“I found it painful and confusing and frustrating.”
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and the healthiest way to feed our babies, and, once we get the hang of it, the easiest thing too. But one thing I wish I someone had told me beforehand is that it’s normal to take a little bit of learning before it just flows. I wish I had known that before you get the hang of it, it feels far from easy and can often feel close to impossible.
With the birth of my first child I was surprised by the difficulty I had in getting him to latch on to feed. I found it painful and confusing and frustrating. I assumed I was doing something wrong or there was something wrong with my mink supply. After spending the first morning, afternoon and evening attempting various hold techniques, angles and latch on methods to no avail, I was ready to just give up. Not to mention the fact that I was recovering from the c-section I had just had where the doctor had to cut my abdomen extra wide to pull out all 10 pounds of my little butterball, combined with the lack of sleep, nerves and general exhaustion, the last thing I expected to be challenging me was feeding my baby.
Fortunately I had a guardian angel in the form of the lactation specialist from my pediatrician’s office who arrived and saved the day. She showed up before all hope was lost of breastfeeding and I had to give in to the hospital nurses insistence that I give him formula. Jennifer arrived and immediately soothed my anxiety with a gentle voice, obviously very accustomed to dealing with post natal hormones and exhausted tears of new mothers, she calmly helped me hold him correctly and maneuver the nipple so that he could get a good latch on.
It became an education in learning the difference between a good latch and a weak one. A football hold that gave the baby an easier access to the breast while putting less strain and kicking (!) of the still very tender c-section area as I held him. I learned to tell the difference between when the latch on was successful, versus one that would irritate and hurt the nipples. I learned to tell when my baby was able to get milk the milk to flow by the sensation as well as being tuned in to the little sounds he would make feeding. And ultimately I learned to enjoy it, after all the pain, frustration and fear of failure over the first few days, I learned to feel confident in how my own body worked and relaxed into enjoying the specialness of the bond and connection I felt with my son.
It is a totally normal experience to be overwhelmed with the task at first, and many women give up breastfeeding during these first few days, because of the understandable frustration of feeling like they are doing it wrong and concern for feeding their babies. Fortunately, there are many ways to receive help and lactation experts are just a mouse click away. Arm yourself with knowledge and watch a video or two, consult your pediatrician, ask a friend and remember, you were born to do this and the reward is worth the effort.
Some resources we recommend:
The ultimate in all things breastfeeding related-La Leche League: www.llli.org
The Mayo Clinic offers tips at www.mayoclinic.com
A humorous and truthful blog www.theleakyboob.com
www.kidsinthehouse.com for info on Jennifer Davidson, RN and lactation specialist.