This post is the third of a six part bonus series about breastfeeding, each of our individual stories, the highs, the lows, the “I have no clue what I’m doing” and the “I’ve totally got this”. No matter what your story is, we want you to know that somewhere out there is another mom saying, “me too”. We’re all in this together.
Being a first time mom is a wonderful experience but it comes with its own set of learning curves.
I was told that when you become a mom, some things will just come naturally, you and your little babe will just click and understand each other to an extent. I guess in the back of my mind I just assumed breastfeeding would be one of those things. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Breastfeeding is not only a learning experience for you as a new mom but your little babe doesn’t quite know what they’re doing either. So when I had my daughter, I struggled with the whole process. I was able to get her to latch in the hospital but 12 hours before we got discharged she stopped latching. Our wonderful nurse saw that I was struggling and exhausted so she offered to tube feed her with formula. When we got home, we tried again but she still would not latch. Thankfully, we had received free bottles of formula and ended up feeding her formula for the first day and a half home.
A Breakthrough! The Nipple Shield
After hearing about my struggle and with the advice of my sister (who had her first 6 months before me), my mom bought me a pump so I could start our daughter on breast milk even if it was from a bottle. This helped but became very time consuming and exhausting, especially with using a manual pump. My mother in law, who was a former nurse, also heard I was having difficulties and dropped off a couple different nipple shields. This was my saving grace! My daughter could finally latch!
Within that first week, my public health nurse came for her visit and we talked about nursing. She gave me some hands on tips on how to get her to latch (similar to what I received in the hospital) but once she left I was unable to get her to continue to latch properly. So, we stuck with the shield. My public health nurse warned me not to get dependent on the shield. So we made a plan to try to get off of it in a few weeks. Well that came and went. I tried to get her to latch but it was so painful. I decided to stick with the shield and decided to try again at the 3 month mark. It wasn’t until my daughter was 6 months that we finally got off the shield.
Honestly, if I put my mind to it I probably could have been off of it earlier but I was a new mom – exhausted and unsure of what exactly I was doing. The shield was my saving grace in the beginning, but near the end it became a nuisance. It made it tough to go out, the thought of forgetting the shield at home or loosing it gave me anxiety, plus the constant cleaning, setting up to nurse…it was such a process!
My Top 8 Pieces of Advice:
If you have your mind set on nursing like I did, here is some advice to help you along the journey.
- We live in a world where we have access to all these wonderful tools that help make the breastfeeding process easier. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else.
- As I learned from my own experience, it’s not always good to become dependent on these tools. Breastfeeding my daughter compared to breastfeeding my son was night and day. Not having to rely on anything (other than the occasional nursing cover) was amazing. When I was out and about or visiting a friend, all I had to do was pop him on when he was hungry.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to other moms about what worked and didn’t work for them. Or if things are really tough, call your public health nurse or a lactation specialist.
- Talk to different nurses and moms on how to get your baby to latch. Everyone seems to have a different technique. With my daughter, the way they explained didn’t make sense to me which is probably why we went through so much trouble. My public health nurse with my son was very hands on and used different analogies to help me understand how to get him to latch.
- If it hurts check to see if your latch is correct. DO NOT let your baby nipple feed. This is extremely painful for you and your baby doesn’t get much milk. It can also lead to clogged milk ducts and infection.
- Remember breastfeeding is not completely painless in the beginning. I was always told, if your doing it right it won’t hurt but your body is not used a little baby sucking on a sensitive part of your body. You have to give yourself time to get used to it. However, if you are crying every time you breastfeed, something might not be right.
- Invest in a good pump. I prefer an electric pump. It’s less time consuming and not as exhausting to use. A good pump will help increase your milk supply, empty you when your baby doesn’t and can help with clogged milk ducts. It also gives you a bit of freedom if you can get your baby to take a bottle once and awhile. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to connect to your baby but it is also important to take care of yourself.
- If you do want to breastfeed and are struggling, know that you are not alone. Pretty much any mom you talk to can tell you about their own struggles with nursing.
Remember, you do not HAVE to breastfeed! It’s not for everyone. You may chose to go a different route or your body simply cannot produce enough for your little babe. You are NOT a failure if you don’t/can’t breastfeed, though it can be hard to remember this with the world pushing breastfeeding for the first year of your child’s life. Remember, this is just a recommendation. So you choose to formula feed, it’s not the end of the world. There are some really great brands that make wonderful alternatives full of the nutrients your baby needs to be able to grow and develop. With both of my children, my milk cut out before the 1 year mark, (with my daughter she was 9 months and my son was 11 months). There was a part of me that felt like a failure. I was supposed to breastfeed till 1 year! Most of my friends were able to do this why couldn’t I? I tried talking supplements like milk thistle and fenugreek but it wasn’t for me. So I before 10 months, my daughter drank goats milk (an alternative to formula but can be quite expensive). I saw my daughter’s pediatrician around the 10 and a half month mark and he told me that it was perfectly acceptable for babies to start cow’s milk (whole milk) at the 10 months mark. No need to feel guilty.
Remember, motherhood looks different for everyone, it’s not one size fits all. Your doing the best you can and that’s all your little baby can ask for.
You got this mama!
Read Part 1 – Read Part 2 – Read Part 4 – Read Part 5 – Read Part 6
*Any information or ideas presented within the website of Pure Grain of Salt are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any medical issue for you or your baby. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider in determining what is best for you and your baby.