You would think that breastfeeding would be an easy and natural process.
Animals do it.
Our bodies are made to do it.
So it really couldn’t be that hard, right?
I quickly learned that it was far more complicated than I ever imagined.
Based on my assumption that breastfeeding would be a breeze, I opted to skip the class about breastfeeding. And looking back, I wish I hadn’t. I’m not sure how much good it would have done because there is something different about learning from a book and doing. But, I’m sure that some of the information would have been helpful.
I had to quickly get over the mortifying feeling of being ‘exposed’ because nurses and doctors walked in to our hospital room constantly. I knew they were medical professionals, but I still wasn’t used to the idea of everyone seeing my breast. This feeling of modesty was probably part of why it was so hard to get the hang of things. I just wasn’t comfortable flashing my nipples around. And it was always a bit strange when a total stranger would get up-close and personal to help me feed my child. Eventually, I was able to get more comfortable nursing with other people around. It is a natural process and if there was every a time to see a bare breast, it was now, when I was using it to feed my child.
In the hospital I had access to lactation consultants who stopped by periodically to help. But somehow they always seemed to come in either after Donovan had eaten or at an inopportune time. They were helpful and they did offer lots of great tips, but I was still trying to figure it all out and I was still feeling overwhelmed by everything. Besides, I thought everything was going fine.
By the second week, I was getting desperate. Apparently Donovan did not have a good latch, which was why he took so long to eat and why I was still full after feedings. Due to the poor latch, my nipples were so sore and I even had a crack in one, which made nursing on that side, his favorite side, super painful. Everyone said that it wouldn’t be painful, but it was, and I had no idea what I was doing wrong. I googled and read and cried. Nothing seemed to make things any better.
To add to my growing concern, Donovan wasn’t gaining as much weight as the doctor wanted to see. She wasn’t worried but she knew that I was struggling with breastfeeding, so she was able to help. I started to felt like a failure. How could something that seemed so simple and natural, be so hard? And, was my desire to figure out breastfeeding going to negatively impact my son if he wasn’t able to get enough to eat? I wasn’t ready to give up and I wasn’t ready to supplement with formula. Anytime I am faced with challenge, I become even more determined to overcome it. Since I was having so much trouble with breastfeeding and it was making me so emotional, I had a really hard time asking for help. I just felt that I was the only one who had ever struggled with this. All I could do was cry about it. I guess I can blame it on the hormones!
By the time my Mom arrived for her second visit, I knew that I had to schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant. I was so desperate to do anything to make this process easier and less painful. We went to the appointment together and I am so glad that she could be there to help me. The lactation consultant was amazing. She showed me a few things to do differently and it all worked! It was shocked at how easy it was. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to replicate the same techniques on my own. Luckily my Mom was a great coach and after that appointment, everything started getting so much better.
Looking back, I wish I would have learned more before I started.
I wish I would have asked for help sooner.
I wish I would have realized that is breastfeeding a natural process that is also a learned art.
I wish I would have realized that breast were made for feeding and that people would see them. And it would be ok!
And I wish that I would have realized that I did not need to make myself feel so alone in the process of learning to breastfeed.
Now that breastfeeding is second nature, I have become so thankful that I didn’t give up when it got hard. I also realize that I am so lucky.
I didn’t have any physical issues that could have forced me to stop breastfeeding.
I had a breast-pump, which helped me keep my supply up even when Donovan wasn’t creating the demand.
I had supportive friends and family who know how much this meant to me and encouraged me to get the help that I needed.
And most importantly, I had a supportive partner. If Doug would have said, “this is too much, you need to give him formula” I might have given up or worse, resented him. But he didn’t, and he was there for me the whole way. Even when I was crying and not sure of what to do, he would always fill up my water cup and ask if I need anything else. I am so thankful for him!
I feel that it is important to share my journey because I know that I am not the only one who has faced challenges with breastfeeding. My story is not meant to scare anyone away from breastfeeding. I have loved the experience and I enjoy the bonding it has fostered and the nourishment that it provides. It has been a personal choice and I hope that this story encourages other women to realize that there are resources available to help and that you can do it!
I personally have really enjoyed “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. I started reading it after Donovan was born and it is still providing me with insight and information that I find helpful. I really recommend it to anyone who is interesting in breastfeeding.
From me to you