Disclosure: I’m always a little nervous when I write or talk about breastfeeding. Afraid that I will offend someone. So I’m going to get this out in the open right away: the truth is that breastmilk is best for your baby. I don’t mean that not breastfeeding makes you a bad parent, it just means that you made a choice. Recognize that choice, own it, and, if you truly feel you made the right choice for your family, that’s fantastic. Please allow me to make the right choice for mine.
I had forgotten how messy breastfeeding a newborn is. I have receiving blankets all over my house and several in my bed to clean up any messes (whether it be from him spitting or me leaking). If I bought disposable breastpads, we would probably have to eat more beans and rice. And then there is the smell. Not quite sure how to describe it. It’s not a bad smell, per say, but mostly just a wet smell. And a wet feeling. All. The. Time.
Let’s back up a bit.
I have breastfed two children. My oldest weaned about a month before his 5th birthday, right at the beginning of my most recent pregnancy. I was very thankful, because I’m not one of the lucky ones who have no pain while breastfeeding during pregnancy. My second son nursed pretty much all through the pregnancy. He has never had a stellar latch due to a bit of a lip tie and it was rather painful after my milk dried up, so I tried to put him off as much as I could. Finally, about 6 weeks before my due date, he stopped asking. I didn’t offer. It was a strange thought that my first nursed till nearly five and my second wasn’t yet 3 when he weaned (or so I thought, but that’s another story).
Fast forward a few weeks to the birth. You would think with the 30 or so books and countless blogs and articles on breastfeeding that I have read, not to mention the hundreds of times I’ve had the privilege of helping/encouraging mothers on their breastfeeding journey, that I would have it all figured out. Yet it still took me some time to figure out. Even though I had the experience and education, this was a completely new experience to Baby Bear. It hurt. My nipples were raw and I felt like crying each time he latched on. The constantly wet breastpad chaffed. The engorgement and let down… wow, we won’t even go there! I remember having adjustment periods with my first two but I don’t remember it being quite this drastic. I remember sitting on the couch when he was just a couple of days old and my friend, a fellow La Leche League leader, and my birth attendant (midwife) were working in my kitchen. I thought to myself, “I understand why moms give up. This is tough!” I didn’t really mention anything to them. Maybe I was a bit ashamed because I had all the answers and shouldn’t need the support or advice. But I could have used some encouragement at that point.
One beautiful thing about having the experience and education was that I knew not to give up. I knew that it didn’t have to be like this. My body wasn’t used to the little hoover around the clock and it would take time to adjust. I checked his latch to make sure that he was taking enough of the breast and that his lips were flared. They weren’t. He has a little bit of a lip tie. As soon as I discovered this problem, I was able to correct it (by manually adjusting his lips and the way he latched by reclining while nursing) and move forward. It felt like I was in pain for weeks. In reality, it was probably less than a week after I discovered the problem before I was mostly healed.
He’s now two months old. A part of me can’t believe so much time has passed and another part of me feels like he’s settled into our lives so perfectly that he has been here all along. (Just need to interject that he just woke up from napping on my chest and he’s totally starting at me right now, as if he knows that I’m talking about him!) Breastfeeding has stabilized and it’s totally second nature to both of us. Receiving blankets and breastpads are the new norm. I could still do without the accidentally squirting myself in the face in the middle of the night but, after three kids, I just wipe it off and go back to sleep.
Was it worth sticking through the pain and the mess? Absolutely. Because, let’s face it, this mama-brain of mine doesn’t have enough mental power to remember to bring diapers when I leave the house, let alone formula and all that goes with it! The only thing I would change: I would have asked for encouragement, even though I already knew what to do.
What would you have loved for someone to tell you when you went through a rough time with a baby or older child? What kind of encouragement do you need to hear right now?