It’s been more than a year since I started breastfeeding E, and yes, it does feel like forever, but when I reflect on it, it was just yesterday that E first latched on, my nipples were sore as heck, I cried because E wouldn’t latch on and struggled for the next 2 weeks or so till E started latching on again. The story is much longer that the few lines I just typed.
I think it’s important for moms to be able to be comfortable sharing their ups and downs about motherhood without facing any harsh judgement – the birth pains (or not), the pains and joys of breastfeeding, or even struggles using formula or finding the right one for your baby. I do admit that I have to remind myself that what I did (am doing) is specific to me and when I share advice, I have to remember that not everyone will follow it, and that’s okay.
That being said, I am going to share my breastfeeding journey here. Maybe I won’t give full blown details, but here is the gist of it. I am sharing my story in hopes of encouraging some mom out there (especially a new mom like me), or maybe through the story, a mom-to-be will be able to garner some tips and things to look out for.
Some things to note, before having E, I was pretty determined to breastfeed her till she was at least one year old. E is now almost 17 months and we are still on this breastfeeding journey.
Here’s my story:
Before E was born I was a lot more worried about breastfeeding than labor itself! As such, I did everything I could to prepare myself for breastfeeding. I attended a breastfeeding class, watched other moms breastfeed and talked to them about it, read up online and read a few books on breastfeeding. The book that helped me the most was The Nursing Mother’s Companion. There are also a number of helpful online guides and videos on Youtube.
When E was born, I followed the advice given by professionals and friends who are pro-breastfeeding:
- Keep baby in room with you so you can nurse on demand (important to help stimulate colostrum and milk production)
- Avoid giving baby pacifiers (to help prevent nipple confusion, if you believe in it)
- See the lactation consultant in hospital at least once before leaving.
What happened in reality:
Straightaway after E was born, the midwife/nurse brought her to my bare chest (skin to skin contact is important to help stimulate milk production). They then helped me get E to latch on. It was a pretty surreal and somewhat uncomfortable feeling. I was told this is normal. However, my nipples were already starting to become sore after those first few “improper” latches.
For the first 24 hours of her life, E was largely sleeping. This isn’t the case with all babies though. The lactation consultant did tell us from day two, baby needs to be fed about every 2 hours or when she shows signs of hunger.
E was in the room with us most of the time. It did help us pick up on her hunger cues (when we were awake and alive) and feed her on demand. There was one night (I think the last night), I was so tired we (hubs and I) decided to leave her in the nursery for a few hours so we could rest. It did give us 2 hours of much needed rest.
Things to note:
There is NO milk in the beginning. Just colostrum which is also dubbed “liquid gold”. It’s yellow and somewhat sticky – you may or may not see it in the beginning, but baby is sucking it out of you. Milk comes in later.
How to tell if baby is eating enough? The only way is through number of wet diapers and weight gain. That is why you are asked to track the number of wet/poopy diapers and your baby is weighed daily during the first few weeks.
So first time moms – DO NOT WORRY! Just latch your baby on as much as possible (or needed) and relax. Oh yes, drink lots of liquids and eat well too. Skin to skin contact helps stimulate milk production so baby wearing can come in helpful here. To note, skin-to-skin literally means skin-to-skin, for example, placing naked baby in diaper on your bare chest. If you are concerned that baby is cold, ensure the room is well-heated.
After we went home…
Everything pretty much went downhill when we got home. E refused to latch after the first night and my nipples were super sore and painful. We were concerned that E was not being fed so we called the pediatrician who recommended a lactation consultant who does home visits to us. Miraculously, she was still wetting diapers, so they weren’t super concerned.
Our lactation consultant (LC) came that evening but because E was so hungry and agitated, she refused to latch. As such, the LC wasn’t able to troubleshoot much. She recommended that we get some formula to feed E first as E’s bilirubin levels were still a little high. Pooping out the meconium was more important that breastfeeding successfully at that moment.
She also gave me tips to help my nipples heal. The most important thing for me to continue to stimulate milk production was to pump at least every 2 hours. That was hard but am glad the hubs set up many alarms, woke me up to pump and also helped me wash the breast pump bottles each time.
The LC visited the next day and E still refused to latch. The plan of action was to continue feeding E breast milk (that had thankfully came in) via a supplementary nursing system (SNS) and supplement with formula if needed. I also had to pump every 2 hours. In the meantime, to help my nipples heal, I had to air them as much as possible.
By the following week, my nipples were much better and my LC came back for another visit. She then was able to identify the problem. Because my milk was coming in, the nipple area was a little too “engorged” and hard for E to latch on. She taught me the RPS massage I could do before nursing and that helped E latch on. When E latched on successfully, the feeling was amazing. I did have a proud mommy moment there :).
To note, it wasn’t smooth-sailing here on out. Breastfeeding is a learning journey for both mother and baby and E (and myself) had to learn how to properly latch. It was only till E was about 8 weeks or so did things start to get better. E was more proficient at latching and my nipples were largely healed.
I also had a yeast infection and that wasn’t fun, especially feeding E the medicine. So moms, make sure your nipples are nice and dry and change your breast pads often, especially if they are damp.
8 weeks and beyond…
I still have the occasional sore nipple/s. What helps are these nipple shells that protect my nipples from any friction and give them the “space” to heal. I also love the Motherlove nipple cream. I still use it today.
I have also learned to be extremely protective about my nipples. The moment I feel a little soreness, I apply the cream and check E’s latching.
When I felt that my supply was down (first time was when my period came back), I try and ensure I am well hydrated, eating well and make some red date tea. I like this recipe. Unfortunately, fenugreek supplements didn’t work for me.
I have to admit I do love breastfeeding and am passionate about helping other moms. So if you have any questions, do drop me a note. At the same time, I would highly recommend seeking help from a professional. My knowledge is definitely limited but I am happy to share my experiences and give encouragement!