01 August, 2012

Good, Bad and Ugly: Breastfeeding

Before Charlotte was born, I had these pre-conceived notions that breastfeeding was going to be the most amazing thing ever. I thought I would love it immediately and that it would be easy. I thought it'd be easy because it's natural, right? I mean, that's one of the things a woman's body was made to do.

Ooooh, how wrong I was! The first weeks were much more difficult - and painful - than I thought they would be. Thanks to the support of my MIL, SIL and bestie I stuck with it. After those painful weeks were over I was able to really enjoy it. I want to share a little bit of the ups and downs in case someone, somewhere is struggling and finds this. I desperately needed encouragement during those weeks and was fortunate to find it nearby. Not everyone is so lucky.

Our first breastfeeding attempt happened right after Charlotte was born. We were able to do skin-to-skin immediately after she was born, something I'll always be glad I did. During that time, I notice that Charlotte was "searching." I tried to help her latch, but I couldn't get it. Of course now I realize that I was outside of my mind tired and trying to help a newborn latch was something I wasn't quite ready for. The nurses helped, but Charlotte had a hard time so they suggested they bathe her while I took a breather. After her bath we tried again. I know that she got a feeding because I remember nurses helping me and shoving my nipple into her mouth. {Ok, that's what I felt like they were doing. Probably not what actually happened.} I also know she got a feeding because I remember when they checked her blood sugar again it was normal. {I had gestational diabetes and Charlotte's blood sugar was low after birth. After her feeding it went back up!}

The day after she was born, I started to notice a crack on the tip/front of one of my nipples. It was sore, but it wasn't super painful. I didn't really think much about it. I knew cracks could happen, so I didn't let it bother me too much. At some point, a lactation consultant came by {I highly recommend everyone wanting to breastfeed do this!} and helped us get a good latch. Fortunately, she only had me make minor adjustments. I was thrilled because we were doing so well! I was still new to it, but after the LC came by I felt better about myself.

The day we left the hospital (2 days after she was born), my milk started coming in. I didn't realize that's what it was until later that night when I was changing for bed. I'm not sure exactly how I missed it because, oh my word, my boobs were huge! I mean, I never thought boobs could be that big and hard! LOL! Joe's reaction was pretty priceless too. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was something like, "Oh my gosh, babe!"

The next day is when things started getting rough. The "girls" started hurting because of all the milk and my nipples started cracking around the nipple instead of on the front, as you see in pictures in any breastfeeding book/guide you'll read. Thankfully, my bestie mentioned doing warm cloths before feedings and cool cloths after. I was surprised how much it helped! My neighbor had bought me these things you can put in the fridge/microwave for just that purpose. I used the heck out of those things for at least the first week.

I mentioned before that once my milk came in "the girls" were hard. So hard, in fact, that Charlotte had an even harder time latching. My MIL (who arrived the day after we came home) suggested that I pump some before feedings, which ended up helping a lot! It relieved the pressure on me, helped Charlotte latch and also kept her from choking. During the first 6-8 weeks, Charlotte choked a lot because my let-down reflex was so strong. It still is but she's used to it now.

The biggest struggle I had was with Charlotte's latch and my very sore, very cracked nipples. Both of them cracked around the nipple, as I said before. I'm not sure if this is normal or not, but that's what happened to me. I also felt like the cracks were really deep. Apparently my MIL did too because later she told me she was worried they were gonna fall off. LOL! Honestly, I was somewhat worried about that too. My bestie just told me to stick with the lanolin. My SIL suggested Butt Paste. I ended up using both. After a week I switched back to lanolin because wiping off the Butt Paste almost made things worse. {Tip for cracking: lanolin, lanolin, lanolin, lanolin! No lie, I went through 3 tubes of that stuff.}

Charlotte had the hardest time latching... Oh, it was so frustrating! I knew she really was trying and I'm sure it was just as frustrating for her. She'd wiggle her head back and forth, stick her hands in her face/mouth, and sometimes she'd latch only to have a bad latch and we'd have to start all over. She was so tiny (weighing 5lbs 5oz at birth) that sometimes I thought I was going to break her while trying to get her to latch. And every time she latched it hurt. Oh, did it hurt! Usually it was not because she had a bad latch (trust me, you can definitely tell the difference!) but because my nipples were so cracked. It would hurt for about a minute and then subside for the rest of the feeding on that side. And then when you're done with the first side, you have to start on the second! Ack!

Feedings were so rough for about the first 6 weeks. There were absolutely times when I wanted to give in, say "the heck with it," and give her a bottle instead. Thankfully my bestie and SIL were there {via text/phone} to encourage me to stick it out. And having my MIL here those first two weeks to help was amazing. Just having her there for support helped a lot. =)

Anyway, almost 4 months later, I am in love with breastfeeding. This was one thing that I really looked forward to when I was pregnant. Why, I don't know, except that it was/is something I'd obviously never done with a baby. I've babysat a lot, but never really bonded with a baby that way. And, y'all? It's amazing. I can't even describe how it impacts the bond I have with her. It's just...a very sweet thing.

I don't know if you can tell, but sometimes when she eats she throws her arm over her face. Or she puts her hand on her face. And sometimes, when she's being extra sweet to Mommy, she just lays her sweet little hand on me. I just love it! Just recently she's started looking at me and smiling while she's eating. It's the cutest thing ever. And the fact that she's getting her nutrition directly from me? Priceless. Literally. ;-)

In case you haven't noticed, I really love being able to breastfeed Charlotte. I'm so, so glad that I stuck with it even though it was difficult and painful. If the price tag {or lack thereof} isn't enough to keep you going, just think of that amazing bond. Even when I was having a hard time I still found myself saying, "I just can't imagine giving her a bottle all the time." And I have actually given her a bottle of my breast milk before. It's just not the same! There's a special, unique bond there and I wouldn't trade that for anything!

I hope that someone who's having a hard time with breastfeeding finds this and is encouraged. If that's you, please let me know! I'd be happy to keep encouraging you via email, Twitter, FB - whatever! I promise it's worth it. =)

And if you have any other questions about breastfeeding, I'd be happy to answer them. If I get enough questions, I'll answer them in a separate post!

How do you feel about breastfeeding? 


Jen said...

I am literally drafting a blog entry today about breastfeeding!

Priscilla said...

I wished I would have read this a few weeks ago. My son is 5 weeks now and I stopped at about 3 weeks. My son was in the NICU for his first week and I pumped and took the milk up there. I also attempted BF while he was in there. It was hard! He had a very hard time latching like you said, head going side to side, crying and what not. Once he was home we tried and tried but he just wasn't getting it. I started mainly pumping and then when my husband went back to work it was next to impossible to pump because he was so fussy, and he wouldn't latch. I didn't really have anyone to help or give pointers. My husband was very supportive though. It broke my heart when I stopped, I didn't want to, but it was just so hard. I wish at times I would have just kept trying! Hopefully someone in my shoes will read this and keep trying! Kudos to you for keeping up with it!!!

Maranda said...

I experienced much of the same with my now 6 1/2 year old daughter. I had the cracking and extreme pain when she latched on...in addition to that my nipples actually started bleeding. My "mentor mom" that had walked me through so much told me it would not hurt my daughter at all and to plow through if at all possible. Breastfeeding was not something I ever saw myself doing, but once my daughter was here it was very natural and I wouldn't trade those 6 months for anything! Fortunately, when I had my son 2 years ago the process was much smoother. It was still somewhat painful, but nothing in comparison to the first time. My advice follows yours: have support from someone that has experience, and stick with it!

Chantal said...

I looooveee breastfeeding too! We had similar struggles in the beginning. Goodness, my boobies hurt! But thank goodness for cold packs and lanolin. Now it's nothing. I hardly ever feel full anymore!

Southern Roots and Combat Boots said...

I'm so happy you were able to stick with it! It really is the best thing for both mommy and baby, not to mention that bond! I always thought people were making that "bond" sound better then what it was, but nope. It's really a wonderful thing:)

Heather said...

I breastfed both of my girls. Grace weaned herself right before a year and Olivia is just now weaned at 17 months (She was down to 1-2 feeding a day then wanted to spend time at Grandma's house). It is pretty convenient not having to worry about formula and bottles :)

Bonnie H. said...

Breastfeeding is so hard at first for many women. So glad you stuck with it!! I'm so happy Drlilah has made it this long bc Gracie & Noah didn't make long before they went on strike and I dried up. Also, if you ever have thrush, lanolin is not good for the tatas during treatment. You can use nipple butter without lanolin or coconut oil. Surprisingly I've not used anything with the Fenton violet today... ;)

Bonnie H. said...

Uh that's supposed to say Delilah lol

Bonnie H. said...

And Gention Violet SMH this dang phone

Katy said...

I LOVE breastfeeding. I breastfed both of my girls for their first years and am happy to report out son is doing great with it as well. He'll be 2 months old in just a couple days. It was the most painful in the beginning weeks with our oldest child. We had our middle child close enough after that I felt almost no pain at all with her. It was a little painful in the beginning this time but we're well past that part now. And like you said the bonding with your child is the best!

Brianna Renee said...

I totally understand what you mean by looking forward to it when you're pregnant. Because I was a nanny before we got married, I've done the parenting thing. I've cared for children as young as 2 weeks and the position I stayed at the longest was a set of preschool triplets...birth and breast feeding were totally new experiences and both hurt. More than I expected. But overall, it was a good thing. I nursed our soon just over a year and I'm still nursing our daughter who just turned one...I thought I'd stop by now with her but she only nurses twice a day so it's not interfering with my schedule in any way and she doesn't seem interested in weaning so I guess we'll keep going for now.

heather said...

see we didnt have a latch problem ours was the fact he was in the nicu for 5 days before i could actually feed him. i wanted him to want to suck so i made sure he had a paci at all times. little did i know that was the wrong thing to do. my milk came in while i was in the hospital, we were shocked and so was my LC. she gave me a nipple shield to use(they are sold i know for sure at target) and it was amazing. i got to breast feed him and never had a cracked or sore nipple. i still used cream after every feeding and after i pumped. i plan on using a shield again this time around. i have my baby on thursday and i plan to see if she ca do it without one but if not i will have a back up.. you could always try one of those every once in awhile to see if it gives you a break from being sore and cracked.

Heather said...

I completely hated breastfeeding until this month. One day, it just clicked and we got it! I'm so glad I stuck it out, through the time in NICU, the breast infections, etc.