When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to breastfeed. After learning as much as I could about it, I thought it would be the best thing for the baby, it would save me a ton of money on formula and it would help to lose the baby weight.
When Emily was born I started right away trying to breastfeed and it was so hard. It was very awkward to try and position Emily properly to have her latch on and stay on. I had no idea what I was doing the first night in the hospital and it became very overwhelming to hear Emily cry so much. The nurse who was working came in and said “she is a big baby and is hungry, she needs to eat,” then asked me if I wanted formula to feed her. I was so worried that she wasn’t eating enough and she was hungry so I said yes to the formula. It was so helpful and she was actually eating something. I did try to nurse every time she was hungry, but it was just too hard.
The nurses would come by all the time and even tried to help me. They showed me how to latch Emily and even tried to do it for me. I found it did help a little bit and they were very nice about it, but when they weren’t there it was difficult. They told me to try and hand express some milk out and then I could cup feed her, which was allowing her to use her tongue to lick the milk out of the cup while slowly putting it up to her mouth. This did work, but it was a lot to hand express and I could only get out 10 -15 ml at a time.
The nurses were very adamant about making sure I continued breastfeeding and at one point one nurse even took the formula away! I could understand where they were coming from and I knew that in order to increase milk production and promote your milk let down you need to constantly nurse, but I needed the formula to make sure Emily ate!
It became very painful to breastfeed. So painful that I almost cried each time I tried to latch Emily, but I continued to try because I read that it would hurt at the beginning and then the pain goes away. I also tried lanolin cream to help with the pain and that took away the dryness, but the pain was still there. Before we left the hospital one of the nurses checked to see if Emily had a tongue tie. She thought she saw a small one, but in the end she couldn’t see anything. We went home and I still continued to try nursing, but it was just as hard as before and I couldn’t seem to make it work.
At this point I was ready to give up and I became so frustrated and upset that I couldn’t get it, I cried multiple times each day. Dan saw how upset and frustrated I was, so he set up an appointment with a lactation consultant for me. It was the best decision he could have made and after seeing her, life became so much easier!
It turned out Emily did have a tongue tie and it was preventing her from being able to latch properly. She explained to me that when a baby latches they use their tongue to suck, but with a tongue tie the baby cannot use their tongue, so they use their cheeks instead. The doctor came in and snipped the tongue tie with a little razor. I was so scared and couldn’t watch. It only took a few seconds to do and once it was done there was only a small drop of blood and Emily cried for about 10 seconds. After the doctor was done the lactation consultant had me nurse Emily to see if it was any easier. I sat there for about 10 minutes and nursed her and I couldn’t believe how easy and painless it was! Emily latched on perfectly and from that moment I knew what it was like to properly breastfeed. I learned that it shouldn’t hurt to nurse and when the baby is latched on properly, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort or pain. It almost feels like they aren’t even latched on.
Once I was able to breastfeed Emily, I did it all the time and despite my difficulties for the first week and having to supplement with formula initially, I was able to breastfeed for 11 1/2 months with the first 6 months exclusively breastfeeding. I even managed to pump enough to freeze for our vacation when Emily was just under 3 months and she stayed with my mom while we went away. I do wish I was able to continue breastfeeding even longer, but we found out Emily had a milk allergy and my consumption of dairy products would affect her. That was a challenge in itself and I am looking forward to writing a new post about the challenges of dealing with her milk allergy and some of the food I made.
If there is anything I could take away from the problems I had at the beginning, is the knowledge that it does take some time to become comfortable breastfeeding and you really do need to put in some work to get started. It really did upset me and the thought that I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed devastated me. I am so glad that I kept trying and took the time to see a lactation consultant. I just want to say to any mom, that if you truly want to breastfeed, but you have difficulties at the beginning, to not give up and know that with a little work, practice and help from someone such as a lactation consultant you will get the hang of it!
Have you had similar experiences? Did you find it difficult at the beginning? How long were you able to breastfeed or chose to breastfeed for?
If you could share one piece of advice in regards to breastfeeding what would it be?