Basics of Breastfeeding: Part One

*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.

*Reality*

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!

I had downloaded this app to use as well, and I still use it to this day

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.

How it actually works

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.

 

The anxiety behind breastfeeding

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?

pregnancy skincare gifts

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!

Graph courtesy of CDC.GOV

 

So, as part of this breastfeeding series, each week I am going to feature a mom or two that has successfully breastfed, is breastfeeding, or one that has chosen not to breastfeed with each of their stories in hopes that whatever struggle you may be having, that you can find a mom to connect with on that level. Of course, I would like to thank those of you who have already reached out to me with your stories and struggles, and I am always willing to lend an ear.

 

Here is Ryan Butners story

“With my first I didn’t want to breastfed at first because I was afraid of how it seems to be seen as “taboo” to feed your child that way in public and I didn’t want to have to deal with that. I didn’t want to deal with the looks or the comments. She was born 6 weeks early and I decided that my milk would be best for her – that it would help her more than formula would. She had issues latching and eating and had to be fed with a tube, so I decided to pump until she could figure out latching. I pumped for maybe 2 weeks and my body just didn’t respond to the pump well. I also wasn’t eating like I should because I was back and forth between home and the hospital. She never figured out how to latch properly and I ended up with Postpartum depression so I just gave up. I felt awful and felt that I wasn’t a true mom because I couldn’t provide (this was the PPD talking). After awhile on medicine I realized at least she was being fed and that’s what mattered.
With my 2nd who was born 11 months after my first I decided to breastfeed and did all sorts of research on what I needed and how to do it. She was born via c section so at first I thought it would be harder to breastfed due to her being born via c section from all the research I had done but she proved me wrong. I was diagnosed with PPD again but I pushed through with help from my husband and I was determined to breastfed her. I almost gave up after 2 weeks though due to pain. I saw a Lactation Consultant and her latch was perfect and she had no ties so they were confused about the pain at first, and then we found out I had Vapospasms which can cause the pain. I also had cracked nipples which caused some pain but with a little bit of Jack Newmans All Purpose Nipple Ointment that was all fixed. My little girl is 6 months now and is still breastfeeding and I don’t see her stopping anytime soon. I plan to allow her to self wean.
We have not had any problems feeding in public either. I was terrified the first couple of times but my mom and sister were there for support and I knew they would have said something if someone had a problem with me feeding in public. It’s truly an amazing bond that I so wish I could have had with my first. Every time my husband changes my little one he always tickles her belly and tells her how proud he is of me for not giving up because I made that fat belly which makes me feel good. It’s also a great natural birth control as well. Actual birth control failed us twice (which I’m glad it did because I love my girls).”
Her advice to new moms:
“Try breastfeeding – it’s truly an amazing experience and it’s cheaper than formula. Also find a good Lactation Consultant. I’m big chested and in the hospital they told me I could only feed in the football hold which is really hard to do out in public, but once I found a good lactation consultant she was able to walk me through different holds that would work with having bigger breasts.
Also invest in a my breastfriend pillow, there’s no way I could live without mine! It seriously makes feeding super easy. Also Jack Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment is a life saver. If I hadn’t been prescribed that I probably would have given up a long time ago.
My last piece of advice for new mom’s is have patience, you may go all day with having a baby attached to you and they may want to feed every 5 minutes but it’s normal during growth spurts. Just kick back and binge watch something on Netflix, because it’s worth it.”

 

Join me next week as I cover different nursing personalities, habits, and mannerisms.

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!

 

This post may contain affiliate links that I have an advertising relationship with. However, you will never be charged more for a product, and I promise to only promote products I truly love and believe in. These are my own personal stories.

 

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Lauren

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