Breastfeeding is tough ! I know so many millions of mothers have done it successfully, but can I just say, that it is a real labour of love and a huge commitment. I’m on Day 9 of my breastfeeding journey with Baby Sophie, and still I am tempted every single day to just give up and switch to formula so I can have my sanity, life, and boobs back.
This entry is not for the faint-hearted or for people queasy about candid talk regarding my chest, so if you’re not ready, you might want to leave and read something else !
Challenge 1 – The first latch
My first struggle with breastfeeding came the moment they laid Sophie on my chest for skin-to-skin and told me to nurse. To Sophie’s credit, some kind of instinct made her start chomping near my chest. I gingerly stuffed my nipple into her tiny mouth and .. nearly cursed in shock. For a toothless 2 minute old infant, Sophie had some seriously strong jaw muscles. I felt like someone had put a nipple clamp on my chest and my whole body resisted and stiffened in pain. If she wasn’t my daughter, I would have boxed her. I know if K tried something like that on me, he would surely be sporting a black eye. But I bit my lip and thought, Earth Mother, Organic Mother and managed to produce some kind of teary smile (tears of pain, my friend)
Challenge 2 – Getting her to bite right
Later, in the ward, lying on the bed and retching, I am told by the lactation consultants at Mount E to immediately try to latch her and breastfeed her (no pressure, really, what with a burning vagina and brown vomit all over my front). I was determined to keep going, so I sat in a chair, nearly fainting from the first stretch down there from the stitches and put her to my boob. Again, nipple clamp. The lactation consultant then started to explain how I needed to get her to chomp on my entire boob including the aerola and not just the nipple.
She demonstrated, it looked so easy. I tried, and all I managed was the piranha bite. I cried in frustration, and the wonderful lactation consultant very patiently told me to keep trying and helped me latch properly so that Sophie would at least get the colostrum without ripping off my boobs.
When I saw those first few golden drops of colostrum coming out, I was delirious with relief. Many people had told me before I gave birth that my boobs were “too small to produce” and I was very worried about being a “bad mother” if I couldn’t give my baby the best. On hindsight, I should have told all those naysayers to simply shove their stupid advice. These kinds of unwarranted comments are enough to drive a post natal mom into depression and her mental health is more important than any colostrum. Besides, formula can also produce fat and healthy babies !
Anyway, I told the LC right there and then I wanted to supplement with formula because I was worried that Sophie would not get enough food. She told me that babies have 1-2 days of “reserves” which they can live off of and not to worry, we would only consider formula after a day if I really could not handle breastfeeding.
Day 2 was better – I don’t know where I got the resolve, but every 2 hours I would ask for my baby to be brought in from the nursery so I could try to get her to latch. I succeeded for the first time on my left breast, and it was a really wonderful moment.
Of course, I was still plagued with self doubt – could I do this at home, without the help of the nurses and consultants? I had no confidence that I would be able to start my milk supply, and frantically started to drink huge cups of fennel tea to improve my chances.
Challenge 3 – Sticking it Out
The next three days were the worst. First, I was trying to get used to having Sophie at home, next, she was diagnosed with jaundice. In the midst of all this, I was trying to latch her, and failing, and then pumping everything out and trying to feed her with a bottle.
Three days of perseverance, however, was all I needed. I had fresh resolve to breast feed after seeing Sophie so dehydrated and tired under the UV machine, always hungry and begging for milk. A mother’s love can truly make one overcome anything – I cannot imagine finding the strength to do all this for anyone except my baby.
I was no longer self conscious about my breasts or exposing them at home – as far as I was concerned, they were the key to my baby’s survival and nutrition – although I have to say I was truly horrified by my mother in law repeatedly walking in on me breast feeding and even handing me, while I was naked and getting my post natal massage, my baby and telling me she was hungry.
All this, plus sore nipples, engorgement ( like having stones under your already aching skin) and post partum sweating make for quite a hellish experience but .. we made it ! I even made Kx hide the can of “emergency” Nan formula he had bought just in case so that I wouldn’t be tempted.
Day 9 – we’re finally starting to get the hang of things. Sophie knows to open her mouth nice and wide for a good latch, and she can feed undisturbed for 15-20 minutes which is just about right for her to get to the hind milk (the front milk is a bit diluted, the good, fatty stuff is at the end, apparently)
I can now pump up to 100 mls per session !!! I never thought the day would come when I would be so happy to be a full-time milk maid (and also the cow) or when I would open each dirty diaper with the enthusiasm of a child opening presents on Christmas day (LOOK !! ITS GOLDEN SCRAMBLED EGGS ! IT MEANS SHE’S GETTING ENOUGH !!) but .. here I am.
The biggest reason I’m so happy I have a good supply now is that K can join in feeding his daughter and getting in some quality bonding time. Since he started bottle feeding her they have become so attached to each other I sometimes feel invisible when they are together, but in a good way ^^ Here’s hoping this dedicated dad streak is going to last because I hear there are still 3 years of sleepless nights to come !
Just look how much they resemble each other 🙂
The joy you bring me
Every day and night
Holding you tight
How I’ve waited for your love
Sometimes I’ve wondered
If you’d ever come my way
Now that I’ve finally found you
This is where my heart will stay