Although breast feeding is the natural way to feed a baby, it's definitely not easy!
I knew that I'd face an uphill battle- I've heard stories from cousins and aunts who had sore breasts, how one can get infections, and that breasts can become hard as rocks.
Does not sound like a good time, huh? But if you read my other posts about breastfeeding here and here, you'll see that the benefits far outweigh the pain and discomfort. Not too mention the cuddling and bonding time I get with my son is priceless!
I chose to share some of my breast feeding hurdles with my readers not to scare, but to inform. My supervisor also breast fed and no one told her it could be difficult, uncomfortable, or sometimes painful. She thought that since it was natural it would be easy. But it's not! I've come to realize that a lot of women who feel breast feeding should be easy end up feeling like failures when they feel like quitting.
Want to know a secret? Almost every single breast feeding mama will tell you that at one point, they thought of quitting, too.
So what kind of hurdles did I encounter? Pretty much the general hurdles most mamas face.
-Poor latch/Positioning: Getting Phillip to latch wasn't difficult. What was difficult was identifying a good latch and getting him to latch correctly. My lactation consultants told me that if I feel any pain at all, his latch is not deep enough and I need to try again. I was told to unlatch (using my pinky to gently break his suction death grip) and try, try, try again. He had to learn just like I did.
Most of the pain that women feel while breastfeeding is due to poor latch and is not normal! Although it happens often, it's not something mamas should feel they have to suffer silently through until they can toughen up. No way. The biggest clue I got was, "It's called breast feeding, not nipple feeding." That helped me correct most of our latching issues.
-Nursing in Public (NIP): Can you say awkward? Phillip is almost 4 months and I still have trouble when I NIP. He hates having a cover over his head and will rip it off EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. So most times I just nurse in the car, parked in the back of the parking lot. We have our windows tinted as dark as we are legally allowed so that helps.
Now that he's growing we have other issues than just dealing with potentially flashing a crowd. He's getting so tall that when he nurses his feet are up against the door, armrest, or carseat. I have to maneuver my body into a sideways position so that he can fit. Pretty soon we're going to have to unlatch the entire base so that I can sit in the middle of the backseat!
-Keeping Up My Supply: During my pregnancy I read up on a few things about breast feeding. One of the major tips given was to nurse nurse nurse your newborn as often as you can. This helps to bring in mother's milk and keep supply up. For the first 3 months of life supply is driven by hormones and demand.
To make sure my supply was well established I nursed Phillip every 2-3 hours during the day and 4-5 during the night, or sooner if he wanted. He rarely went longer than 2-3 hours without eating. Once or twice we had to wake him up during the night to feed. But as soon as hit 13lbs our pediatrician said we didn't have to wake him anymore at night, but to continue feeding him every 2-3 hours during the day.
I also made sure to pump after most feedings. This way I could slowly build my milk supply for when I returned to work. Although I would be pumping at work, my supply could dip so I needed back up, just in case.
Another way to increase milk supply is galactagogues. A galactagogue is simply a substance that increases milk supply.
I have tried the following:
-Coconut water: For the electrolytes! The glands that are responsible for milk production are the same as sweat production. When producing all that milk, mothers need to replenish the electrolytes they've lost. Some mothers use Gatorade but I prefer a more natural source of vitamins and electrolytes.
-Oatmeal: Not the instant kind, but the old fashioned kine that you need to cook in a pot. I have no idea why this works. But it does, for some. I didn't get fantastic results with it but noticed a slight bump.
-Fenugreek: An herbal supplement sold over the counter. You need to take about 6 grams a day. That's about 12 capsules daily, so about 4 with each meal. You'll know you've taken enough when you start to smell like maple syrup. My husband always said I smelled like waffles LOL. I stopped taking Fenugreek though because Phillip became really gassy and cranky.
-Mother's Milk Tea: There are a few brands that sell lactation teas. I drink about 3-4 cups a day. The taste isn't the best but ya gotta do what ya gotta do!
-And my favorite way to increase supply? Lactation cookies! Made with oatmeal and chocolate chips, the active ingredients (oatmeal and Brewer's Yeast) help bump up supply. The only downside is that I ate so many of these that I started to gain weight. So I backed off for a couple weeks and am thinking I need to make another batch soon =)
With all the hurdles we faced I'm really glad I stuck with it. It isn't easy but it definitely is very very rewarding! I hope to be able to keep this up for at least 6 months. He'll be 4 months on Sunday so we're almost there!