What I wish I’d known about breastfeeding
March 13, 2015
I wanna talk about something near and dear to my heart today! Literally. Boobs! Specifically, breastfeeding.
Note: This is not in any way about breast vs. formula – huge respect to every mama and papa, doing their best, doing what they’re doing. This is just about the experience of breastfeeding, for those that choose to/are able to take that route.
I did breastfeed, and in my experience, the early days of babe are fully Boobsville: The Muscial. An epic drama. Boobs become a major big deal. A source of pain and pride and nourishment and stress and generally constant concern. I thought about them so much, I started seeing boobs. Fruit. Jewellery. Light fixtures. Boobs, boobs, boobs.
It all worked out in the end, but in the beginning I found breastfeeding super duper challenging. Painful, emotional, exhausting, and really just so, so hard. My sister Johanna is having a similar experience at the moment. Luckily, things do seem to be on the up and up, but a week in, really she’s still in the throes of it. So it’s all boobs all the time, here! I did a little week-one new mom interview with her yesterday and we ended up talking about breastfeeding a lot. I’ve put together a few points that we think are really important for new moms looking to breastfeed. Honestly, these are the things I wish I’d known coming into the game.
Breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily come naturally. I do have a cousin who found that it did. Lucky! Not my experience. For Johanna and I, it’s taken a lot of help to figure out… I feel like in the past, breastfeeding woulda been one of those “it takes a village” things – all the aunties and grandmothers and sisters helping the new mama and babe get things going. My first few weeks with J were full of youtube videos, websites, midwives, other moms, a lactation consultant, books… Johanna has so far gotten help from her midwives, me, two lactation consultants and a book. It takes serious tenacity! I think this is so important to know, because it can make a new mama feel ridiculously guilty and inadequate to struggle so much with something that is supposed to be “natural.”
No, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt that much. Johanna and I both felt like the message we got for the most part was that since babe was gaining well, everything was fine and our pain was normal. Part of the gig. But then, after days of tears, toe-curling and gritting our teeth we found our way to better technique that was way, way less painful. Fact is, it’s just hard for anyone else to gauge how much pain you are feeling. Please, don’t discount your pain! Or let others discount it. A baby can gain nicely, and still have too shallow a latch, or you might have yeast, or vasospasm, or, or, or… Honestly – if it hurts like crazy, something really might be up. Get to the bottom of it.
The same expert advice doesn’t work for everyone. I’m so grateful for the access I had to a few professionals, they were so helpful for some things. But not every expert technique works for everybody! It’s so important to trust yourself. Here is an example of what I mean. A lot of expert folks suggest making a “breast sandwich” to get babe on boob nicely. It’s all over the internets. It basically means squeezing your boob kinda flat so that baby’s little mouth can get a good munch. Sounds logical, but it so did not work for me. Rather, one of my midwives – a mom of four – watched what I was doing and together we figured out that if I held my boob totally the opposite way – perpendicular to a breast sandwich, so I could sort of catch his bottom lip with it to help him open his mouth wider – I had way more success! But I can’t find that anywhere on the internet. I’m not necessarily advocating for that technique – boob sandwich obv works for lots of ladies. My point is that there is so much advice swirling around out there, and it just won’t all work for everyone! Our boobs and babes are each delightfully different. Try it out, give it a good go, but ultimately trust yourself and get some more support or move on if something isn’t working.
In the end, breastfeeding was great and fully worth it for me. I definitely hope to do it again with this babe. And man, I really, really hope it won’t kill me as much in the beginning. But if it does, fine. I just won’t be quietly sucking it up while my nipples get destroyed, waiting 10 long, emotional days to see a lactation consultant this time! I’m gonna trust myself something fierce and take it like a wild Mama bear, knocking down midwives’ doors, sending my husband on epic research missions, whatever!
And that’s that! Lol, I never thought I’d be talking so much about boobs in such a public way! Ahh, that’s sisterhood. 🙂 I so hope this is helpful to you or someone you know!