I’ve been a mommy 5 weeks now, and I have to say- it’s been the greatest gift ever. Like anything in life it also has it’s challenges. I wanted to write about my experience so far with breastfeeding while the first couple weeks are still very fresh in my mind. The reason is, not a single person told me what a challenge it would be. Call me naive, but I didn’t even have it on my list of things to worry about throughout my pregnancy. I figured I’d have the baby and it would just happen! Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t had a horrific experience, and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done- but we’ve definitely had our struggles.
Before I go any further I want to say that no matter how you’re feeding your baby, I think you’re doing a great job! Whether it’s breastfeeding, formula, a little bit of both or exclusively pumping- you’re feeding your baby in a way that works for you and that’s great. That being said, I’ve decided to exclusively breast feed, so this is advice based on my experience and what’s working for me.
Let’s get back to the “struggles” I was talking about. The first hump we had to get over was my right boob. Max was NOT feeling it. I couldn’t get him to latch onto that side and it was extremely frustrating for both of us. I finally thought we had sorted that out (or at least it was getting better) and we went to our 2 day checkup with the lactation consultant; an appointment my hospital schedules for all new mommies two days after you get home from the hospital. Let me tell you something about that 2 day appointment if you haven’t had to do it yet: none of your clothes will fit, you’ll be terrified to put your fragile baby in the car, you’ll be emotional, over tired and it will will probably be your first experience packing a diaper bag (which means you’ll pack the entire nursery). To add insult to injury I found out that my poor baby had basically been starving for the past couple of days. Unbeknownst to me, my milk hadn’t come in, and my little guy had lost 13 percent of his weight. I was GUTTED. Knowing what I know now, all the warning signs were there- but as a first time mom I had no idea what was going on.
The lactation consultant worked with me for an hour (while I cried the entire time), sent me home with a pump so I could get my milk in (it happened in one day) and I started the schedule of waking my baby every 2 hours to nurse, supplementing with pumped milk and then pumping while he slept and doing it all over again. I was exhausted and so worried about my baby. It wasn’t until our appointment the next day when I saw the huge difference in his weight that I started to gain my confidence back. I still felt like I couldn’t last more than a month- I wanted to give up. Now I know that was the exhaustion speaking, but in the moment it just didn’t seem possible.
Luckily for me, I’m a part of an amazing online mommies group. These ladies have blessed me with so much support and knowledge and I give them (almost) full credit for getting me through the first month. I also couldn’t have done it without the lactation consultants at my hospital- those women are saints, and so passionate about what they do.
I reached out to the mommies in my group and asked if I could share some of their amazing advice, and I’m so happy they said yes! Here are some tips from me and my online friends for getting through those difficult first weeks:
1. Utilize A Lactation Consultant:
Lactation consultants are your biggest cheerleaders, ladies- utilize them! They will squeeze your boobs like stress balls and pinch your nipples in ways you wouldn’t let your own husband touch you. They get right in there and get the job done, and they’re awesome.
2. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
This is a tough one. It’s hard not to take challenges personally, especially when your body isn’t cooperating. I had to give Max formula twice while I was waiting on the breast pump to arrive and I felt so much guilt over it. Why? I have no idea. Remind yourself that you are doing your best and trying your hardest, and that every day will get better! You’re also getting to know each other and that takes time.
3. Set Short Term Goals
Throughout my pregnancy my goal was to breast feed for the first year. Well let me tell you something: during those first couple weeks a one year goal wasn’t good for my morale. I started focusing on one day at a time..then eventually I started saying, “just make it to the end of the week and take it from there”. Every morning when I’d see that little baby face, I would be energized to get through another day. I’m not going to lie, when Max turned one month old I cried happy tears (the little dude’s made me soft!), I was so proud that we got through the first month and so relieved that it started to feel natural.
4. Talk To Other Moms
I’m blessed to be a part of an amazing online mommy group that’s been incredibly supportive. It’s been so liberating to be able to express that this sh*t’s hard and not feel like a bad mom. I’ve also learned that a ton of women have issues with supply, trouble latching and pain. It’s ok to admit that it’s hard. If you’re too proud to express that to your spouse, share your feelings with somebody!
5. Don’t Be Discouraged By Your Baby Nipple Shaming You
Max tried to shame my right nipple. He’d spit it out, push it away and refuse to latch. Oh no, mister! Yes my right nipple isn’t as pretty as my left, but it deserves a chance too! I started thinking something was seriously wrong with Mrs. Right Nipple, but my lactation consultant told me some babies just have a side preference. I would offer my unappealing boob at every feeding and by week 3, Max had forgotten her ugly appearance and fallen in love with her personality.
6. Create An All Inclusive Feeding Resort
When you’re breast feeding you get HUNGRY and drinking a ton of water is super important for your supply. Create a cozy corner in your house complete with snacks, water, reading material and anything else to make you comfortable. Before I go to bed I put some fruit and Luna bars in the nursery and fill up a huge bottle of water. If your husband takes time off to be with you in the first month, don’t be afraid to ask him to bring you snacks and a drink refill!
7. Find The Products That Work For You
I originally had the Boppy for breastfeeding and I struggled with it every time! When I went to the LC’s office they had the Brest Friend for mommies to use. Using that pillow was a completely different experience for me! I wasn’t awkwardly struggling to hold the baby correctly and had a hand free to rub Max’s back. I ordered it THAT DAY and I can’t recommend it enough! I also found that reusable nipple pads were a lot more comfortable than the disposable ones, which tend to stick and pull at cracking, sore nipples (which get better, I promise!). Another weird thing- one day Max just wouldn’t latch and I started getting extremely discouraged again. After trying to figure out what was wrong, I realized that the nipple cream I bought was super slippery and he literally couldn’t hold on. Everything is trial and error, find the tools that make your life easier.
8. Look Into Your Baby’s Eyes
I got this advice from my cousin Heather and for me it’s the most meaningful thing anyone’s told me. When you’re nursing every couple of hours and exhausted it’s tempting to sit on your phone or watch t.v. to get you through sessions. If your baby’s eyes are open, look into them. Nursing is the most beautiful bonding experience and every morning you will notice your child look at you with more recognition and happiness. I have to be honest and say that I’m not perfect, I won’t claim to only stare at my baby 100% of the time- BUT if Max is looking up at me I make sure I’m looking back at him.
From my breastfeeding cheerleaders:
I would have to say to remember that every day is a new day. You will get frustrated but the next morning you’ll wake up, look down at that beautiful face and want to do it all over again. Whatever happens will be the right way; if you have to supplement with formula, have to use a shield or anything else, whatever is best for your baby will be the right thing to do. It’s ok to cry and chances are, you will shed tears. Find a lactation consultant and embrace the advice she can offer you…she might just become your best friend. -Michelle
Through the pain and sheer exhaustion, just keep going. The pain will ease, your baby will eventually sleep more, and you can rest knowing you are doing your ultimate best. I almost quit many many times. Push through. I agree with Michelle on getting support either through your family, friends, or a lactation consultant. That can make all the difference. -Brooke
Make a goal. I initially said that if I could get to 6 months, I would be happy. I made it to 9 and was elated. The first few weeks (or even days) were HARD. I was in pain, baby didn’t want to latch right, he was hungry, I was tired. But I said to myself, “I am not going through all of this for nothing. I can’t give up now.” I pushed through and eventually we created this beautiful, comfortable bond and it made all the hard stuff worth it. Reach out to a friend or lactation consultant for support but also remind yourself that you CAN do it. And that the newness of it all will not last forever. -Diana
Make goals and be stubborn about them! Don’t have any formula in house- if it is so miserable that you really need it, someone can go get it in the middle of the night. It’s so hard to stay strong when you know it’s just sitting in the kitchen! -Tiffany
Be kind to yourself. You are already doing an amazing job, make small goals. -Alisha
I agree about not having formula in the house! It WILL get better! And seek advice from friends, they may think of something you never would have thought of and as always, only you know your baby better than anyone, trust your instincts! And don’t be too hard on yourself!! I told my husband he had to be my cheerleader because at first he kept saying it’s okay if you stop. I told him, I already want to quit, I need someone to tell me I can do it! It totally worked!! -Janelle
I would say to make sure you have a good stock of Netflix shows, a nice big bottle of water, snacks, & comfy pillows all in one spot, so it’s all easy & nearby for nursing. Make that spot your breastfeeding nest so you and baby can settle in and be comfortable while you learn this whole breastfeeding thing together! -Erin
Take it one day at a time, set small goals for yourself and celebrate like crazy as you achieve each one because you are doing an amazing job. Don’t beat yourself up because your breastfeeding experience does not look or feel like what the media portrays it to be…..in the beginning it’s not all rainbows and butterflies for everyone. -Jen
Breastfeeding is possible even when you had a difficult start. It’s possible even if you have premies, even if you weren’t allowed to do skin on skin for days, even if your babies were fed throught feeding tubes and bottles. Never give up, be stubborn about your wish to breastfeed, even if this means a lot of tears and crying for your baby and you. In the end it’s so worth the hard work: it’s a feeling I would not want to miss. -Eva
I don’t think I have ever been more passionate about something in my whole life. As natural as breastfeeding is, it is one of the most challenging things to do as a new mommy. Take each day at a time, find an awesome support system, and be patient. You are giving your baby such an amazing gift! -Debbie
Don’t be afraid to spend as much time as you need figuring out the whole breastfeeding process with your baby. It’s new to both of you, even if you’ve done it with older children, each time is different! Let the laundry pile up, don’t worry about the dishes, everything can wait and it will be okay, I PROMISE!! -Erica
Update: This week marks 9 months of breastfeeding, and Max and I have turned into the perfect little team. I cherish our time together and I’m so happy I fought through those first difficult weeks. That one year goal is finally looking attainable..but I’ll take my own advice and continue to take it one month at a time. Every time I see the rolls on his legs or pinch his little cheeks I think, “Wow! My body did that. I’m responsible for making this guy grow”. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I would love to keep the conversation going. Feel free to share your advice or struggles in the comments below.