My breastfeeding journey has left me in tears of frustration & pure joy. Its been a long, tough road these past 2 months+ and I’m hoping with all my heart that it continues for as long as my baby wants. I hope my story can help other mothers feel not alone in their journey.
I did my fair share of research on breastfeeding while I was pregnant. I thought I understood it pretty well. How hard could it be? You give birth to a baby & with a snap of your fingers, your boobs make milk. Simple. No family members of mine breastfed so they weren’t much help & I think most of them doubted me really. At my doctor visits I only asked one question about bf, “Do I breastfeed on a time schedule or on-demand?” I was told on demand at first to help build my supply. The only real worry I had was about being able to make milk. I worried I wouldn’t be able to feed my baby in the way I was dreaming of for months. During labor, I got a fever so they got worried about an infection. The doctor explained that they would have to take the baby to NICU after birth to run tests to make sure she didn’t have an infection. We both were put on antibiotics after the birth to make sure neither of us had it. So once my baby girl was born, I held her for barely 2 minutes - no skin to skin, just little kisses & she was sent off to the NICU. She spent the first 4 hours of her life there. Alone. Without her mama. I hated myself for not being with her (I still do but I’m working on healing). I was stuck in bed, I slept so I couldn’t worry. But by the time I woke up, I was able to go see her. In the NICU, a nurse attempted to help me breastfeed her but she got really frustrated at me for my baby struggling to latch. I mean this was brand new to us both! I had inverted nipples so of course she was going to struggle. It was a terrible experience. Not at all how I imagined my first latch. Surrounded by really really sick babies, holding my little girl, trying to help her the best I could with no professional breastfeeding help. We were both lost. She had a severe choking problem because she had a belly full of fluid from a fast delivery (pushed for 45 minutes) which made her not want to eat anything. After a few more struggling attempts throughout the day, I gave up. They gave me a pump so I could at least help bring in my supply. The next time we breastfed was the next morning. It was successful, I cried tears of joy alone in my hospital room (fiancé had to go to work). I was so excited. I was finally feeding my baby and she loved it! That second night in the hospital was really hard. She still was choking often which scared me to death because sometimes she couldn’t breathe at all. The nurses always came rushing in to help. She was clusterfeeding so I hardly slept because of that too. I was really worried how I would handle being a new mom on my own. The lactation consultant helped with different latch positions & nurses finally gave me a nipple shield which made feeding so much easier.
At home, she clusterfed endlessly for 2 weeks. It was a learning experience and really tested my patience. She still continues to clusterfeed but only at certain times now. Whenever she doesn’t, I feel kinda sad & like she doesn’t want me.
Around 2 weeks of breastfeeding, I got mastitis from having a huge clogged duct. I was in excruiating pain and I had no idea what was wrong with my left boob. I went to my primary care doctor and she suggested I go to the hospital to be put on IV antibiotics right away but also gave me a prescription. I just got the prescription because our local hospital is pretty terrible & the very last place I wanted to be with a newborn. After another 2 weeks it finally cleared up. I got a lot more cautious with making sure I had no clogged ducts!
I’m still having issues with that boob: redness & oversupply. I asked my baby’s doctor about it and she had no idea what was wrong and seemed not concerned about the redness. At my 6 week pp check up, I asked my ob/gyn & she was clueless & unconcerned too.
My point is: there isn’t enough medical support surrounding breastfeeding. No one warned me of the downsides of it. No one said, “Hey! The reality of breastfeeding is everyday will have new challenges!” No one told me it would take an incredible amount of determination to make it through the hard moments. Also, I had to find out myself that my baby is the best snuggle partner, and that every moment I’m feeding her, I’ll love her more & more. The day our breastfeeding journey ends I’ll be so heartbroken. I’ll miss seeing the comfort my breasts brought her and watching her drift off to sleeping while suckling. I’m really grateful for Maria and this community. We are so strong when we come together. Even mothers that are formula feeding, or whatever way you are feeding your little one, I hope you feel included in this community too. We are all beautiful mamas and we’re doing amazing.