Breastfeeding is one of the many wonders of motherhood. But if you’re doing it for the first time it can be a challenge. Every mother wants to give her best to her baby and deciding to nurse is a great start. I’m 18 months into my own breastfeeding journey and want to share 3 things that helped me along the way. I hope they’ll encourage you.
Find Some Friends
I’m not sure how you were raised but the topic of breastfeeding wasn’t exactly dinner conversation while I was growing up. That was until I became pregnant with Naomi. Soon after the big announcement it became crystal clear to me that my boobs would be used to sustain a human life - it was an empowering thought. I did a lot of reading online. I found articles, blogs and even watched YouTube videos. But even as far as 6 months into my pregnancy I hadn’t had an actual conversation with someone about nursing. I knew women who had healthy babies and for whatever reason couldn’t or chose not to breastfeed. More power to them, however I knew it was the right decision for baby and I. Even so - it was new territory. I took a risk. “So Grace, how was your weekend?” I said, “Great Chelsea, how was yours?” “It was good…hey um...did you breastfeed your kids?”
The question hovered in the midair, my heart beat fast…Grace is an older colleague who teaches at the same school that I do and has adult children. “I sure did.” Grace spoke up without any inhibitions, “I breastfed each of them; the first one for 18 months straight - so did Katie and Gwen.” These were two other teachers in our hall.” In that moment it was like I was given admission into an exclusive club I had no idea existed, and the burden of silence was lifted. Several of our evening hangouts would turn into Q&A/advice/story-time about breastfeeding and motherhood in general; I loved it. They told me things like: “Don’t worry about a strict schedule - find a rhythm that works well for the baby.” “Your boobs will hurt sometimes, especially your nipples! You’ll definitely want some nipple cream, a quality pump and make pumping a priority.” “It’s not uncommon to still be in your pajamas at 2pm in the afternoon.” There’s nothing like a few good friends to ease your mind and tell you that you’ll be alright.
“There’s a breastfeeding class at Hillcrest Hospital soon - we should definitely go.” Anthony (my husband) was always interested in supporting me as best he could and I’m sure this subject matter especially peaked his interest. My group of girlfriends at work also suggested that a Lamaze and nursing class would be super helpful in building our knowledge and confidence, so we signed up. Our instructor Michelle was a head nurse and doula at the hospital. She was immediately endearing and made everyone in the room very comfortable. Anthony and I sat next to a wide array of women and their partners, some even on their 2nd child. Michelle came in with simulation babies and we practiced putting them up to our boobs and nursing. We learned about colostrum, hand expression, hind milk, how to pick a good nursing bra, and the benefits of skin to skin. Going to that class was one of the single most beneficial things my husband and I did together during our pregnancy.
Don’t Give Up
I was in labor for 17 hours, Anthony stayed by my side the entire time, except for thirty minutes when he went to Taco Bell - “no need in both of us being hungry” he said. I chose to have a natural birth without an epidural - labor was really tough and afterwards I was utterly exhausted and needed stitches. Meeting little Naomi was a surreal experience. I had a good supply of colostrum but Naomi seemed disinterested in eating at first. The nurse put some sugar water in Naomi’s mouth then on my nipples. Her slow crawl to my nipple was serene. After skin to skin contact and some family pictures we spent time together in our room. About 6 hours later the nurse came in to check on us, I rolled over, awakened by her entrance and it felt like rocks were in my chest – “my boobs hurt!” I told the nurse. She felt them and said, “Wow - your milk is in!” When Naomi woke up she took to feeding right away. It had been one of my biggest worries; would she really take to my breasts? I cried, it was so beautiful, but a greater challenge was ahead. Feeding her those next few days would become more and more painful on my nipples. How could an infant with no teeth gum so hard? There were nights when her cry filled me with dread, not because it was the middle of the night or that I was exhausted, but because I knew she’d be hungry and feeding her was torture.
A few days later Shana, a lactation consultant, came to our home to check on Naomi, my husband and I. Shana was in here early 30’s and had breastfed her little ones too. Not long into our appointment I couldn’t hold back my tears of frustration. How did women breastfeed for 6 months, 12 months or longer? She wanted to eat all of the time! Yes, she was latching properly. No, the nipple guards were NOT helping. Yes, we used different positions. It sucked and was hard! “I understand”, Shana said, “It’s a process and your nipples are toughening up. It may take a while.” We cried together. At that point I said to myself, “even if it hurts - I won’t stop, it’s not just about me.” For the next few days and nights it was painful - then one morning... it wasn’t. Like a boxer who had toughened her knuckles or a new guitarist who’s fingers had adapted to the strings, I had gotten over the hump. I’m not saying it was never uncomfortable after that but my body had adjusted. Naomi is almost 18 months now and still breastfeeding, I’m glad I stuck with it.
So if you’re a new mom and have chosen to breastfeed and its tough and you’re frustrated realize you’re not alone. You can do it, reach out to friends and educate yourself. You are a hero to your little one. You’re giving them what no one else can and you should be proud. At Belly to Bosom we want to help you in your journey of motherhood. If you’re breastfeeding, our nipple cream is a must. Order some today, free shipping anywhere in the U.S.