Hi! I'm Rebekah and I blog at Living & Learning. I blog about life in general and whatever strikes my fancy that day. I've been married for four and a half years to my wonderfully supportive husband, John. We have a 19 month old daughter, Coralie and another little girl due mid-July! I'm so excited to be a part of this awesome series! When I was preparing to breastfeed my daughter & in those early days when there are so many questions that pop up I found Julie's Breastfeeding Diaries to be so helpful and informative!
When pregnant with Cora, I was absolutely determined to give breastfeeding my all! Before she was born, I insisted that no formula be in the house. If I was going to give her a bottle of formula, I wanted to think about it and be sure in my decision all the way to the store. I won't lie, most of my determination was based out of being cheap! I really didn't want to add the cost of formula to our budget. All in all, we had a very successful breastfeeding journey but it certainly wasn't picture perfect, especially at first.
Coralie was born on October 21, 2013. Almost everything about labor and birth went to plan but I hadn't even considered the idea that she may be anything other than perfectly healthy when born (you can read our birth story here). Unfortunately she had to spend a few days in the NICU due to some breathing issues. This threw me for a major loop, we had planned on skin-to-skin time (we got about 30 seconds) and working to immediately breastfeed. Those first 30 seconds that I held her were the only ones we got together in the first 24 hours of her life and for the next several days I was only able to touch her for 30 minutes at a time during feedings.
Those 30 minutes were so frustrating trying to learn to get her to latch or re-latch repeatedly, she wasn't getting much to eat at the breast because we were both so new to the process the allowed feeding time just wasn't enough to get her fed. We started doing 15 minutes of attempted breastfeeding then the remaining 15 minutes was spent syringe feeding her formula. I was discouraged that we were having to use formula so soon, but grateful that they were allowing us to do syringe feedings rather than bottles to decrease the chance of nipple confusion. I also started working with one of the hospital's lactation consultants and got set up with a pump so that she could start taking my milk from the syringe.
At 4 days old we had three successful nursing sessions in the NICU and I felt like we had finally gotten our sea legs! That night she got to leave the NICU nursery and join us rooming-in at the hospital. No matter how often I fed her she would still scream and even after our great previous nursing sessions she wasn't latching well, it was such a long night and I was so discouraged! I made sure the LC came to see us first thing the next morning. Unfortunately Cora had been given a pacifier in the NICU between our last nursing session and when she came to room with us. I had not realized just how quickly nipple confusion could happen, but that was what we were dealing with. The LC taught us how to do "suck training" to retrain her on how to properly swallow but that wasn't a quick enough fix and I didn't want to resort to bottles yet. The LC provided me with nipple shields and that made a huge difference!
I had heard awful things about nipple shields causing a whole new realm of problems but for us it saved nursing! We were able to take her home and I was able to feed with minimal issues, I'm guessing we were only experiencing the normal learning curve to nursing. We hoped to wean from the shields at a few weeks old but we both grew to depend on them and I could never get her to latch for more than a few seconds without them. Finally, around 5 months old Cora just weaned herself from them! She latched on one feeding session before I could get the shield on and we never looked back!
The beginning was rocky but our breastfeeding journey was far more of a success story than it was difficult. I count myself blessed that we never were faced with mastitis or clogged ducts even though we used the shield for so long. I always assumed that Cora would wean when she was a year old but when that milestone rolled around there was no end in sight. At first I was okay with this as I felt like her age didn't really make a difference and she still wanted me. Just after she turned one though we became pregnant with our second daughter. Emotionally and physically nursing was just too much for me while pregnant. I was attempting to wean her but nothing was working and I was struggling with guilt that I needed her to stop even though she didn't seem to want to.
The weaning challenge lasted a while from November to March with many "just one more time" pep talks to myself for the feeding sessions until one day it was just over. The way it ended was honestly a big answered prayer, my milk had dried up and she was strictly dry-nursing for comfort twice a day (we had weaned from 4 times per day at 12 months old). The day I realized I didn't have milk anymore I just redirected her when she asked to nurse and it actually worked! We had tried that tactic before with no success and many tears! That night rolled around, John put her to bed and it was the first day in 506 days that I had not nursed her. She never asked to nurse again and I'm so grateful that it was a tear-less ending to our breastfeeding journey!
I know that each child and breastfeeding is different but I'm already looking forward to nursing our second daughter and starting this journey again! Having done this once, some tips for myself as I prepare and others about to embark on their journey:
- If you're returning to work, start pumping early. It takes a while to build up an adequate stash to be gone all day. I weaned off of pumping in addition to feeds at the breast when Cora was 3 weeks old because it was just so much extra work! In reality, that was about when I should have started pumping to prepare to return to work at 6 weeks postpartum.
- Cloth breast pads are great for all the leaks. I liked the convenience of disposable ones, but they didn't compare in softness and that really matters when you're nipples are so very sore!
-The very best tip I ever got was that when you're first learning to latch baby and it's new and uncomfortable. Count to 5 slowly before pulling baby back off and re-latching. My experience was that after those 5 seconds I had adjusted to the feeling and we were good-to-go. If I was still in pain at the end of that 5-count chances are baby is latched incorrectly and you need to re-latch anyway.
Many thanks to Julie for allowing me to share and for hosting such a great series and thank you all for reading about our experience!
Be sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries at the top of my navigation bar.