I can’t be the only first time mother out there to receive the seemingly endless advice on breastfeeding, yet I feel that there is a big piece missing when it comes to this controversial topic: Breastfeeding, though proven to be the best for baby, is NOT a natural practice that you are both born to be able to do without help (sometimes a lot of help)!
When asked whether or not I planned to breastfeed by my midwife, to me it was something important: YES. Like all mamas, I wanted to ensure that my son got the best start in life, and I personally feel that breastfeeding should be a part of that.
Immediately after giving birth to my baby boy, we were lucky enough to have ‘skin-to-skin’ contact for the first few hours. My little dude was rooting and searching for boob pretty soon after he was born, which I thought was all we needed. He found it on his own, suckled no problem; this breastfeeding business was so easy! Our midwife commented on how well he was doing and I was beaming..
For the next few days amidst the blur of being at home with a newborn, the lack of sleep and the oh-so-helpful adrenaline rush, we continued this way. Our midwife told me to let him latch whenever he seemed hungry so he could get all the colostrum he needed, and once my milk came in he would nurse more often to get my supply going.
I had no idea what to expect, and was lucky that I didn’t get too engorged when my milk came in on day three, but what happened in the next few days after that still makes me want to cry. My baby boy was hungry. All. the. time. This is normal, of course, but the idea that breastfeeding is natural and therefore we would both just ‘know’ what to do? Not true. When he started feeding around the clock, I discovered that breastfeeding my sweet little baby was one of the most painful things I would ever experience.
For the first month or so at home, my son was sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed to make things easier for late-night nursing. Those first few days after my milk came in, Whenever he would wake up to eat, I would literally start crying with fear over how much it was going to hurt to breastfeed him. My nipples were sore, I was leaking constantly, and I couldn’t possibly seem to cover myself in enough lanolin (best stuff EVER, BTW) to stop the pain. Every time my midwife would come to check on me and baby I would ask for help with latching, having been told that this was the cause of our struggle. While she was there we would nurse perfectly, but once she left it seemed that I just could not get him on properly. I remember crying to my husband that I couldn’t do it, saying I wanted to quit. I’m not completely oblivious, I knew there was help out there and I had lots of info on lactation consultants and groups and support teams etc. etc. etc., but being so tired and overwhelmed after just giving birth, I really needed someone to just come to me in private and see what I was doing. That help came in the form of my wonderful neighbour, who texted me one day to ask how things were going…since I was bawling over breastfeeding at the time, I replied very honestly that things were hurting. A lot! She offered to come over to see how I was getting him on, and was sitting next to me on my couch watching us latch that same afternoon. She confirmed that what I was doing was right, that he was on fine and gave me a couple things to look for or ideas to use for positioning…but most importantly, she told me that this was completely normal. And, that breastfeeding is painful at the start for most women. That latching problems are sooo common. That breastfeeding would take practice, for both me and baby, to master. That if I was determined to keep going, things would eventually get better.
With the mantra, ‘needing practice is normal’ in the back of my mind, we continued practicing and practicing and practicing, and things got better and better and better. I must say that from the very beginning I was determined that I would breastfeed my baby. Together with the support of my awesome neighbour and a few freak outs screaming and crying to my husband and emailing/texting with my best friend, my baby boy and I got through the rough start to where we are today: successfully breastfeeding and enjoying it.
I’m positively certain that I am not the only mom who has struggled with breastfeeding. I’m also certain that some women who struggle with breastfeeding are unable to continue for a variety of reasons. I almost gave up a few times, but it didn’t seem fair that some moms who want to breastfeed cant, and yet I was going to stop by choice because it was hard. Breastfeeding may be natural and normal and the best thing you can do for your baby, but it is NOT easy, and it takes a lot of practice. If you want to breastfeed but are having trouble getting started, ask for help. From anyone and everyone. You may discover the exact help YOU need where you least expect it.
Last night, waking up (again) to nurse my lil dude, I was exhausted and grumpy and in a daze.. but within a few moments he was eating peacefully and gazing into my eyes. I LOVE BREASTFEEDING!
About the Author:
Lindsay is a first time mommy to Kienan and is a public servant with the federal government. She is originally from Calgary, AB and moved to Ottawa with her husband 3 years ago. She loves spending time with her new family!