eventually, feel like the most amazing and special thing you and your baby can share. But, as with everything else worthwhile, it’s a bloody hard work!
There is so much pressure and so many different theories. How should I breastfeed? How long should I breast feed for? It all just adds to the challenges.
So here’s my story:
Like everyone else, I did a couple of breastfeeding classes while pregnant. The teacher had a very specific point of view and explained, that every woman has enough milk, every nipple is ‘latch-able’ and if you don’t find this the case, then you’re doing it wrong. So I read everything I could to be super prepared for my baby’s arrival. I studied baby’s feeding positions and the right latch, I thought I was ready to rock.
In the delivery room, when you’re absolutely exhausted, the time comes to put your baby on your chest and feed him, or at least latch him. My baby immediately had a mind on his own, and of course there was no way he would go into any position they taught me in class. He just wouldn’t latch and all I could hear in my ears was my teacher’s voice: “Every nipple is latch-able, if not, you’re doing it wrong.” My baby was with me just a few short minutes and I already couldn’t feed him, I was doing it wrong. How could I be a bad mum so soon?!”
Eventually, a couple of hours later, nurses helped me to latch him and my baby finally fed, not much and in a new position of his own invention, but this was huge progress and a great relief. I managed to hand pump pre-milk (colostrum) that I was producing at the time and top up my baby with a syringe, so he wouldn’t have to have formula or starve. Two days later, we were sent home and I was on my own, not producing milk just yet. The next morning my baby had jaundice, which is common, but the doctors kept saying: “Keep him hydrated, he’ll get better!” Well how? I had no milk! My milk finally came in the third day and I was relieved. From then on I thought, things were gonna get easier? Well, I was way too optimistic.
I ended up having huge (to underestimate) overproduction of milk, I went from a D cup to a G cup in a couple of hours and was in a lot of pain. I thought my boobs could land an Airbus 380. Ice didn’t help, nor did the frozen cabbage leaves in my bra that had been recommended. I ended up getting high fevers, chills and hallucinations. Something you ‘really need’ on top of being up all night with a screaming newborn. The doctor’s diagnose was obvious, I had mastitis- breast infection. It felt like having an intense tooth ache but in the middle of 2 huge breasts. I was given antibiotics, that I was safe to breastfeed with, and ibuprofen to reduce the fever and inflammation. I was advised to pump as much as possible, so the mastitis would not return. So I did, I fed my baby every 1,5-2h and I pumped on top of that, not to be in pain. I was able to pump 5oz (150ml) on each breast in under 4min. I was a true milk factory! The more I pumped, the more I produced, it was a vicious cycle, I couldn’t get out of.
A month and a half have passed, as did another case mastitis (they were calling it chronic at this point), my nipples were on fire and red raw. I’d had so many doctor visits, I even had a specialist come from Upstate NYC to help me, I did more nursing classes and I continued to cram iced cabbage leaves into my bra, not the best smell! It all eventually came together and I finally started to feel better. I pumped less and less and, once we reached the 2,5 months mark, my boobs had adjusted! At last!!
I wanted to give up so many times, with my first mastitis, and my last, but I didn’t and I’m so happy I stuck with it. Now, I’m finally in that moment, every mum keeps describing- I enjoy it, it’s such a special moment between myself and my baby, it’s truly the most special and magical thing!
So hang in there mums, stick with it, it will get better no matter what the problem is, may it be too much milk or no milk at all. So in short (sorry, not really) Here’s what I’ve learnt and what I wish I’d known before, to make this journey much easier:
1- Do NOT take a breastfeeding class when pregnant.
It puts too much pressure on you. The last thing you want is a ‘lactation specialist’ telling you that everyone has milk and every breast can latch and if you can’t, then you’re doing something wrong. She’s wrong!
2- Once you had your baby, then find a breastfeeding group class near you and make sure there’s a lot of mums who go there. You’ll cry and laugh together and it will help you realize that you’re not the only one struggling and exhausted. I cannot recommend highly enough, ‘Wild Was Mama’, in Williamsburg where I live. Their ‘IBCLC’ (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Patricia McGuire is the most amazing person and so incredibly helpful. She’ll help any mum and will make nursing easier.
3- Do not let people tell you what kind of feeding is best for your baby!
You know best! You’re your baby’s mum! No matter what you decide, may it be formula, feeding exclusively or half and half, you’re a hero mum either way!!
4- Do not worry if your baby doesn’t latch straight after you delivered him/her.
It will eventually happen, the nurses in the hospital will throw that child on your boobs! They’ll make sure of it, it’s their job!
5- You cannot eat everything.
A green juice sent us to an emergency room. Kale is not your friend, nor are all cruciferous veggies, neither are legumes, apples and in most cases, dairy. All you find online is what you cannot eat, what you’re allowed to eat while breastfeeding, no one really talks about. So with that I have an article ready for you, coming next week, where I list what you can eat when breastfeeding. I’ll also post some great recipes! Basically, if it gives you gas, it will give your baby gas. A company called ‘Barley and Oats’ is awesome. It delivers healthy meals in NYC areas for pregnant and breastfeeding mums.
6- Don’t give up!
You’ll sweat, you’ll stink, you’ll bleed and hurt, you will not be able, yet again, to sleep on your stomach as now you have two bumps instead of one, nor will you fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes (I actually gained weight due to nursing and lack of sleep), but it will get better and it will get easier, I promise! For me it was at 2,5 months mark, and it’s all been totally worth it!!