I always tell anyone who asks that breastfeeding is the hardest thing I have ever done. They immediately follow with the question: why? Well it is hard to explain…
Exhaustion. I think exhaustion plays a major role in making breastfeeding all the more difficult. Your little one has a tiny little belly that he or she is wanting to fill often – sometimes what feels like every 30 minutes! He or she is learning just like you are and with that comes a learning curve. He/she is learning to latch and get down a good suck-swallow-breathe pattern and mom is learning how to position herself and baby to prevent major back pain for mom and a better latch for baby. It can get a bit exhausting figuring it out and repeating the process so often. And with baby eating so often and for so long, sleep becomes a sweet memory. Mom is unable to give a bottle because she is terrified of things like “nipple confusion” and so baby is reliant solely on his or her mother for those first several weeks. Hang in there! After a few weeks, if you choose, you can utilize your breast pump and let someone else give your little one a bottle. I was so excited for my husband to finally get to bond with our baby during feeding while giving her a bottle! (And give mom a little break 😉 )
Pain. It is painful. For some… About a week or so into breastfeeding I pull my little one off my breast to readjust her tiny little mouth and I see that there is blood in it! My initial reaction is that something is wrong with her! Why is she bleeding?! But I quickly realize it isn’t her – it’s me. My left nipple is bleeding. Well the next day was her one week check up so I decided to stop feeding from my left breast until I could talk to her pediatrician about it. I was worried about her ingesting my blood. The next day when I asked her doctor what to do she said to feed through the pain and suggested a breast shield. I wasn’t successful in using the breast shield but I know other women who have had luck with them. I stayed cracked, scabbed, and bleeding but seemed to somehow get used to it over time.
It just so happened that my best friend from high school got pregnant at almost the exact same time I did! How crazy! And, like me, she also decided that breastfeeding was going to be a priority for her. She never had any pain throughout her entire breastfeeding journey… everyone is different!
Isolation. Those first few weeks postpartum are difficult. Hormones are all out of whack, your recovering from a physically traumatic event, and your caring for a very needy infant. When breastfeeding, you start to feel like your the only one caring for your precious bundle of joy. No one else is feeding her – which is what she is doing the majority of the time. Visitors come, but you have to hide away in a back room. It can start to feel like no one knows what your going through…
Things That Helped Get Me Through
Okay okay. Want to know how I dealt with the above? Here are the things that got me through…
Boppy. This little pillow is a lifesaver. It is so easy to get into very uncomfortable positions when trying to get the perfect latch that you end up sacrificing your back in the process. Prevent back pain and save those arms with this pillow. I also use it every time I feed her a bottle. It’s like having an extra set of arms!
Pain. I lathered on the lanolin after every feeding to soothe my nipples, prevent them from cracking, and speed up healing. I often put on lanolin and then pulled my soothies from the fridge and put them over my nipples. Ahhh! I tried a breast shield but had no such luck (I think I may have bought the wrong size). And I used these hot/cold therapy packs when pumping.
Pumping. Make sure you pick a good breast pump. I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and I love it! My insurance paid for my pump so make sure you check with your insurance company before you make this big purchase. I got the Medela Accessory Kit thinking it might be convenient and I am so glad I did. It really helps to have extra accessories because your pumping and washing everything constantly. Also, get some extra breast milk bottles for storing your milk in the fridge and bags for storing it in the freezer. Lastly, something I could not do without, a good pumping bra. Unless you want to hold your pump in place the entire time your pumping, make sure and get a pumping bra! It’ll let you pump hands free.
Public Feeding. Plan on breastfeeding in public? Make sure and pick up a breast feeding cover. And some nursing bras and tanks. The tanks are necessary because they keep your back covered when lifting up your shirt!
Supply. I always worried about my supply. I would sit and watch as the tiny drops of milk drained from my breasts and worried that it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy my little girl. So after doing some research, I learned that oatmeal increases your supply and I made sure to eat some every morning! Also, I picked up some of this tea to have in the mornings (sub coffee because of the caffeine 🙁 ).
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