I had this beautifully serene picture in my head of a new mother rocking back and forth in the moonlight while sweetly cradling her little miracle in her arms as the infant gently suckled at her bosom… FALSE. What I imagined to be so natural and easy turned out to be quite difficult for me. Whether it be trouble latching, your milk not coming in or a working mom trying to pump on the go, every new mom out there will most likely encounter struggles in one way or another. I struggled with all of the above. Here are my tips for success and the story of how I finally triumphed over my battle of the boobs.
#1 Seek help.
Sometimes a second or third or fourth opinion is what it takes to find what works for you. There are so many free resources available these days, I recommend taking advantage of them. I worked with two lactation consultants. One who helped during the first few days while in the hospital and another at my doctor’s office at the six-week check up. I also took a free Breastfeeding Works class prior to my son’s arrival. As a first time mom, I started out clueless and easily discouraged. Their motivation and advice, though varying greatly from one another, turned out to be priceless.
#2 Find peace.
Find a happy place and focus on it. Your hormones will be raging and your mind will be racing nonstop. I truly believe the best thing I did for my breastfeeding success was just relax and let it happen. I realized that once I stopped meticulously measuring every ounce and just had faith in my body’s capabilities, everything began to fall into place.
#3 Never give up, never surrender!
No matter what, never give up hope! It took three months before I could successfully breastfeed without shields or supplements, but we did it! And just a warning, you will come across a lot of naysayers out there (our pediatrician, my doctor or the Internet) but only you will know if your breastfeeding journey is truly over or just beginning.
My breastfeeding battle began day one. My little guy had a tongue tie and was unable to properly latch without feeling like my nipple was being clamped down on by a giant snapping turtle. I couldn’t figure out how I just managed to survive twelve hours of labor but it was physically impossible for my toes not to curl under just from the grip of my six pound, thirteen ounce bundle of joy… Joy was definitely not the word that came to mind in those first breastfeeding attempts. After multiple meetings with the lactation consultant at the hospital, they decided to bring in the dreaded nipple shield. It made a world of a difference in his latch but I was warned of the possible side effects. Nipple shields can cause nipple confusion and you may have to use it for the remainder of your breastfeeding journey. They can also cause a drop in milk production.
Which brought me to my next hurdle. At my son’s two-week doctor appointment, the pediatrician was mortified to find out that my milk hadn’t come in yet. On average, colostrum transitions to milk within five to seven days after birth. At two weeks, my baby was only being nourished by colostrum and a daily bottle of formula to supplement. I was told that because I had an emergency c-section, my body was most likely still in survival mode and my milk was not going to fully come in. I felt like I had failed my child because I would not be able to successfully breastfeed. But since my baby was gaining weight regularly, I personally decided to continue to breastfeed and supplement with formula while monitoring his progress.
Two more weeks had gone by before my milk finally arrived against all odds. We were thrilled! Then along came hurdle number three. I simply wasn’t producing enough milk to sustain him without the additional formula. Although disheartened, I was determined to not give up hope. During my six-week follow-up with my doctor to see how I was healing after my c-section, he recommended I meet with their lactation consultant. Her advice went against what everyone had been telling me up to that point. She told me to stop journaling, stop measuring ounces, stop worrying about it all together. She said to find a peaceful place to sit, imagine Niagara Falls and just have faith that my body would do the rest. And it did! I slowly started to produce enough milk that I was even able to freeze some for when I had to go back to work a week later. Returning to work was no breezy task either, but I got really good at pumping on my way to work and during breaks.
Fast forward to the three-month mark and another huge success as he was able to latch naturally! This was by far the best feeling in the world. I wanted to scream it from the top of a mountain that I was successfully breastfeeding! I also wanted to burn that nipple shield but in all honesty, I would not have lasted as long as I did without it. I’m happy to report that today my son is five months old and my boobs are still going strong! To all of you new mamas out there, please always seek professional advice and please don’t let society make you feel bad if your story turns out less successful. I have heard horror stories of mothers almost starving their children because they were pressured not to use formula or bottles early on. I refuse to be ashamed that my son had a bottle of formula a day for the first few months. All we can do is try our best and love our little ones to pieces!
I wish you the best of luck in your breastfeeding journey. It may not be the easiest but it is so rewarding and well worth all the effort.