Hi! My name is Kristen and I blog at The Tale of Three Ps. I have an adorable little girl, Miss A, who turned one at the end of March. I nursed her exclusively until five months and we continued nursing until her first birthday. Nursing was absolutely a rewarding experience but it was one of the most difficult things I've encountered so far in parenting. No one ever mentioned to me that it would be difficult! I so appreciate that Julie has this series because it really helped me feel that I wasn't the only one struggling.
After finding out that we were expecting, I threw myself in to research. I am a very type A, information oriented person. I read up on epidurals, vaccinations, and breastfeeding. We also took a Bradley birthing class (which I really recommend). Bradley focuses on a natural birth experience and emphasizes nursing. After all of that research, talking to friends, and taking our class, I felt like I was totally ready to nurse. It was really, really important to me. I felt that it would provide Miss A with the healthiest start I could give her. I remember while I was pregnant, I would imagine nursing Miss A. I just knew that it would come naturally and would be an incredibly sweet, simple experience. To say that I was surprised by our actual experience is an understatement.
I was in labor for almost 36 hours and was in the hospital for 23. My plan for an epidural free birth went out the window but my plan to nurse didn't. Right after Miss A was born, we introduced her to our friends and family, and then tried to nurse. I remember being so proud that she latched on almost immediately and thinking ""this is great, we've got this down"". That first night, Miss A kept eating and eating. I knew about cluster feeding and I figured that was the issue. When the lactation consultant came in the morning, she told me that in actuality, Miss A wasn't getting anything. She was a really abrasive, pushy person. She chastised me for allowing Miss A to go to the nursery for an hour, told me to NEVER give her a paci, and that I shouldn't even attempt a nipple shield because I could ruin her chances at nursing. Our latch was all wrong and the consultant was frustrated that I hadn't noticed that Miss A wasn't getting any milk. I was totally overwhelmed by this woman and was terrified to ask her questions. We spent two more days in the hospital and it seemed like things were getting a little better and we headed home.
At our first pediatrician's appointment, we found out that Miss A had lost a little bit more weight than what the doctor liked to see. We didn't have to supplement but I needed to offer her more food. At this point, I started having issues. No matter how much Lanolin I used, I cracked and bled. I would cry when Miss A was hungry. I didn't want to feed her because it hurt so much and then I felt horribly guilty because I didn't want to feed my baby. It was rough. I ended up pumping for three or four days to let myself heal and then we tried again. It was still painful but I was more proactive with the Lanolin and I figured out a better hold for Miss A. I also remember being frustrated that I was the only person that could feed her. Even though my husband and I split time and had a shift system going, if she was hungry, I was the only answer. That was really difficult for me. I felt horrible saying that out loud, too. There were a lot of nights of tears. After a few weeks, we finally hit our groove and it was smooth sailing after that.
I'm a teacher so I was able to be home with Miss A for almost five months (summer breaks are the best!). She was exclusively breastfed until her five month checkup. We found out that she had dropped a lot of weight, mostly because she had begun to crawl. We started her on solids at five months but I continued to nurse her until she was a year old. My husband was wonderful and his work schedule allowed him to bring Miss A to me at lunch each day. I was so thankful for that because I got to see her every single day. Eventually, Miss A weaned herself. She just stopped being interested in certain feedings and I followed her cues.
I was definitely surprised by how difficult nursing was but I was even more surprised to find that it's difficult for most women. I really believed that it would be natural and easy. That's the way it seems on tv! When I confided in friends, I found that they had all really struggled as well. Knowing that I wasn't alone was what gave me the tenacity to get through the really hard parts. I also have a very, very patient husband. He was wonderfully supportive and kind and he never showed a hint of frustration, even when I was in tears for the third time that day.
I am so glad I decided to nurse and more than that, I'm glad that I stuck with it. I really cherished spending so much one on one time with Miss A. There's something so sweet about a pair of big brown eyes looking up at you. When Miss A was little, she would reach up and pat me on the mouth while I fed her. Those are really precious moments that I'll have forever. I also loved the convenience and ease of nursing. Miss A and I could go on any adventure we felt like, so long as I had my nursing cover. It was great!
My advice to new moms would be that breastfeeding will be hard but it won't be impossible. In the middle of the night, when you're exhausted and in pain, it might seem impossible but it really isn't. Also, whatever you decide to do is the right thing. I would also say that it's ok to ask for help. I was so overwhelmed by our lactation consultant while we were in the hospital that I wouldn't call her once we were home and things got hard. That was really silly of me and looking back, I should have called. I could have saved myself hours and hours of tears. Asking for help isn't failure!
Thanks so much to Julie for letting me share my story! I hope that it was encouraging to someone going through something similar.
Be sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries at the top of my navigation bar.