On Breastfeeding Part 1

Before having a newborn, I was in denial about breastfeeding.  Almost everyone who has breastfed their newborn more than a few weeks have told me that it’s tough, but I was still naive enough to think that it wouldn’t be so hard.  It’s what women have been doing for thousands of years before the invention of formula, so how hard could it be?  Oh how wrong I was.  I now am a believer when women say breastfeeding is tough.

I wanted to share my experience with breastfeeding and say that it does get better!  The first couple of weeks was pretty tough and I know I was complaining a lot to my friends about it, but thankfully they were great and the ones who did successfully breastfeed were wonderful at cheering me on and convincing me to stick with it.  Although I’m definitely in the pro-breastfeeding camp, I completely understand why some women need to use formula.

Before, Robin’s birth, I was reading all these horror stories of women who have had their milk come in and being engorged, getting infections, leaking tons through the night, and so on. I was not looking forward to that. Unfortunately, I ended up with the opposite problem: low supply.  After a few days of colostrum, my milk started to come in and I thought I was doing pretty well, but why was the baby crying all the time at night? It turned out even though I was producing milk, it was not enough for the baby.

Intellectually, I know that it’s not really my fault or anything I could prevent, but it’s hard to not feel let down by your body when this happens.  Because of the stigma about formula, when the doctor and even our lactation consultant (who was a little too out there on the spectrum of Attachment Parenting for me) said we needed to supplement, I sort of felt like a failure.  That was difficult for me to take because my body is such a finely tuned machine that does everything I want!  For about two weeks, I had to nurse the baby for half an hour, then Will would mix up formula and feed her with an oral syringe, which took about another fifteen minutes because we couldn’t give it to her that quickly.  We didn’t want her to prefer to the ease of drinking formula out of a syringe and reject the nipple.

During those weeks of supplementing, I tried pretty much everything for increasing my supply.  I rented a hospital-grade pump and dutifully pumped for fifteen minutes after every feeding to try and convince my body to make more milk. I took a bunch of supplements including fenugreek, goat’s rue, moringa.  I ate a bunch of lactation cookies.  I drank a lot of my mom’s Chinese galactagogue (things that increase milk supply) soups.  I did breast compressions and massages. It was discouraging to do all these things and still pump barely a milliliter of milk total each time.

But like they say, it takes time for your body to get the signal and adjust the milk making factory. There wasn’t really a day that was a turning point, but eventually, things did get better.  The baby became less fussy after a feeding because she wasn’t still hungry.  We stopped having to supplement and the baby was still producing the right amount of wet and dirty diapers. I noticed my breasts felt fuller at certain times of day, like in the wee hours of the morning.  Now, when I pump around 2 in the morning, I can get something like 45mL just from one breast!

That’s not to say breastfeeding is easy.  I’m still pretty far from my ideal of a mom casually whipping a breast out, feeding her child and tucking it away a few minutes later with ease.  Robin takes forever to eat. Like her mom, she likes to savor her meals, which means she’ll eat for a few minutes, then take a break and drift off, then resume eating, and so on.  If I let her, she’d probably be happy to stay on the breast for hours.  Lately, I’ve been unlatching her after she’s stopped really eating. She likes to comfort nurse after, so unless I want a baby attached to me 24/7 I need to unlatch her.

It makes going out or being away from her for longer than an hour a little difficult, but I’m guessing this phase will pass and she’ll slowly speed up.

 

In part 2: Things that helped with breastfeeding

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