Going into my first delivery, I didn’t give it a second thought, I was going to breastfeed. Period. There were no other options for me. My mother successfully breastfed all five of her children and I knew it was what I wanted to do. I knew it would be challenging as I had to return to work full-time but I wasn’t going to let that stop me; I would pump and pump I did!
I didn’t give it a second thought that I might have complications feeding or that my preemie baby may have difficulty staying awake or latching. Mot first time Mothers don’t give those things a second thought. We just assume all will go well. The question is, what if it doesn’t?
Let me preface this post by saying I totally think it is a personal opinion if you choose to feed your child formula. I do not judge others who choose to do so. I do think that breastfeeding has a stigma in the media and therefore many mothers do not even try it or give up way to early because of lack of support. I am very much a pro-breastfeeding supporter and would highly recommend any pregnant mom doing lots of research before deciding that breastfeeding is not for them. I am not an expert but after struggling myself was able to overcome difficulties to successfully breastfeed my two children over four years combined. This is simple me sharing my story and my breastfeeding advice for new moms.
When my first was born, I was able to give him one brief kiss and then he was ushered away. He was taken to the NCIU and I was not allowed to even attempt to breastfeed until the following morning. I was ecstatic to try but it didn’t go as I had imagined. I thought with a little help he would latch on and we would be set; again I was totally naive.
He was lethargic and tired because of all meds I had been given to try to stop my labor. It had not only been a hard week for me but also for him. We attempted to continue to breastfeed every two hours. He would latch on and suck for a minute or two and then off to sleep he would go. He had jaundice and difficulty controlling his body temperature. That first day he lost nine ounces. They are expected to loose some weight but that was more than he should have lost all week.
The moment of truth…
I was told we would have to start a prescription formula every other feeding or we could use a feeding tube. I was distraught. Of course I blamed myself. I was tired and weak from all we had been through and I just thought I couldn’t produce what he needed. It was truly devastating.
In the end we decided we would take the chance of him having nipple confusion and bottle feed over another tube being used. After a brief cry, a lactation consultant came and sat next to me. The hospital had one come talk to me as soon as I was ready after the birth so it wasn’t the first time I had spoken with one. She assured me all would be okay and that just because he needed the formula didn’t mean he couldn’t get the benefits of me breastfeeding.
We walked over to the nursing stations that the hospital has set up connected to the NCIU around the corner from where the babies are kept. We talked more about pumping and then started right then. As if I wasn’t sore and engorged wasn’t enough, the first few times pumping seemed beyond painful. And to top it off, the first few times I pumped, I got less than an ounce out of each breast. How could that be? I was so beyond swollen that I thought I could fill the bottle. Again, I wasn’t informed at all.
With the kind nursing and lactation consultants’ guidance I continued. I was shown how to use the pump properly, explained the different phases my production would go through and then they explained how to help increase my production through pumping. Once I stopped focusing on waking him to feed him every two hours and let him feed when he wanted, things went much smoother!
After about three days my production drastically increased. By my sixth day, my real milk had come in. We stuck with it and I continued to breastfeed him every other feeding and then my pumped breast milk was mixed with the prescription formula for the other feedings. By the seventh day we were breastfeeding much better, he latched on and was able to empty one side. No more sleepy little guy, he was alert and awake and would nuzzle in anytime I would hold him. I couldn’t have been happier.
After about a month, he didn’t want the formula anymore. He knew what he wanted and only wanted breast milk. About that time he started gaining weight like a normal baby so I was encouraged to try to breastfeed exclusively. That was when he really started gaining weight! My tiny little preemie boy was quite the chubby baby by his fourth month.
When I gave birth to Addie, the situation was entirely different. She had made it to the 36th week and I wasn’t given meds to stop her labor. She came out crying and started rooting within minutes. She was breastfeeding within about five minutes like she had been doing it forever. She was a champ.
My Breastfeeding Advice for New Moms
- Be informed. Do the research to understand the processes of breastfeeding. Read about possible complications and what can be done about it.
- Know why you personally want to try and be determined. Determination isn’t everything. I have very good friends that really wanted to exclusively breastfeed that despite trying everything couldn’t produce enough milk.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Being stressed doesn’t help your production in the least way. Realize that there will be a learning curve for you both.
- Speak with a lactation consultant about breastfeeding even before you give birth. Let them know your concerns and discuss them ahead of time. Continue to communicate with them after you deliver and in your first few weeks of breastfeeding.
- Build a support team! Find others locally or online that you feel comfortable openly talking to not only about your concerns but also that support you in breastfeeding. Let’s face it; those first few odd stares from strangers when you are breastfeeding in public can be uncomfortable. Trust me; it won’t bother you for long because you will be proud that you are giving your baby exactly what they need.
- Have what you need to succeed! Truthfully I would love to tell you that all you need is your breasts, and in some cases that is the honest truth but there are other things that are sometimes needed.
1. For those first few days/weeks when you begin to breastfeed it can be helpful to have a breast cream available to use or simple try using coconut oil.
2. Reusable nursing pads are a huge help for once your milk comes in! Once I returned to work I had to wear them daily because any crying baby made my milk let down.
3. A nursing pillow can make life much easier for supporting your new little one while nursing. Not everyone uses them but it can make supporting the baby easier and breastfeeding less stressful.
4. Pumps can be quite expensive but if you are going to work outside the home they are a necessity. I used an electric double pump and I can say they are worth every last penny! With my first, I think it was pumping that allowed me to be successful in breastfeeding. They are key to help increase milk production and building a milk supply to have on hand.
5. If you do pump you will need something for milk storage. While I used mainly bottles for milk storage there were times when they were all full and I relied on disposable milk storage bags.
I think the most important thing to remember is good to have a plan, realize that things do not always work out the way we expect them to. The more you stress about it, the worse it can get. If things don’t go as planned, celebrate the successes you do have!
Whether you are able to breastfeed for 4 weeks, 4 months or 18 months know that during that time you were able to give your little one extra antibodies to help to protect their immune system from infections. Celebrate that!!!