My Personal Story of Overcoming Breastfeeding Difficulties
Breastfeeding – what a unique journey. Every mother has a run in with breastfeeding one way or another, whether it’s being able to do so, unable or not wanting any part of it. There is no way to escape feeding an infant either from your body or a bottle.
There is so much debate happening whether breastfeeding is best, whether formula is sufficient or an outright poison. You can get information to support any opinion that you hold and that makes it so much more confusing for new mothers. Couple all of this with severe sleep deprivation and postpartum recovery, and you got a situation capable of crippling a new mother. And without a strong support system in place, a mother may simply give up on breastfeeding because she feels it’s not possible for her to do.
Breastfeeding can be difficult both emotionally and physically. And it may become an all consuming task that drags the mother deep into an isolating black hole. Even though breastfeeding is natural for all mammals, it does not mean that it’s easy. For some reason natural has become synonymous with right and easy, but in case of breastfeeding it may very well be neither.
First off, there is nothing easy about breastfeeding. It feels painful in the beginning and takes up a lot of time; more than a full time job (roughly 10-12 hours per day, 7 days a week, for at least a month). A mother and her newborn are trying to get to know each other and have their bodies work in harmony. But it’s often hard, as a newborn is learning this skill for the first time in their life and the mom is going through this experience anew with each babe. And while it may be the better choice for most infants, it’s not always so for every mother.
That is where a strong support system comes in. The mother needs to feel safe and supported with the choice she makes regarding feeding her infant. Because breastfeeding has been pushed hard in the recent years, as the best way to feed your child, it takes a psychological toll when it’s not going well.
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My Breastfeeding Story
My first breastfeeding experience fell short of the idyllic images in the media. I delivered via an emergency C-Section and was under some heavy painkillers for the first few days of my son’s life. While I was in the hospital, breastfeeding was going splendidly, no pain, great looking latch, baby happy as a clam. (I wonder if the lack of pain was due to said painkillers?)
But it all changed the day we were leaving the hospital. Baby was feeding more frequently (cluster feeding), I stopped taking the heavy meds because they made me feel off. So I started to experience more pain, and the exhaustion has finally caught up.
Later that evening, I experienced chills when my milk started coming in ( I didn’t even know that was possible, since everyone only talks about postpartum sweats). But there I was: freezing, dizzy, with flu like symptoms. No one in my family knew what was going on, so they didn’t know how to help, except put a blanket over my shoulders.
Things only got worse the next day at the pediatrician’s office. We were told that baby lost more than 10% of body weight and needed formula pronto. No reasoning about baby having great output could sway the pediatrician to listen and thus that same day we went to see a lactation consultant. Mind you, I’m 4 days post C-Section and can barely move. My nipples are bleeding and feeling like they are about to fall off. My emotional state can only be described as utter despair.
Lactation consultant measured my milk output and decided that baby was not getting enough. In order to build my supply, I needed to add pumping. But I was already feeding every 2 hours and baby would eat for close to an hour each feed. This left me anywhere from half hour to an hour in between feeds. I couldn’t understand how I could have time to pump on top of breastfeeding. My body needed a break.
The news almost broke me. I started crying the moment we left the lactation consultant’s office. It took a while for my husband to help me feel better and required a few conversations with friends before I was able to calm down.
We started supplementing with donor breastmilk (which was a very expensive and non-sustainable option) because I was against formula, but did not want to starve my child. It was rough but I had friends who helped me through this. One of my friends brought over all the supplements she had to help me boost my milk production. The only thing that made a difference for me was Motherlove More Milk Plus and Mother’s Milk Tea.
I started making enough to keep my son satiated. It was amazing. I finally felt like I wasn’t defective. It took at least a week to get to this point and we started supplementing with formula to make sure he was not starving. We took him off of the formula supplementation after about a week, when it seemed that he started to gain weight and was satisfied with his feeds. I used Motherlove More Milk Plus for all of my son’s growth spurts thereafter. I want to say that breastfeeding was smooth sailing from there but it definitely wasn’t.
You can also try to increase your breast milk supply with oatmeal and brewers yeast. Here is a delicious recipe for Lactation Oats from Fab Working Mom Life.
Breastfeeding my second
My breastfeeding experience with my second son ended up being very different. While I was paranoid that I would not have enough milk for him and stocked up on supplements and oatmeal, it wasn’t an issue at all. My chunky little boy had no shortage of milk and even gained weight before we left the hospital. I didn’t experience crazy cluster feeds with him during his growth spurts. and while he most definitely pulled in more volume at each feed, he fed less frequently than the lowest recommended number of feeds.
If he was my first, I think I would have been worried. But this being the second time around and my boy gaining weight like a champ, I just let nature take control. Comparatively, my second breastfeeding experience was a breeze, though not without some difficulties. My second son decided he hated the bottle around 6 months of age and never took a sip from it again. Through a lot of perseverance on my part, he eventually took some milk from a sippy cup and happily drank from an open cup. But it took 2 stressful months to get there.
This just goes to show you that no baby and no breastfeeding experience is the same. You may have an easy experience or a difficult one. But the most important part is having a support team that is knowledgeable, caring, and works well with you on any challenges that may come up.
Some Parting Words on Dealing With Breastfeeding Difficulties
I wanted to share this bit from my early breastfeeding experience to show other mothers that if they are struggling, they are not alone. Almost all moms have some sort of issues and have to work through them in order to successfully breastfeed. It’s a taxing job both mentally and physically. And you are the only one able to do this. You can’t share this part of parenting with your partner because your partner is not the one lactating. But your partner can and should be part of your support system.
They can help you by taking things off your plate and allowing you time to concentrate on breastfeeding exclusively. They can also be there for you emotionally, if you decide not to breastfeed. It is often a decision fraught with guilt (thanks societal pressure). But with empathy and support, you can feel good making this decision.
To all the moms that are struggling with breastfeeding, just know this: “You are not a bad mother and whichever way you choose to feed the baby will be FINE!” Lots of love and support to all of you.
I have partnered with Rachel Da Silva, RN, BSN, CLC, founder of Mommy Did You Know and became an ambassador for her wonderful breastfeeding courses. She has 3 tiers of courses: Milk Minutes Free Breastfeeding Class, The Milk Minutes Breastfeeding Crash Course, Milk Minutes All About Feeding Your Baby (Premium Version).
In addition, she has a variety of helpful resources on her page, including an online consultation to answer your postpartum and baby related questions. If you are interested in checking out and purchasing any of her courses, click here. Use the code MILKMINUTES10 to receive 10% off her premium courses.
But that’s not all. Rachel also has a MDYK Store which sells beautiful clothes for mom and baby, a variety of baby items, and items for your breastfeeding needs. Use the code MILKMINUTES to receive 15% off your first purchase. Rachel offers free shipping within the US and flat rate shipping of $5 internationally.
Quote of the day:
Breast Feeding should not be attempted by fathers with hairy chests, since they can make the baby sneeze and give it wind. ~Mike Harding, The Armchair Anarchist’s Almanac, 1981
Mental Health Tip of the Day:
Do not suffer alone. If you are encountering difficulties with breastfeeding tap into your support network. Reach out to a knowledgeable friend, your own mother or grandmother, lactation consultant or a La Leche League representative. If you feel so overwhelmed that you cannot fathom calling anyone, have your partner call.