So I know I have (or at least did when I actually posted on a regular basis) at least a few readers who are mommies-to-be out there and since a few other bloggers have recently posted about their BF experience (Ashley Paige and Tracey) I figured I would jump on the bandwagon and share my experience as well. I know that when I was pregnant this was one of those areas in which I wished I had unlimited resources so hopefully I can help someone out there. Here it goes.
** Disclaimer: This is simply my experience - not an open invitation for a debate on the "best" ways to feed one's child. In no way am saying that what works for us is better than what works for any other parents and their children - this is simply what has worked for us so far so please don't send me any hate mail/comments. Thanks! **
When I was pregnant with Abby the thought of breastfeeding totally freaked me out. Yes, I knew it was totally natural and provided all types of nutrients/immunities/numerous other benefits that I'm not going to get into here because that's not the point of this post, but, still, the actual act of breastfeeding made me very uncomfortable. With that being said, it was still something that I very much wanted to try. I decided that once Abby was here, I would definitely try the whole breastfeeding thing and if it worked great, but if not I wasn't going to beat myself up over having to use formula.
In order to better prepare myself, the husband and I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital and I read as much on the subject as I possibly could. I became as comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding as I could without actually being able to practice. Btw, I definitely recommend taking a class if you're even considering breastfeeding - it helped me a lot.
Fast-forward to Abby's arrival.
We attempted to breastfeed as soon as possible after Abby was born (because of her breathing issues & my repairs it was probably a little over an hour after her birth). Abby did not latch on immediately - actually, she didn't latch on at all until much later that evening - but we kept trying and eventually she got it. And much to my surprise, once Abby finally latched on there was nothing weird or uncomfortable about it.
I had tons of colostrum according to the nurses and lactation consultants and they all ensured me that I would have absolutely no problem with my milk coming in. They all said it would be in by Monday, but at the latest Tuesday for sure (Abby was born on a Friday, so 3-4 days).
When we left the hospital on Sunday afternoon I was pretty confident with how our feedings were going. Abby was nursing like a champ and everything appeared to be working exactly the way it was supposed to. We had noticed that she was beginning to get a little fussy, but we just chocked it up to her "waking up" after the honeymoon phase in the hospital.
Over the next day and a half, she was still appearing to nurse like a champ, but she was getting fussier by the minute. During our first two days at home with her, if Abby was awake she was crying and we couldn't quite figure out what was causing her to be so upset. It wasn't until early Tuesday morning (after she didn't have a wet diaper for over 8 hours) that we realized she wasn't getting enough to eat. Let's be honest - she was starving!
At that point, we gave Abby some formula and she immediately became a completely different baby - the crying stopped and she would sleep for longer than 30 seconds at a time. I also decided to pump just to see what was going on. I got less than 1/2 oz between both sides. That explained it all.
I felt like the world's worst mother. How could I not have known that I was starving my child? Here's how - I had never done this before so I didn't know that my milk hadn't come in yet and that I had also stopped making colostrum (they failed to mention in our breastfeeding class that this was a possibility). I immediately began thinking the worst - that since my milk hadn't come in by now, it was never going to. I was so upset and felt guilty because I couldn't provide for Abby (yes, I said while I was pregnant that I would be okay if breastfeeding didn't work out - apparently, I wasn't okay with it when it actually happened). I cried.
Over the next week, we supplemented with formula while I pumped around the clock. My milk did finally come in after a week, but even then my supply wasn't enough to sustain Abby alone so we kept supplementing. It took about 3 weeks for me to begin producing enough milk for her on my own. Now, 2 months in, I don't have any problems with breastfeeding and I'm so glad that I stuck with it even though it was really hard for a while because now I really look forward to that time with her that only I get to experience.
Here are a few things that I learned along the way that I wish I had known upfront:
- There can be a lag in production between colostrum and your milk coming in. This doesn't necessarily mean that your body will never produce milk and that you won't be able to breastfeed.
- If the baby latches on correctly, there really shouldn't be any pain other than a little bit of discomfort for the first few minutes of nursing after the first 2 or so weeks. If there is, the baby probably isn't latching correctly so pull them off and try again.
- Apply lanolin like it's going out of style for the first 3-4 weeks. I did this and I never had any problems with cracking.
- Invest in a really good breast pump because it will make things so much easier. I have this one and I really like it. Be sure to buy extra parts for whatever pump you choose so you don't feel like you're spending your entire life cleaning things.
- If you don't produce enough milk and you have to supplement be sure to still allow the baby to nurse a few times during the day so they don't forget how. We did this with Abby and never had a problem with her getting confused. Now she will take a boob, a bottle, or a paci so it makes life a little easier since we can be flexible with her feedings.
- Although they don't teach you everything, definitely take a breastfeeding class if you have the opportunity. If nothing else, it will probably make you feel a little more at ease with the process which will help a lot.