Before I dive into this post, I would like to remind all of our readers that this is the no judgement zone. We are advocates for only doing what YOU think is the best feeding (or anything for that matter) route for you and your little human! Making choices for your child is never easy, but if you’re a mama-to-be and would like to try out breastfeeding before trying other options here’s how I got through it!
Nursing Claire was, to put it lightly, HELL. I exclusively pumped and bottle fed Lily for the first six months, and then due to unforeseen, stressful circumstances I transitioned to exclusively formula feeding. I wanted to nurse, but truly didn’t educate myself sufficiently beforehand so the pump was the easier option for me at the time. For six months, I carried that huge Medela pump with me like it was colostomy bag (LOL it wasn’t pleasant). If someone could get a medal for pumping, I would’ve got it! Every 3 hours on the dot no matter where I was at, i plugged that thing in and pumped anywhere between 4-8 oz a session. Looking back before having Claire, I decided that was too much work for me with also having to corral Lily. I couldn’t imagine finding a hole other than the car where she wouldn’t destroy everything…not to mention having Claire with me, making sure I had a cold pack, cleaning the thing everyday, blah blah blah. Too. Much. However, I loved how my body responded to making milk for my baby. It helped my hormone levels (skin, weight, hair, mood, etc.), saves us so much money, and I kinda liked that responsibility of being the one she needed to eat.
Before going to the hospital, I told Jacob and our mom’s that no matter how drugged up I was I didn’t want the pump pushed on me like the first time with Lily. I knew nursing would hurt due to my babies having little mouths and me having sensitive skin, but it was something that I was very determined to do! Immediately, Claire had a HORRIBLE latch! She would barely open up her teeny, tiny mouth, and she would only latch down on the tip of my nipple. I was in so much pain that I didn’t know what hurt worse…that or my fresh c-section incision. Within 2-3 feedings (your body is only making colostrum at this point…most women take 3-5 days for their milk to drop), my nipples were already super damaged. I knew that this was not going to come naturally to me or her, so while in the hospital I took full advantage of the lactation consultant. She came in, and helped Claire with her latch and showed me how to encourage her to latch down with a wide mouth every time to avoid further damage. She was seriously a saint!
When we were discharged to go home, I was terrified as to how I was going to push through with nursing. My milk had dropped, but my nipples were cracked, bleeding, and were hot to the touch, and all I could think about was that the pump was looking pretty damn good at this point. Claire’s latch wasn’t getting much better, and the pain was terrible.
Luckily, I had two awesome mama cheerleaders to help me. My sister-in-law, Sarah, nursed her baby for Evie’s first year, and she struggled with latch as well. She would come over and tell me that everything that I was feeling was normal, and if I got through those first two-three weeks I was golden. Also, my sweet friend, Candice (go follow her blog and insta @lotsoflovely right now…RIGHT NOW), tremendously encouraged me, as well. She nurses her sweet baby, Lincoln, and his latch wasn’t stellar in the beginning. I would literally text Candice at 2 o’clock in the morning and ask her to remind me why I was putting myself through this. Candice told me to try a shield to give my nipples a break, and that is truly what saved us! I used the shield for about a week, and then transitioned back to nursing without it.
With both of their advice, we did make it. It wasn’t easy, but we did it! I encourage every mama who wants to nurse that if it you have the desire to do it and your body will allow it, do it! I love the sweet, snuggles, no bottle cleaning, and only occasionally needing my hand pump. Nursing simplifies a lot of daily activity for us. I pump out at least 8 oz a day just to have on reserve when I’m working a full day away from home, but it’s very manageable for me! I also love that when we leave the house, I’m only really worried about packing both girls’ diapers, Lily’s water/snacks, burp cloth, extra onesie, and a charged iPad (LOL you gotta survive, ladies!). Not worrying about packing bottles or coolers or an extra bag for the pump makes going out so nice!
I hope all of this has helped just a little for any mama wanting to do the nursing thing! If it works then it works, and you will be so happy that you pushed through. It’s not more easy than one method or another…feeding your baby is work, but find the preference that works best for you and the baby. A happy mama is a happy baby! Don’t stress yourself out thinking that one way is better than the other. We have so many options and resources, and there is a right method FOR YOU.
Here’s a quick tip list that helped me the most getting through those rough first few weeks:
1. If you’re new to nursing, have the hospital immediately get you in touch with their staffed lactation consultants. We were at The Women’s Hospital of Texas in Houston, and they truly helped us so much. Educating yourself about nursing is key!
2. If you have extreme damage to your nipples and breasts, try lanolin ointment and ice packs. We took home at least 20 of those things from the hospital, and they helped the discomfort between feedings so much!
3. As much as you can help it, try not to let your baby latch incorrectly. This will cause damage to yourself, and you need to be encouraging them to practice good latch. Unlatch and try again! It’s practice for both of you! Your baby should have not just your nipple in their mouth, but the surrounding areola as well. Always try to direct your nipple to the roof of their mouth, and they are opening their mouth nice and big.
4. If you have some intense discomfort and damage to your nipples, try using a shield. This helps to not have your baby have direct attachment to your nipple, and will give your nipples a little break. You can always transition back to where you don’t use the shield, but don’t put yourself through more pain and damage if you can help it.
5. Pink drinks from Starbucks supposedly help with lactation, and I say you need a treat at this point!