As a mother there are many decisions I’m forced to make for my son. One of those decisions that I feel very strongly about is breastfeeding. I chose to exclusively breast feed (EBF) my child before I even became pregnant.
I've started a few posts that I'd like to include as part of my "Breast Feeding Series". I'll share my breast feeding journey, why I chose to breast feed, my struggles, and my tips for overcoming those struggles.
Breastfeeding for us started minutes after I gave birth.
During my personal research I learned that having immediate skin-to-skin contact with my newborn is vital to establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship.
Phillip was put directly to my chest after his cord was cut. He latched on like a champ and nursed for almost an hour.
In the hospital I nursed him on demand- meaning anytime he cried for food, I gave it to him. This turned out to mean I nursed him every 1-2 hours for anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes per side. I didn’t mind, though. Frequent nursing sessions are important because they help to ensure my milk comes in rapidly.
**A mother’s milk doesn’t come in right after birth. Colostrum, a thick milky liquid, is instead present for the first few days. It is a nutrient rich liquid but very low in volume. Although it may seem that the newborn isn’t getting enough “milk”, it’s not a huge concern because colostrum meets all of the baby’s nutritional needs.**
Frequent nursing sessions served as great bonding time for me and my son. I worried about him becoming too jaundiced but the nurses told me that as long as I nursed him often, the colostrum would help to expel the billirubin that causes newborns’ skin and eyes to turn a yellowish hue. I was also worried about his weight gain since that is a huge indicator of a newborn’s health. These were great motivators for me to keep on nursing, even though it started to get rough.
I developed some tenderness. The lactation consultant that worked with the hospital visited me daily and helped correct Phillip’s latch. A lot of new mothers will go through some discomfort when first learning to breastfeed but pain is not normal and can usually be corrected by adjusting baby’s position and latch.
The nurses gave me great support and checked in on my often to see how we were doing. Because they knew that I wanted to EBF, they didn’t once utter the word “formula” near me. They also sent me home with a list of breast feeding resources as part of my discharge packet.
Once we were at home, that’s when the trouble began.
The soreness increased and they also became very tender. I used lanolin (a moisturizer similar to Vaseline but safe for baby to digest) at first but Phillip did not like the taste.
I ended up setting up an appointment with a lactation consultant to look over Phillip’s latch and help correct if necessary. His pediatrician is also a Certified Lactation Consultant so she was a great resource as well.
It took us about 2 weeks to get into a good nursing “groove” with virtually no pain. There was still some discomfort but nothing like the earlier days.
By 6 weeks I could nurse at home with no problem. I still wasn’t comfortable with nursing in public. It made me nervous to try and maneuver an infant, my breast, and nursing cover at the same time. When I had to nurse in public I would nurse in the car so I wouldn’t have to worry about flashing strangers.
Well, except when we were at our pediatrician’s office. She’s a huge breast feeding supporter here in Hawaii and I felt comfortable nursing in the waiting room. She would even offer her office or an empty exam room to her patients’ moms to make them feel more comfortable.
This was also around the time we started teaching Phillip how to drink from a bottle. That was an uphill battle but we won with a lot of consistency!
When Phillip was 2 months we were well established with breast feeding. I nursed in public about 2 times (both at a restaurant and with the help of my husband with my nursing cover) and nursing at home was a breeze!
Now that I’m back at work Phillip is almost 4 months old. I can nurse with no problems at all. I still struggle with being comfortable while nursing in public but it will get better/easier. Some days I do get tired of being attached to a baby for most of the day but I find encouragement in knowing that I’m doing the best for my son. Sometimes he’ll go back to a bad latch but nothing I can’t correct on my own.
Since I’m working now, we do have another issue to face: My milk supply.
My supply took a small dip because I’m not nursing as often. Even though I’m pumping, a pump isn’t as efficient as a baby in getting the milk out and I’m not pumping as often as I’d be nursing.
To help keep my supply up I’ve tried taking Fenugreek which is a supplement that helps keep up milk supply.
But it made Phillip gassy and fussy so I had to stop. I now drink a lactation tea and also made lactation cookies (yum!). I drink plenty of water and make sure to replace the electrolytes used to produce my milk.
Ultimately my goal is to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. We’ll start to introduce foods at that time and hopefully I’ll be able to continue to breastfeed until he turns one.
Although it was rough in the beginning, I am so glad we stuck with the program!