My Breastfeeding experience.
Before Baby Bach was born, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. So I took a class at the local hospital to learn more. The class taught that breastfeeding doesn’t hurt if latched correctly, Baby will eat 10-12 times a day in the early days (about every 2 hours), breastfeeding sessions can take as long as 20-40 minutes. And it helps you to get your shape back.
I have been breastfeeding Baby Bach for 8.5 months now and my verdict is: False, on all counts. 0 for 4. At least for my experience, I know some people have much more ‘typical’ experiences.
I know that the classes are probably designed to make breastfeeding look more appealing. But I think it would have helped me to know the ugly side, not just the positives (and there are so many positives, it is definitely not all bad). Then I wouldn’t have been thrown off so bad in those early weeks when I was lucky to have a whole hour a day without a baby on my blistered, bleeding and throbbing nipples.
The worst part of those early weeks was the PAIN! Even when I corrected a latch, once the pain was there, the healing was near impossible when they didn’t get a chance to be left alone to heal. Those first nights I would dread when my baby got hungry. He would latch on and I would SCREAM! It scared my husband how bad I would wail. And I would just cry. I would cry before he latched on because I knew how bad it was about to hurt. I went to the OB, and of course the doctors and nurses there tell me how much it hurt in their experiences, but the lactation nurses still were adamant that ‘it shouldn’t hurt’. I do think that this was the result of a bad latch at some point, but once the damage was there, even a correct latch hurts due to lack of healing time. I think what eventually helped this was at around 2.5 months I was prescribed Newman’s Nipple Cream (Also been called APNO All Purpose Nipple Ointment), why it took so long for someone to even tell me about this, I have no idea, but seriously, the stuff is amazing and if you are struggling, I highly recommend it.
RE: Eating every 2-3 hours. HA! Try 2 hours STRAIGHT, and then a 20 minute break and right back on. The class I took NEVER even mentioned cluster feeding. I really wish they would have, because I think this is a big reason that mom’s stop breastfeeding. Cluster feeding is not only NORMAL but it is NECESSARY to build and maintain a mom’s milk supply. There are many nights of nursing EVERY HOUR. But this does not last forever, but it does come and go a lot in the first 3 months. Cluster feeding made me feel that my baby wasn’t getting enough and was starving, and it is so hard. So incredibly hard to wonder if you are starving your baby or not. Luckily I went to many lactation appointments to do weigh ins before and after feedings so that I would know how much my son was getting. This questioning leads many moms to start supplementing because they don’t feel that they are making enough (and some really don’t) but once the supplementing starts, the stimulation of milk production stops. I considered formula many times through those first nights, but I am glad I stuck it out now looking back.
RE: Feeding sessions can take 20-40 minutes. See above. They do get shorter over time, but it took quite a while. My son now takes 20 minutes to nurse, but in the early weeks the BEST we could do was 45 minutes. (I really think if I was more hands on, I could have cut this down more, but I will get to that later).
RE: Getting your shape back. I have found in my experience that it is VERY difficult to lose weight during breastfeeding. Because I burn so many extra calories, I am so hungry. All. The. Time. I do not stop eating because I am full, I stop because I run out of food. And I did notice that eating less meant making less milk for me (though there are people who can diet and exercise and still breastfeed).
Around 2.5 months I was told that my baby (small to begin with) wasn’t big enough and I would have to supplement. For 2 weeks he got about 2-4oz of formula per day, which was SO hard on someone who worked so hard and was so set on breastfeeding, it seriously made me feel like a huge failure. I would like to say that NO ONE WHO FEEDS THEIR CHILD IS A FAILURE! But it still felt like that. I wanted to give up entirely at that point.
I tried all of the supplements and teas and foods that were recommended by the lactation consultants. Not a dang thing. Power pumping (basically being connected to this thing all day)… nada.
But… I did turn it around. And my son has been exclusively breastfed ever since. And that boy can EAT!
Things I learned:
Don’t set a timer. Listen to your body. I would go 20 minutes, and then instead of turning the pump off, I would wait for 1 more let down. And this let down, while only producing a small amount, told my body to make that much more each time.
HANDS ON! This is so important. The pump is not smart. It doesn’t understand that each person is different. You need to interact with it and help it. This means pushing the milk from the outside, down towards your nipple and feeling for hard parts where milk might be built up and really squeezing that stuff out (I tell people to treat their boobs like they are the last tube of toothpaste!) and play around with the pump settings. I don’t think I ever pump higher than medium strength. I start at medium and then turn it down to low after 2 letdowns and let it stay there until after let down #3. This is going to be unique to each person.
Night pump! Even when baby sleeps through the night, I have to pump. He started sleeping 6 hours at night around 6 weeks, and THAT is when my supply went down. When I started middle of the night pumping I was getting about 2oz then, hardly worth it, but as I kept going, I now get a decent 8oz ish in the middle of the night. I was told I could sleep through the night when my baby did and my supply would adjust. Nope. No sir. Not this chick. Oh how I wish. I miss my sleep.
Listen to your body. You know it best.
I now have a nice stash that I never thought I would ever have. It took me a while to get it, and I still only get to add to it once in a while. I don’t make a TON (some people I know make 100oz a day!) but I make enough most days.
It is work. Hard work. But I am so grateful that I can make it happen. I don’t feel that “Amazing most natural thing, wonderful bond and connection” that most people talk about, but I am so happy to be doing it still. And I think I will be sad when I do stop. I don’t have plans yet, I am just taking it day by day. I want to do what is best for my baby, but ALSO to do what is best for ME!
If anyone ever wants to talk or bitch and complain or ask questions. Please do. I am not saying this is the route for you or if it will work, but this is what my experience has been. Only you know what is best for you and baby.