It was a few days after giving birth to my daughter. I remember going into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet, hormones raging, hysterically crying as my husband gave her a bottle. I wasn’t upset with him. I was upset with myself but the reality is that I shouldn’t have been. I felt as though I was drowning in failure. I knew the importance of breastfeeding and I was reminded time and time again that it wouldn’t be easy but I never anticipated that it would be this emotionally taxing.
My nipples were painfully chapped and I clung to my tube of Lanolin everywhere I went. I wanted so badly to exclusively breastfeed my child but as I sat in the bathroom, my husband was giving her a bottle of formula.
I didn’t plan on giving her any formula and having to do so made me feel so incompetent as a mother. I shouldn’t have felt that way but I did.
Immediately after birth, even before cutting the cord, the doctor placed my daughter on my chest for skin-to-skin. She began nursing right away and the whole breastfeeding thing seemed to be going swimmingly. Since it happened so easily the first time, I never imagined the difficulty that would follow.
She lost a little weight and had a touch of jaundice. They normally do lose weight but the medical staff suggested that we supplement with formula until my supply increased.
I felt defeated.
I would nurse my daughter like clock work. I set an alarm on my phone to go off several times in the middle of the night so that I could wake her up and nurse her. I even pumped to monitor how much milk I was producing. Then, if it wasn’t sufficient, I supplemented with the formula that they had suggested in the hospital. However, every time I gave her the formula, I emotionally chastised myself for not being able to independently fulfill her needs.
The physical pain from breastfeeding was nothing compared to the emotional pain and feelings of inadequacy.
Despite the difficulty that I faced in the beginning, I was able to stop supplementing with formula after a few weeks. After that, I exclusively breastfed until she turned six months old and even though she has been introduced to solid foods, she is still breastfeeding at over a year old. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding at least until the child turns one year old. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age but we’re taking it one day at a time. I attribute our success to several factors.
First of all, both mother and child have to be willing to breastfeed for the relationship to be successful.
Secondly, I had a great deal of breastfeeding support in and out of the hospital. Our nurse, Margie, was so patient and kind. She showed me different positions such as the football hold and the cradle hold. She helped to make sure that my daughter was properly latched and taught me how to detect and correct an improper latch. I even learned other tricks like using sugar water to encourage my daughter to breastfeed. Another very important factor was and is the encouragement from my husband. He is very supportive of me breastfeeding our daughter. He was there comforting me through every meltdown that I had in the beginning and he continuously supports my dietary preferences and other things that allow for a positive breastfeeding relationship.
Third of all, I am stubborn. When I was pregnant, there were people that told me that I wouldn’t stick with breastfeeding. They tried to convince me that it was almost impossible. They tried to discourage me into thinking that their failures or the failures of people they know who have attempted breastfeeding would be my failures as well. I refused to accept that. After taking a psychology class and a nutrition class in college, I knew the facts that support the importance of breastfeeding.
If it weren’t for those things, I am afraid that the sore nipples, postpartum hormones, and lack of milk would have discouraged me into giving up.
Here are 10 tips that I learned along the way:
Continue to read up on breastfeeding. If you educate yourself about the benefits, it may be just enough to encourage you to keep trying.
Find out if your insurance will send you a free breast pump. Mine not only sent me a free pump but also had a nurse on call over the phone to answer any questions that I had while pregnant and after giving birth. (They also covered a bunch of other great pregnancy and postpartum related services. It doesn’t hurt to ask.)
Lanolin is your friend. Also, invest in a comfy nursing bra and some nursing pads. (I bought the washable cloth pads. They worked great!)
Drink lots of water! I drank a 16 oz. bottle of water every time I pumped or breastfed. I also found that pumping both sides simultaneously helped.
While breastfeeding, switch sides. Your breasts will thank you.
Do your research and find a hospital with a lactation consultant. (Find a lactation consultant here.)
Ask your insurance if they offer in home lactation services.
Tell your spouse about the benefits of breastfeeding so that they understand how important it is. Also, let them know how crucial their support will be in your success.
Do not be discouraged if breastfeeding does not go as smoothly as you had hoped. Fed is best. If you have to supplement, don’t beat yourself up like I did.
Don’t give up. It gets easier.
**This article should not be used as medical advice. Consult your doctor.**
Editor’s Note: Fed Is Best. Breast or Bottle – please remember, whatever method you choose is OK – as long as your sweet baby gets to eat!