*This post may contain graphic information. These are real stories*
Before having my baby, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I was surrounded by a lot of mommy friends who were on their breastfeeding journey, or had been previously; and so for me it seemed normal. I had never ever thought twice about the effort it takes to do so, or the science behind it. If you had asked me how it works, I would have just as well-assumed you just put the baby there, and they drink, easy as that… magic. I was so wrong.
I had envisioned rainbows and butterflies when it came to nursing a baby. I literally envisioned me, sitting in a chair, chilling hard, maybe listening to classical music, just feeding my baby a few times a day.
During pregnancy I had borrowed this awesome book and had read it – well, skimmed it very thoroughly and I felt super prepared. This book is awesome by the way. It is the best preparation I could have possibly done.
Upon birthing my baby, I was surrounded by the most caring nurses and lactation consultant eager to help me nurse my child, because they need to be fed almost immediately after birth to get your milk to come in. There I was, multiple women around me, just grabbing onto said breast, pinching me like a sandwich to get my baby any nourishment. Honestly, looking back now it was really quite comical, but in the moment I was terrified and super anxious.
Our 2 or 3 days in the hospital included nurses around the clock, every 3 hours encouraging me to offer the breast. It was such a trying and exhausting time for me, being that I had labored through birth unmedicated and had a few recovery complications. I was running on almost no sleep because my anxiety was so high I just could not rest. I had flat nipples and so for that they invented these amazing shells (if you have this issue, buy them, before the baby comes – you will not regret it). I wish I had known about those before having the baby, it would have been SO much easier!
Upon preparation to leave the hospital, I had a nurse give me what felt like an hour or two of education on how to take care of our newborn baby, and how to be really successful at nursing. This was actually totally amazing for us and a complete blessing! They had drilled into my head that during the day I needed to offer every 3 hours and every 4 hours at night – this was completely daunting to me. I would not have survived all of this without my favorite nursing pillow I swear.
To me breastfeeding is the coolest science. It is based on demand and supply, and basically if you don’t use it- you lose it. Once the baby stimulates, the milk has to let down, which to me is still one of the weirdest feelings ever. You want the baby to fully empty one side before moving to the other because there are actually 2 different types of milk that your body creates! If they do not nurse long enough, you can have issues with an imbalance of nutrients, and switching sides too frequently back and forth can actually also cause oversupply issues as well.
I was one serious anxious momma. I was constantly worrying in those first few months. Was she eating enough? Was she eating long enough? Is she eating too long?
I ended up actually having the issue of over-supply and a serious forceful let down. This caused a lot of strain the first few months, and I had so many moments where I wanted to throw in the towel. If I had not had some serious good support around me, I honestly think I would have given up. For me, my initial goal was to nurse my baby for the first 6 months, however I had to do a whole lot of praying to get through the first 4 months. Now that we have successfully made it to 7 months, my goal is to try to make it to 1 year.
After having so many of my own struggles, I really wanted to research into this topic a little bit deeper. I did some research and here are some statistics from the recent years.
The numbers start to drop at 6 months, and they drop even more drastically on exclusive breastfeeding. This is totally understandable seeing now as how hard it can actually be to successfully feed. I am super proud to say that me and Lily girl are part of the 18% that is being exclusively breastfed at 6 months. With so many giving up breastfeeding due to lack of support and education, enter the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) and the CLC (Certified Lactation Counselors). I know 100% that without my lactation consultant I would have given up on breastfeeding. However, it is completely shocking to me that in 2013 there were only 3.5 IBCLCs and nearly 4 CLCs per 1,000 live births. Is that really even near enough support? It is encouraging to see however, that that number is slowly climbing over the years and I am anxious to see the next report card and hope it is still climbing!
In the meantime, be sure to check out my recent post, Mom VS. Mom: The Great Debate!
I am not a doctor or scientist, so if you would like a more scientific explanation on how milk production works, you can check out KellyMoms article here. It is really awesome and detailed!