Emma's Breastfeeding Story
1) What was your experience breastfeeding after your baby's birth?
Breastfeeding was so much harder than I thought it would be! I have an amazing older sister who tried to prepare me for it, but it was nothing like I expected! My son, Oliver, was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his arm and his arm was pinned behind his back. This caused him to not have movement of that arm for about the first month of his life. That made breastfeeding so hard for me.
At first I had to use the “football” position on one side so that his injured arm wasn’t pinned underneath him. And then about a week after giving birth I got mastitis in one breast. I didn’t have any clogged ducts or precedents to the mastitis, I just woke up one day in pain and with flu symptoms and it was awful. I got some antibiotics from my OB doctor and no one told me that it would decrease my milk supply. After taking the antibiotics I was barely getting any milk and ended up supplementing with formula for a while. I felt like a failure. As silly as this is, I cried and apologized to him the first time I had to give him formula.
I set unrealistic standards for myself and now I realize how crazy I was acting (and how amazing formula really is), but I think the additional stress I put on myself made it harder for my milk supply to return. I tried every trick in the book to get my supply back up - mother’s milk tea, power pumping, eating oatmeal, and I finally found Fenugreek. After a few days of taking Fenugreek my supply was back. I’ve struggled with supply since then, but I’m so thankful for supplements like Fenugreek that can help with milk supply! Eating healthy and drinking enough water is also so essential to keep your supply up.
2) What was your biggest challenge during breastfeeding and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was latching correctly. Oliver is my first baby and I had no idea what I was doing! I didn’t understand that I had to take him off if it hurt and let him re-latch, so I just nursed in pain. But because I didn’t pull him off, my nipples hurt like crazy and they became cracked and bled. I would cry in anticipation of nursing and I cried in pain every time Oliver latched. It was awful and I came so close to giving up!
My older sister and my mom (they both breastfed all their kids for 2+ years) would give me advice and try to help me as best they could, but what helped the most was going to see a lactation nurse at the hospital where I delivered. My sister kept encouraging me to go see someone, but I shrugged it off like “oh it’ll get better, I can do it on my own.”
I would encourage everyone who is having latch issues to go see a specialist and get help. It was so worth it. She showed me how to put him on the breast and get a really good latch. Without that help I don’t think I would have continued breastfeeding. I also discovered nipple shields and whoever invented those was a genius. That made nursing bearable while my nipples were healing. And lanolin cream was a lifesaver as well. I think nipple shields and lanolin cream should be on every expectant mom’s must-have list.
3) What do you wish you had been told about breastfeeding when you were pregnant
I wish I had been told how hard it would be! I expected to just go home and have all these amazing moments cuddling and nursing my baby. And don’t get me wrong, there were lots of wonderful moments, but the unexpected pain and frustration really threw me for a loop! I always heard “oh breastfeeding is uncomfortable at first but it shouldn’t hurt” and what a load of crap! I think that realistically we need to be more open and upfront about what to expect when you are nursing in those first weeks after you have a baby.
4) Name 3 things (people/books/experts,etc) that have supported you/helped you continue to breastfeed to reach your goals.
1. My sister. I could never have done this without her. She has three kids and she has breastfed them all and I really look up to her. I would text her or FaceTime her and ask her for advice multiple times a day and she is the main reason I kept breastfeeding. She’s amazing. Her motto with her kids is “I can do anything for 6 months” and I kind of adopted that. When it was hard to get through a single nursing session I would think “I can do this for six months and if it’s still not working I can re-evaluate at that time” and I’m so glad I stuck with it!
2. My mom. I’m so lucky I live close to my parents - my mom was over here every day for the first couple months after I had my baby. She would encourage me every day to continue nursing and listen to me complain and cry when it hurt. She would run to the store for me and get me Lanolin cream and nipple shields and Fenugreek. It’s crazy the amount of appreciation you have for your mom when you become a mother yourself.
3. The lactation nurse at my hospital. She was so kind and helpful and I never would have gotten latching right without her! Having lactation nurses such an amazing resource and it’s absolutely something that every woman should take advantage of.
5) Did you instantly bond with your baby?
Yes! I was so relieved and thankful that I bonded with Oliver immediately. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for a really long time and I was so nervous that I would have awful post-partum depression after he was born. Amazingly enough, I had some post-partum anxiety, but no PPD. Bonding instantly with my baby has been such a huge blessing. I think that’s part of what made me want to continue breastfeeding - if I didn’t have that instant bond with my baby it would have been a lot harder to find the strength and desire to breastfeed.
6) Breastfeeding is hard enough, did you feel like functional clothing is an obstacle as well?
Oh man, yes! For the first few months I wore nursing tank tops with jackets over them because of the convenience. I dreaded having to go out anywhere because I would have to put on shirts and when it came to nursing that made things harder. Functional clothing when breastfeeding helps so much!
7) Any advice to new moms?
Take it one day at a time. It’s so hard and scary in the beginning. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and find people who will support you! If you’re breastfeeding, stick with it. It’s hard, but so worth it.
Thanks so much Emma. Your honest answers will definitely help other mothers on their journey! xoxo, Teat & Cosset