Hi, I’m Gina and I blog over at Baby Blue Mom. I live in San Diego with my husband Nick and two boys Calvin and Maddox. I’m a stay at home mom and I love to go on date nights with my husband, hospitality, and reading to my boys. I’ve been reading stories from Breastfeeding Diaries for almost two years now and am always encouraged by each mom’s journey. The first thing I quickly learned about motherhood is that nothing can truly prepare you to be a mom until you actually experience motherhood for yourself.
I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding my son Maddox (besides being on solids) for 11 months now and nursed my son Calvin for 17 months before that. Both my boys have never taken to a bottle despite all my best efforts at trying to get them to take some pumped milk. But my journey with breastfeeding was definitely a bumpy one from the start even though I had read countless books and took a great breastfeeding class.
I attribute a lot of my initial problems with nursing because of postpartum depression. Everything I thought I would remember from my research was forgotten because I was unable to emotionally remember. I had so many resources at my fingertips and friends willing to help me but I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion, tears, and frustrations as to why I wasn’t loving motherhood--something I had prayed about for so many years.
With Calvin I was told by the lactation consultant at the hospital that his latch was great and was given a nipple shield to help just in case. My milk came in almost immediately and since that day I have always had an extreme over-supply. Calvin had jaundice and I was told by his pediatrician to supplement with formula because his weight kept dropping. I ended up not following her advice since I had so much milk and decided to just nurse him longer each session. After getting home from the hospital and nursing around the clock the pain from nursing and exhaustion from a long labor kicked in. I would cry every time he latched and I was quickly hating the very thing I thought I would love. My pantry had two containers of formula ready to go and I had bottles washed. I was ready to quit, something I do often when trying something new. Thankfully, my husband, close friend, and sister-in-laws were there to support me and to remind me of my initial desire to breastfeed Calvin for a year. If it were not for them I would have thrown the towel in very early on.
Fast forward two weeks and my nipples were pretty much on the verge of falling off--I’m not exaggerating! I was given a lactation consultant's number by a friend who owned a nearby boutique and made an appointment. Within minutes of my visit with her she fixed Calvin’s latch and the excruciating pain I had went away within seconds. I was so upset with myself for waiting so long before getting help. And even though it took a few weeks after for my nipples to completely heal, the fact that I could nurse my son without biting my fist at the same time was LIFE CHANGING.
My lactation consultant told me to always offer dinner and then dessert and to go by my baby’s cues instead of the clock. Within a few days both Calvin and I were getting used to each other and to nursing. Those long nursing sessions in retrospect were such sweet times where I was able to read, watch a show, and relax.
Calvin weaned right when I found I was pregnant with our second son at 17 months. He was only nursing twice a day at that point. Once my son Maddox was born I was excited to nurse again because I surprisingly missed it. Thankfully, I had journaled and remembered all my problems I had with Calvin and made sure to avoid any damage to my nipples this time around. Maddox latched on just fine right away and has always been a easy and fast nurser. I actually don’t think he has ever been super into nursing very long because he is always curious as to what big brother is doing. I don’t see myself nursing him as long as I did with Calvin since he’s showing less interest lately.
I truly believe that if you decide to breastfeed it is so critical to have lots of resources and a support team for yourself. During the really hard days that is what will help you see the positives and for you to consider your options. Sometimes it’s just a position change, or a latch, or some much needed hydration in order to fix a problem. When you ignore the little problems with breastfeeding they turn into big ones quickly, which is why addressing any issues right away is so essential.
Some pointers to take away.
- Breastfeeding is HARD initially BUT it does get much much mucher easier and enjoyable (for most).
- If you decide to not breastfeed you have not failed. There are many obstacles and challenges in raising a child but choosing to feed and nourish your baby in whichever way best suites your family is what is important.
- Get a good pump and all the parts needed for it. Familiarize yourself with it BEFORE baby arrives.
- Find a few moms who have breastfed successfully or are currently nursing so that you can have a support team and someone to call for questions
- Find a lactation consultant that is IBCLC and keep their number handy at all times. At the first sign of any problem or if you have any questions go see her right away. It’s not worth it to wait it out when a problem could be fixed very simply with their help.
- Give yourself small goals. 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months, etc. Having goals where you can re-evaluate how it’s going will help you look toward the future and not get bogged down in the present.
- Always bring baby to breast NOT breast to baby. This is where I had all my problems and had I remembered this important fact I would have saved my breasts from some serious damage.
- Take a breastfeeding class and take your notes to the hospital with you.
- Know that milk can take a few days to come in but your baby's tummy is so small in the beginning. Just because your baby wants to nurse all the time does not mean you don’t necessarily have enough milk. Babies just love to be close to you and nursing is their way of getting comfortable.
- If your baby spits up all the time or has acid reflux it does not necessarily mean your milk is bad. Many babies have sensitive stomachs for the first few months. Judge their intake based on how much output they have (#1’s and #2’s)
- Make sure your spouse is on board with you and can encourage you. My biggest supporter was my husband and it was his help and motivation that helped me get through those challenging two weeks.
- Lastly, download the Baby Connect App on your phone. It tracts feedings and which side you last nursed on. This was so helpful for the wee hours of the morning when you basically can’t remember anything.