So my precious little one turns 2 months old on Monday. I have written several blogs about the labor, delivery and new baby types of things, but have not said much about breastfeeding. Well now I have some things to say and I hope it’s helpful to someone!
In my preparation for having a baby I focused so much on other things that I neglected to prepare myself for what learning to nurse a baby might be like. I guess I figured it would be natural, or that I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. Then I found myself on the bridge with a flat tire and and a smoking engine!
I’d like to share my story here because if I had read something like this I might have been more prepared, at least emotionally (which we all know is half the battle).
Ella was a full term baby. She weighed almost 10 lbs at birth and latched on very well within 15 minutes. Most babies do. They come out of the womb knowing what to do to eat right away. She continued to latch and was ready to eat every 2-3 hours like she should have been.
Well for me nursing ended up being super difficult! Over the first few days it was painful, and was getting worse. Nurses were helping me and a lactation consultant from the hospital came too and gave me some advice. Everyone helped a little, but it still was hurting. It felt like she was biting!
Not long after we came home I learned that the cross cradle hold was best for me because I could have most control that way. But it seemed to still be getting worse. I decided one day after about 2 weeks to try a different position to see of that would help. Well after I did I noticed that my nipple had cracked a little and was starting to bleed. I cried and freaked out because I didn’t know what to do and it was night time so I couldn’t call anyone for advice. I was so discouraged. There is so much pressure on breastfeeding because you are the only source of nutrients for your baby, and you can’t just take a break because they need to eat every 2-3 hours! It’s hard to explain the pressure unless you’ve been there.
David was right there with me and very supportive. He said I could do an appointment with a lactation consultant even though it cost money. He told me not to worry about the money because it was important that I get the help I needed. (Thank God for a supportive husband!) So the next day I did an hour private consultation where an LC watched me feed her and helped me with positioning. She was very validating and helpful. She said Ella had a super strong sucking ability (probably because she was born so big).
I learned 5 important things:
1. When I hold the breast to latch her I need to be touching my ribs to have my fingers out of the way.
2. Be patient and wait for a wide open mouth.
3. Latch her very quickly.
4. Bring her in by pressing her upper back, not her head.
5. If I could make it to 40 days, she said it would get better.
I left that appointment feeling good. I had a plan. And she said I could continue to use the nipple that was cracked and with better positioning it should heal.
Well it didn’t! I was doing all the things I learned and it didn’t seem to get better! I kept praying about it and felt like God wasn’t helping at all! I kept going day by day but didn’t understand how in the world I could continue like this. It was so hard on me emotionally. At my 3 week postnatal appt my midwife prescribed me some all-purpose nipple cream which is expensive because they mix 3 drugs to make it. I started using that and only feeding her on my good side and pumping the other to see if the crack would heal. I did that for a week. It didn’t look healed to me, but at a new moms group someone said theirs healed when they stopped using the cream so often because it kept it too moist, so I tried that. I began nursing on both sides again and finally it did heal.
All the while I was holding out hope for the 40 day mark. I went to see our pediatrician for Ella’s one month appointment and she helped me not be so freaked out by the possibility of nipple confusion. She suggested I try a nipple shield and also gave me the ok I needed to start the bottle if I felt like it. That was a turning point. Although I didn’t introduce the bottle I did use the nipple shield for a few days and it helped. Then around day 36 things started to feel more natural, and I stopped dreading nursing. Then by day 40 we were good to go!
I wish I had known all this beforehand. So many women give up breastfeeding and I understand why! You might hear someone say it’s harder than labor and that’s true for some. Formula fed babies turn out just fine, but if you want to breastfeed your baby just know you can do it! Hang in there and commit yourself to getting the support you need early on. There is light at the end of the 6 week tunnel and it is so worth it! You can do it!