I never really had a second thought about breastfeeding during my pregnancy. However, I was not 100% sure that I would be physically able. I just kept reading and as much as I read, the most support I felt. I didn’t really know how difficult it would be, but I felt prepared to face any challenges that might come my way.
I remember thinking about it a soon as my baby was put in my arms. I remember the first time that I put her to my chest and she latched, even though very briefly. I felt relieved.
Not long after I started having worries: is she getting enough milk? am I doing this right? is she latched correctly? am I holding her the best way?
The lactation consultant at the hospital was not much help, if I’m being honest. The only tip I really took away from speaking with her was that I could try to wake my baby by tickling her feet. One of my nurses on the other hand saw my concern and brought me a pump to use. She said at the least using it will help stimulate milk production and if any milk is expressed I could try feeding it to the baby if I was worried about how much she was getting while nursing. I think she was right, in that it did help me product milk and it also put my mind at ease, but I think that the shields of the hospital pump made my nipples sore and possibly even bruised.
I continued to try to nurse baby while at the hospital. I used lanolin constantly as my nipples were very tender. My right even had a purple bruise. I’m not sure if it was from baby or the pump. I left the hospital unsure, but hopeful.
At home I started to realize how much pain I was in. I couldn’t sit correctly, which made positioning the baby very difficult. My nipples were so extremely sore that any touch made me cringe, if not cry. The first day home I dealt with the pain and continued to attempt to nurse my little one. In the evening I was struggling. The pain was so much that every time the baby latched and started to suck I would pull away. I decided to try the nipple shields that my mom had bought for me. They made nursing her bearable and because I could see the milk being expressed while she sucked I felt less stress.
The next morning I woke up to a whole new feeling. My breasts were so engorged that I felt like I couldn’t move. I tried to feed baby, but she was having trouble latching because of it. That’s when I decided it was time to try the pump. The pump was painful, but not as painful as nursing baby. I spent most of that day pumping. My husband would give her the bottle each time. I felt content because baby was getting my milk whether it was from a bottle or not. Pumping did give me some relief from the engorgement, but not enough to feel comfortable. I had to start using breast pads as I was leaking quite a lot. I had disposables, which worked well for me, but not in the beginning because they weren’t soft enough. I used flannel squares instead.
In the morning I woke up to sore nipples, engorged breasts and what I thought might be swollen glands near my armpits. I started reading online and found that I probably had plugged ducts and that they needed to be drained. I also read that heat/ice therapy could help with nursing/pumping, so I used the TheraPearl packs that I had to do just that. Before I pumped/nursed I would heat the packs and put them in my nursing bra for 5 minutes or so. While I pumped (it was taking me 45 minutes to an hour each time) I would put the packs in the freezer. After I pumped/nursed I would put the cold packs back in my bra for 10 minutes. This helped immensely with the pain. I also tried to lightly massage the areas where I was feeling pain. I am guessing it also helped with the drainage as I was able to empty both sides with the pump that day. It didn’t get rid of the plugged ducts right away, but after another day of doing this they were gone and I was only dealing with slight engorgement and extremely sore nipples at that point.
Nursing was still difficult. I couldn’t stand the pain. The pump was starting to be the same. I kept with it because I didn’t want my baby to go without the beneficial nourishment of breastmilk. I started chatting with one of my friends who had her baby a few months before me. She started to troubleshoot and eventually asked me if perhaps the shields on my pump were the wrong size. I hadn’t even though of that, so I grabbed the second set of shields that came with my pump and gave them a try. I could tell the difference automatically. I couldn’t thank her enough for that suggestion. I’m pretty sure that’s what saved me from crashing and burning.
After a day of pumping with the other shields I was finally able to nurse baby again without feeling like I couldn’t bear it. I would feed her and then pump. I started keeping a bottle of expressed milk in the fridge and any extra that I began putting in storage bags and placing them in the freezer.
Pumping and storing milk helped me a lot once my mom and gram arrived to help me during the second week. In the morning they would take baby and give me an extra hour or so of sleep. If the baby got hungry they could just warm the bottle from the fridge. If we decided to go out of the house I could also take a bottle with us. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would be breastfeeding in public, but I got over that real quick and before she was a month old I had fed her in the car, in the mall, in the park… I think when you exclusively breastfeed the fear or embarrassment disappears as you have no other choice, but to just feed the baby.
The first month of breastfeeding was really just a lot of patience. I had to be patient while waiting for my body to adjust to this new role. I had to be patient while my little baby learned about being in the world outside my body and while I learned how to care for her. I think without patience I wouldn’t have continued to breastfeed.
It was a big blessing that I was able to do so and provide baby with the best nourishment from her first days.
Products I used:
^ Lansing SmartPump Double Electric Breast Pump
Includes: Breast Pump base unit, 4 5oz Lansinoh® mOmma® Bottles, 2 Lansinoh® mOmma® NaturalWave™ Slow Flow Nipples, Collars and Caps, 2 Breast Flange Bodies, 2 Collars, diaphragms, and sealing discs, 2 ComfortFit™ flanges (25 mm), 2 ComfortFit™ flanges (30.5 mm), 4 White valves, 2 Bottle Stands, Storage Lids, Tubes/Connectors, AC Adaptor, Tote Bag, Cooler bag, Freezer pack
[Baby shower gift/BabiesRus]
Caramel Cantina Nursing Bras
^ Lansinoh HPA Lanolin
[Baby shower gift]
^ Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Therapy Packs
[Baby shower gift]
^ Lansinoh Contact Nipple Shields
[Baby shower gift]
^ Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags
[Baby shower gift – BabiesRus]
^Lansinoh mOmma Bottle with Natural Wave Nipple
[2 came with pump]
^Lansinoh Stay Dry Disposable Nursing Pads
[Baby shower gift – BabiesRus]
^Gerber Baby Flannel Re-usable Wipes