Has anyone ever told you how hard breastfeeding can actually be? Like really hard….the kind of hard that makes you feel like you’re on the verge of just throwing in the towel and giving up your long awaited prerogative as a mother…
After my whole birth experience did NOT go according to any of my ideal plans, breastfeeding was really my second chance at feeling a little more accomplished in my transition into Motherhood… And boy, did that turn out to surprise me even more! It was something I had looked forward to during my pregnancy already. I prepped myself mentally and physically for this. I even got my tips for breastfeeding together, foods that could help and techniques to use, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience.
I remember it all, like it was yesterday, the latch wasn’t happening and I panicked. The nurses kept reassuring me that it was all new to both momma and baby, so I was forced to be patient. I waited in anticipation for that locking latch. My heart was overjoyed when it finally happened and it felt like we were on top of the world….until the night dawned on us.
The next few nights were hell! My baby was premature, needed to feed. If it wasn’t the fact that he struggled to suck, it was me not producing enough colostrum – I struggled with my production, wished my milk would come…wondered if it would ever come! Apparently 5 ml of colostrum was needed – I only produced like 1 ml. AND if this was not enough, the consistent latching became the challenge once again. I felt despondent. It felt like my baby boy cried all the time, and not just crying out of discomfort, the heart sore cries from being so hungry. I got asked so many times by nurses if I was sure I did not want to give him formula. As difficult as it was, I stuck to my decision to breastfeed even though I felt almost selfish for choosing this. My son had just been ripped out of my womb prematurely and at this time, I was his only pacifier, yet unable to fill his need.
It was day 2 post birth. It was early hours of the morning, my movements were restricted from the pain of my cesarean section. My baby boy cried and cried and couldn’t seem to latch or feel full. The ward woke up with the sounds of his cries. I felt inadequate as a mother, and I was pretty sure everyone else in the ward started to think it too.
I found myself giving in to having my colostrum fed to him from a cup. I knew this wasn’t the best option – he needed to develop his suck and in turn this would help to bring in my milk. I was desperate. I manually expressed my colostrum for minutes on one! Still…nothing more than a tiny drop. But it was all I had to give. The minute he finished the the colostrum from the cup, he immediately settled and fell asleep within seconds. My heart sunk. I felt like giving up. I just wanted my baby to be happy and peaceful.
After 3 tedious days and 3 of the longest nights of my life, that literally felt like an eternity, my milk finally set in. I woke up that morning feeling swollen and when I looked, I saw a sight that I never thought would make me this happy. We still struggled with positioning and holding the latch, but after a few more tries, we started to feel our rhythm together. We were discharged from hospital that day and I was so grateful we overcame what I thought we’d never get past.
Just when I thought the battle was over, the engorged breasts made its way to us. I literally had to use hot cabbage leaves to ease the pain and help with letting the milk out. Next was what I thought was mastitis! My breasts were swollen, raw and sensitive to the touch! It literally felt like they were on fire! It was teary nights of painful feeding and this is when I was so relieved and grateful to have had enough in my savings to get a breast pump. (Click here to find out which one I invested in) I had to get milk pumped and have my boy feed from a bottle – I just couldn’t take the pain and needed time for my breasts to recover especially since my boy was going through this crazy growth spurt and had to feed every hour!
This went on and off for about 6 weeks…
But…here we are, on the other side…enjoying one of the greatest privileges I had hoped to have as a mother and the best bonding time with my little M. The amazing picture I had in my mind’s eye was finally being realized. My little M amazingly picked up so much weight since birth. He is more than double his birth weight now and consistently picks up a steady 45g per day! I couldn’t be more overjoyed!
So, if you’re a new mom or you’re just looking for some breastfeeding tips and tricks, here are a few that I picked up along the way (mostly from my own mother) that I thought I’d share. It really helped me push through to the overflow:
Know your motivation – if you do not know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll give up sooner than you planned to.
Actual raw Ginger-crushed in water helped to bring in those let down reflexes.
A feeding pillow really helped to support our positioning and helped to ease his weight in my arms – I had 2 positions that really helped – the cradle hold – same arm AND opposite arm – to support the head to latch. We used the Snuggle Time one from Dischem Pharmacy – really good value for money!
Be patient with yourself and your newborn – you’re both learning. Yes, it comes naturally, but it’s also a new experience and skill-set you have to become familiar with.
Baby to boob! – Always – never boob to baby. You’ll only put your breasts through way too much!
Don’t entertain the negative thoughts, it actually affects your milk supply! Cry if you need to, but persevere as best you can.
Nipple cream all the way! After every feed and even just because! I’ve been using Bennetts for Babies Nipple cream – it’s suited for feeding so it doesn’t have to be washed off every time you have to feed. #momhack
Peanut butter….Actually just watching the Diet on the whole helps to keep the milk supply going. I’ve included healthy greens, avocado, ginger, peanut butter and oats in mine, which all directly influence milk supply.
Try and get a morning pump in – around 20 -30 minutes after baby’s had his feed. Milk supply is usually at its peak in the mornings. It’ll also help maintain milk production levels.
Don’t use cabbage leaves for too long, they can actually cut your milk supply.
Last but not least, there is light at the end of the tunnel! I am all for breastfeeding. Breast is ideal of course!…but when you know-that-you-know-that-you-know (and trust me, you’ll definitely KNOW) that your breasts have done the best it can and you’ve tried and persevered all you can, it helps to remember that #fedisultimatelybest.