This may be my second experience at motherhood but it is my first real experience with breastfeeding. I honestly wish I could have with Kelsie but being a first time mom with limited knowledge and an idea that breastfeeding is something that comes as naturally as we see in the media – I was simply ill-equipped.
My breastfeeding experience as a first time mom left me with many regrets as I really didn’t know what I was doing and so when my daughter was born and I pressed my boob for milk, I was convinced that there was nothing there and opted for the hospital to give my baby formula until such time that milk did come. Well, this only happened on day 5 and without any kind of proper latch and almost a week of the free flow from a bottle – my daughter refused the boob. Then engorgment set in, as well as clogged milk ducts, and the pain was more than I could tolerate. I believed that breastfeeding was a constant of feeling this way – that this is what it was always going to feel like and so I gave up. I used cold cabbage leaves in my bra for a day or so to dry up the milk and that marked the end of a journey that barely even began.
I didn’t think much of it at first, fed is best, right? But, regrettably, as the months rolled on into years, I noticed the consequences of my decision – Kelsie had a weak immune system despite taking probiotics and multivitamins , a few ear infections, hospitalized for croup, constant chest infections and the need for antibiotics each time – all of which I’ve learned, are drastically reduced if a mom breastfeeds. In my second pregnancy, I was determined to get this right, but my knowledge was still quite limited so I spent pretty much the entire nine months doing my research, reading up on the topic and watching videos endorsed by lactation consultants. This helped tremendously as the more I learned, the better I understood and the more prepared I became.
My First Month in review
One month of exclusively breastfeeding. Gosh, I feel so proud of myself. After three years of regret, I am proud that this time, I pushed through the difficulties and I must admit it definitely didn’t come without its hiccups.
I had been practicing the hand expressing technique two weeks before I gave birth, so the day my son was born, I knew what I had to do. As soon as I got back into the maternity ward after my emergency c-section, I started to hand express – the colostrum oozed out in big thick drops. This gave me the confidence boost, I needed.
When Kyler was brought to me, he was in a deep sleep, I continued to hand express and collect drops with a syringe. When he woke, I tried to latch him. I had watched videos (links below) on this, how latching works, and how you should do it. I tried, but he was a tiny baby and he’s little mouth just couldn’t open wide enough to get a proper latch. I struggled but kept trying. It hurt every time I tried. After just a few hours, I had cracked nipples and extreme tenderness. I knew this was because we weren’t latching right. As a result, he wasn’t getting the amount of colostrum he needed at each feed. Through the night, I kept trying. I kept him on my chest, skin to skin. The next morning, I became concerned that he wasn’t getting enough nutrition. Our pediatrician had a look at him and noticed he looked a bit dehydrated. He suggested we top up each feed with formula. My heart sank. This is not what I had wanted. I started to feel the sense of failure creep in. Why was my body failing me? Why couldn’t I get it right? Was it going to be like my first experience all over again? It was disheartening, but this time, I just couldn’t give up.
I requested for a lactation consultant and refused to use a bottle for those formula feeds – I didn’t want nipple confusion to adversely affect thel breastfeeding. Instead, I put Kyler to my boob whenever he showed signs of hunger (despite how sore it had become) and followed that with formula that I fed him with a spoon. The lactation consultant was a godsend! She suggested I try the “rugby hold” position and just like that – he latched! I can’t explain the joy I felt in that moment. To finally get it right after almost two days and to experience my first proper painless feed.
From day one, I had been taking galactagogues to help with my milk supply. I was hopeful that this time, my milk wouldn’t take as long as 5 days to come in properly. The next morning, day three, I started to hand express. I had been doing this whenever I had a chance and collected the colostrum in syringes. I had accumulated about 6 small syringes of colostrum. They are still in my freezer and can keep for about 6 months. Colostrum is packed with antibodies and can be used as a natural antibiotic – so when the need arises, I will make use of them. Anyway, on the morning of day three, the day I planned to leave the hospital and what happened to also be my birthday – my milk came in. White and flowing. Best birthday present ever.
I ditched the formula, began to trust my body and have been exclusively breastfeeding on demand ever since. It’s been an incredible experience for me so far, to bond with my baby and to be he’s sole source of nutrition. Now that we’ve passed the 4 week mark and my breastmilk is well established, I’ve begun pumping once every morning. This is to build a freezer stash for when I’m back at work. I also use a silicone pump to catch the let down from the other boob while I feed baby. Since we’ve just introduced the bottle to Kyler, the let down milk becomes he’s one bottle snack for the day. We’ve got a system going and it’s working for us so far.
My breastfeeding goal is to continue for as long as my son will allow me to nurse him. Yes, this journey is not easy and there may bumps in the road, but if someone like me, who knew very little, can do it, then any mom can!
Videos, Articles and Informative sources
I’ve included the links to information I found helpful to get my journey started.