My breastfeeding journey hasn't been the easiest. With my first born I had no clue what I was doing. I never took a class, read a book or researched anything about breastfeeding. My only education came from the nurse who helped deliver my baby. I honestly didn't think I needed to educate myself. I just assumed that if Breastfeeding was so natural then wouldn't I somehow just know how to do it? It couldn't be that hard? OHHH MAN was I wrong! There were so many things that I was not prepared for like engorgement, clogged milk ducts, sore nipples and what every nursing Mom is terrified of getting... Mastitis.
With my first daughter I was so overwhelmed with how much work nursing and pumping was that I gave up after 5 weeks because it became so stressful for me. At that time it was for the sake of sanity that we switched Winslow to formula.
With my second daughter I made the decision that I wanted to breastfeed as long as I could. This time around I had the time and had a better understanding of what to expect. At least I thought I knew what to expect, but realized I again had no idea. I remember being in tears every time I would nurse because it hurt so bad. Unfortunately this went on for 2 weeks before I finally couldn't take it anymore and reached out to a professional for help. I found a Lactation consultant and scheduled our first appointment together.
I remember when she walked through the door and we began talking I felt so much relief. Here are just a few things I learned from her that made my breastfeeding journey a success.
1. You are both learning
When my Lactation Consultant said, "Remember, you and this brand new baby are learning together" , I don't know what switched in my brain but all of a sudden I felt all this pressure lift off my shoulders. It made total sense!!! Here I was thinking that as a woman and a mom I should instinctively know how to breastfeed my child. I think this is what was really making me feel terrible about my journey so far. I would see all these other moms who had babies at the same time as me not batting an eye when they would nurse. I was so hard on myself thinking that there was something wrong with me because I just can't seem to get it right now matter how many different positions I try or how many articles I read. I felt like such a failure as a Mom.
When I realized that this journey for many Moms is never easy in the beginning and will take time for both mom and baby to learn, that was when things changed for me. I stopped trying to be perfect at breastfeeding. This new baby is learning so many new things and I'm right there along with her.
2. Throw the schedule out the door in the beginning
There are so many great books out there for new parents on how to do life with these new little babes. And trust me we all need to gather as much information as possible, parenthood is hard work. But and this is a BIG BUT, I think sometimes we can read those books and interpret them the wrong way. I remember hearing a story about a mom who had her baby so scheduled with feedings that if her baby was fussy and obviously hungry she would refuse to feed her because it wasn't "time".
Imagine as an adult you had someone refuse to give you water when you were thirsty or a snack because it hadn't been 3 hours yet. When you think about it that way it would make sense right? A babies only drink and food is coming from you! We can't be so scheduled that we miss those hunger cues even if they are out of the norm.
With Kinley I chose to do on demand feeding and it ended up being the best thing ever!! There's a debate that if you do on demand feeding then babies feed too often and never get fully full. I actually found that my baby was less fussy, ended up sleeping better and was always content. I think on demand feeding was a huge reason!!
3. Take care of the Ta-Ta's
Something that is never really shared with moms to be is how to care for your boobs when you're nursing. When you first start nursing theres a lot of things that change with your body. There's changes when your milk comes in, then when it normalizes and not to mention being careful of engorgement and clogged milk ducts too.
Recently I heard a TRUE story of a Mom who was traveling with her husband and she didn't bring anything to pump with so her husband ended up having to nurse her so that she wouldn't get engorged. I'm all for floor play, but thats just weird and my husband would never go for it anyways. One of the biggest things a nursing Mom should learn to do is hand expression. There have been lots of times my babies slept longer than normal and when I didn't feel like taking out the pump I just hand expressed!
There's also those times when you do become engorged specifically when your milk comes in. One thing I learned was to use a cold compress after feedings to help relieve the inflammation. This made a HUGE difference and ended up being a life saver! Also make sure you get some good nipple cream. Theres a lot of new products out there, but I think the best nipple cream you can get is Lanolin. This was also a must have during nursing!
Everyones breastfeeding journey is different. I can be full of challenges and victories. I would encourage you if you're a nursing Mama out there and you are having a hard time, keep it up! But also know that at the end of the day, you know yourself better than anybody else. Don't feel pressured to keep breastfeeding if it's causing you more stress and you can no longer find the joy in it. Whatever the case may be you are still a rockstar Mom who is doing the best you can to raise those little ones!!!
*Leave a comment letting us know what things you wish you would've known before breastfeeding!