I’ve decided to make my very first blog post about something that is so important to me and many other mom’s around the world. I was only able to breastfeed Jordan for four months, because I was so caught up in what was SUPPOSE to happen, that I didn’t realize what WAS happening was perfectly okay! I thought everything I was doing was wrong because it didn’t correlate to what the experts said. I did learn from my past mistakes with Jordan, and because of it, I’ve now been breastfeeding Arlo for seven months now!
Breastfeeding is something that SHOULD be considered natural to everybody since that is exactly what it is—natural! So if it’s so “natural” why can it be so hard? I’ll tell you right from the start, breastfeeding is no walk in the park, especially at the beginning, but what I can promise you is that it is SO worth it in the end!
A short story of myself and why I failed at breastfeeding my first son:
As I mentioned, I was only able to breastfeed him for his first four months of life before I completely gave up and switched to formula. I was a brand new mom, my baby didn’t want to stay latched for long at the beginning, (which is NORMAL, they DID just come out a tiny tube that compressed their head, and not to mention they’re adapting to life outside of the womb), I was exhausted, not to mention I went right back to nursing school 3 days post partum. What I was expecting was basically latch him on and away we go.
I researched quite a bit, but nobody just came out and said, “This is what will happen..,” and because of it, I wasn’t prepared, and I wasn’t ready, and it set me up for failure.
Fast forward 2 years, I had my second son, who breastfed like a champ right from the get go! Literally! As soon as he entered the world, the doctor handed him to me, umbilical cord attached and all, and he latched right on! I knew so much more based upon my past failure, I KNEW what was coming and I knew how to combat any obstacle in my way.
Enter…my blog to the rescue!! I’m going to lay it all out with my personal experience so that YOU know exactly what you can expect when breastfeeding, so that you can learn from my mistakes.
- It can hurt…A LOT.
I know you’ve heard the whole, “If it hurts, you’re not doing it right!” spill. To each woman and baby their own, but this was BS for me. With my first son, I only had mild discomfort, but with my second, my nipples were so red and cracked by the third day that I would feel my soul leave my body when my son would feed. It was NOT because I was doing it wrong, it was because for one, my nipples were just not used to having a newborn baby suck on them every 2-3 hours. Two, my 9 pound baby had a STRONG suck reflex. Don’t be frightened off though, the pain is short-lived. Remember I’m trying to tell you what to expect, not that it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows. There are two amazing things that relieved the pain for me that I was stubborn to use with my first, but worshipped with my second. One magic ingredient was Lanolin. Lanolin is this miracle tub of joy and wonders that magically makes your sore, cracked, and even bleeding nipples DISAPPEAR in thin air after a few applications. My second magical breastfeeding ingredient… breast shells. Breast shells remind me of little turtle shells. These turtle shells protect your nipples by keeping your bra of shirt from brushing against your sore nipples. What I would do is feed my baby, and as soon as he was done, apply the lanolin, put my turtle shells on, and relax! Both were absolute lifesavers for me and my breastfeeding journey because they take away one of the many pains you are experiencing after having a baby, what’s not to love!
2. Clusterfeeding is imminent.
Clusterfeeding is a baby’s way of communicating with mom’s boobs saying…hey, you guys are great and all but…you’re just not giving me enough! I need MORE! Clusterfeeding happens due to a baby trying to bump up mom’s supply, usually due to a growth spurt. This is also NORMAL. I knew nothing about clusterfeeding until AFTER I had my first son, when I was constantly googling “Why is my baby attached to me 24-7 and cries when I put him down.” Typically the first 2-3 days, our breasts produce a substance called colostrum, which is filled with calories, but it’s only a little bit, which is fine the first few days considering how big a babies stomach is! Did you know a 1 day old’s belly is only the size of a cherry? So it doesn’t hold much at all! By day 3, their stomach is about the size of a walnut, which isn’t much still, but it can definitely hold more than a cherry. So for example, if mom’s milk hasn’t come in by day 3, baby isn’t satisfied, and since babies can’t speak, (and I guess your boobs can’t either..) they have to have some way of communicating with each other to say that the bottom line is, more milk needs to be produced! So instead of eating every 2-3 hours, baby will want latched on much more, I know for myself, I had him latched onto me about the whole day, and also the whole night. (Very little sleep, let me tell you.) Until I finally tried out my next piece of advice.
I know, I know. That’s a huge no-no. What if I told you there’s ways around it? (Sometimes anyways). I would get frustrated that Anthony could sleep away without a care in the world while I had a crazy crying baby stuck to me for what felt like an eternity. It happened by accident, and as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t thought of it sooner.. “Babe, I really need to sleep. Can you sit in here with me so I know he’s safe while I sleep?” I literally had Anthony watch me sleep so I knew I wouldn’t roll on my little guy while I slept. Now, it graduated to me cosleeping anyways eventually without being watched, but only after I made another discovery…I was the LIGHTEST sleeper ever while he was in bed with me. If he even pulled his hand up to his face, I was up. So I understand there are risks and horror stories about cosleeping, and once again, to each their own, but it ended up working for us. There is a “safe way” to co sleep, but I wont get into that now, (perhaps some other time!) but cosleeping definitely was my loop-hole during clusterfeeding sessions to get a few winks.
4. Avoid supplementing with Formula
It is SO tempting to just want to pop a bottle in and go to sleep, ESPECIALLY during a clusterfeed period, but that’s not going to help with your supply, especially in the first few weeks. As I said above, babies feed when they’re hungry. If you supplement with formula, you’re breasts are not getting the stimulation they need that tells them to make more milk, and in turn, your supply with go down. I found it to be really important for us to avoid formula in the beginning, to the point I didn’t even have it in my house to tempt me because I knew that if I gave him any formula, My breasts weren’t getting the subliminal message from my son to please give me more milk! Milk supply is pure supply and demand. If there’s not demand, why supply?
I found pumping to be just a pain in the butt because I was with my baby all the time at first, not to mention when my milk first came in, I was way oversupplied. Why pump? Pumping helps you especially after your supply has evened out to keep your supply up (which decreases those clusterfeeding periods), and it gives you a supply that you can freeze and use for whenever you need a night out, or whenever you go back to work, or anytime you aren’t around baby. Usually, your insurance company can get you a breast pump for free! I love Medela’s electric double pump because I can do other things while pumping. I took an old sports bra and cut two slits in it and use it for pumping sessions!
6. Don’t give up!
Whatever you do, keep trying! I recently had a snag with my breastfeeding journey with my seven month old when we noticed he dropped a little bit of weight, and it broke my heart that I had to supplement, but please remember if this happens to you, it’s not the end of the world, formula is not poison! I’m still currently working on bumping up my supply, but I’ve made improvement. At first I was giving about half formula and half breast milk to get his weight up, but now I only have to give him a bottle of formula a day. Please consult your lactation consultant if you have any questions or need help, they will be your best friend and are there to help you along the way.
7. It gets easier
As your baby gets older, everything evens out and it gets so much easier. You don’t have to fight to wake up your baby, clusterfeeding comes to a halt, and your baby will eventually sleep through the night (it isn’t a myth!) So with your journey, please remember, you might get frustrated, you may even cry, but you have to brush it off and get right back to it in order to be successful. Like I said, it is SO worth it in the end!
One important thing to remember that I failed to realize, is that with breastfeeding, there are no set rules that apply to every single mom. Everybody is different, and that being said, our journey’s will all be different! You just have to keep trying and do what suits you and your baby the best!
Xoxo and best of luck!