This post goes out to all the new and expecting moms out there! If you’re like me, you’ve been texting every mom-friend you know to get the scoop on their parenting experience. This series, which I introduced last month, is meant to be the blogger version of that. So, pull up a chair! There’s lots of great insight to be had. You’ll find the list of fellow participants at the bottom of this post.
And if early motherhood isn’t your thing, come back next week for more of my regular design and style content.
Ok, so feeding… or, in our case, nursing. Are you ready? We’re about to get real REAL. (What is it about motherhood that makes you suddenly comfortable to talk about even the strangest bodily functions and topics?)
We’ve been through quite the saga, my son and I. As a six week preemie, he came into the world without the full development of his suck/swallow reflex which posed an obvious problem for nursing. For the first two weeks of his life, I pumped (first with an Hygeia machine and then a Medela model, which I much preferred) and he was fed donor milk, then my milk through a feeding tube in the NICU. Slowly, his strength and coordination grew and we were able to bottle feed. Then we transitioned to breastfeeding when he came home, which was my ultimate goal. Since my plans for a natural birth went sadly awry, I was especially determined to make the breastfeeding thing work. And eventually it did!
Spoiler alert… Gabriel is a happy, healthy, vibrant breastfed baby at six months of age but we didn’t get here without our fair share of challenges.
As I’ve come to learn, nearly every mother and child experiences some combination of nursing challenges. Some greater than others. All different. I can’t say what will or won’t work for you but I can at least share our trials and successes to give some perspective.
Abundant milk supply…
Yup. That’s me! I had more than enough from the very beginning. To the point that I got mastitis… TWICE! When you have too much milk, it’s really easy to end up with clogged milk ducts and a subsequent infection. On the flip side, I never had to stress about whether or not my baby was getting enough to eat. As we’ve now seen through his growth charts, he’s getting plenty.
Supportive family and friends…
This was a big one. As you’ll read in the category below, I faced some intense challenges while nursing Gabriel and without the support of my husband, family and a few key friends, I would have definitely lost hope. One friend in particular gave me the advice to give nursing at least six weeks before throwing in the towel. I took that to heart and I’m so glad I did! It gave me grace and understanding in those early weeks, when things weren’t going well, to keep trying. It can be a slow process and you won’t figure it out over night. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean you have to give up.
As I said, we had to reverse transition from bottle to breast. Because Gabriel started on a bottle and without the natural skill for nursing, he did NOT have a good latch when he finally nursed with me and he was terrible at sucking. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it sucking. He pretty much chomped and clamped on me for the first month and a half. Ouchie!! At some point, we realized that the soft tip nipples that he was feeding from in the NICU were probably the culprit. So, we temporarily moved to feeding him from a bottle with a harder tip in the hopes that this would retrain his terribly lacking sucking technique. Meanwhile, I pumped and recuperated from my 6 pound bundle of nursing terror. It wasn’t ideal and definitely made the whole process of feeding more complicated, but it meant that he was able to stay on breastmilk and, ultimately, continue nursing down the road.
For whatever reason (a violent nurser, sensitive lady parts, low pain tolerance… actually scratch that. i’m pretty sure my pain tolerance was through the roof!), I experienced excruciating nipple pain. We’re talking held breath, audible gasping, muscles seizing up, crying while nursing kind of pain. I came so close to giving up so many times! But I didn’t (don’t ask me why) and eventually things got better.
Uh huh. Twice. The symptoms of mastitis are very much like those of the flu and I can tall ya first hand, hauling a baby around to urgent care clinics with a raging fever, burning breasts and crippling exhaustion is awful, awful, awful. A few words of advice… Go see a doctor, ASAP! They’ll prescribe an antibiotic safe for nursing and that should curb the symptoms within the day. And don’t forget to eat lots of yogurt and take a daily probiotic to avoid the equally awful thrush. To help avoid mastitis all together, pump regularly if you’re bottle feeding and don’t wear underwire bras!! ‘Nough said.
Our saving grace:
The nipple shield!!! Seriously. I can say with confidence that the only reason we are nursing today is because I started using a nipple shield. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have thrown in the towel due to the pain. The nipple shield protected my oh-so sensitive nipples and allowed me to heal. It also trained Gabriel to latch more correctly, which in turn helped reduce the pain as well. Eventually the shield became too much of a hassle with a squirmy baby, so I slowly weaned myself off of it. For a while, the pain and sensitivity would come back pretty quickly and I’d have to pull out the shield again. But after a few weeks of trying, my pain subsided completely and I was able to kick it for good. One less gadget to complicate the process!
Oh yeah, and Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter! (lol) Another sweet friend gave this to me and as granola as it sounds, it definitely took some of the edge off of this tired mama’s pain. Also, ice packs and pads helped with pain after nursing and warm heat pads helped keep my ducts from getting clogged.
So, who’s ready to breastfeed? Jk. It’s not all bad and the sweet bond my boy and I now share is once in a lifetime and has made every bit of the pain and stress worth it to me. Your story may be different and that’s 100% A-okay. But at least you’ll be equipped with a bit more knowledge.
What’s on our feeding horizon?
Rereading this post makes me feel like it all sounds so grim and gruesome. So, here are a couple things to make you chuckle.
I am totally lopsided in the boob department which means that one breast definitely produces more than the other. True story. And I’ve come to happy terms with it. Also, my skin turned into that of a reptiles shortly after giving birth. It was the weirdest thing! But after asking around, I realized that I wasn’t the only one. And it went away after a couple weeks. Now, I’m back to the baby soft skin I always had. jk
CHECK OUT the other moms in this SERIES
Jen of The Effortless Chic // Sarah of Smitten Studio // Alex of AVE Styles // Em of The Refined Woman // Amy of Parker Etc. // Caitlin of Sacramento Street // Sam of Could I Have That // Erin of Apartment 34 // Rebecca of A Daily Something
And come back in a month for our next topic… WORK AND CHILD CARE.