My Breastfeeding Journey
We’ve been going strong for nearly six months, she and I. If you would’ve told me that I would actually enjoy breastfeeding after the first time that Winter latched, I probably would have thrown my breastfeeding pillow (and everything else within arm's reach) in the direction of where you were standing. Nursing was neither pleasant nor beautiful in the beginning.
As a new mom with very few friends with kids, I was blindsided by how much it hurt, how physically and emotionally draining it was and how steep the learning curve was to learn to do it effectively. I remember overhearing a woman in an elevator saying that she attended breastfeeding classes before her baby came. I found this so odd and vaguely remember thinking something along the lines of "That's a waste of money”. If I could go back in time and pop my naive, 29-year-old self in the back of the head, I would. That was silly to think, border-lining judgmental, and if I saw that woman today, I would give her the best hug and say that I am was so wrong to have negative thoughts about her choices.
I am a huge proponent of creating enough space for everyone, so I’m not going to get into the specifics of why one should breastfeed. Everyone has their own way to approach parenthood. My intention for writing this post is to relate to other women who struggled with breastfeeding and/or give some food for thought, if you will, for those who may be expecting. Below is a list of things I wish someone would have told me beforehand:
- Your uterus contracts as you breastfeed the first couple of weeks. I had NOOOOO idea this would happen and it hurts, a lot.
- The first few seconds when the baby latches also hurt A LOT, probably more than the cramps. When Winter would latch, my toes curled and every muscle in my body tensed up. I had to practice a mindfulness exercise each time to remind myself to relax my face, my shoulders, my hands, my legs and my toes. Good news though, after two weeks it didn't hurt nearly as badly! I have also met some women it didn't hurt at all for. I hope and pray that this is you!
- Lansinoh cream is a LIFESAVER. No need to buy it in advance though. The hospital gave me so many tubes to go home with (just ask the nurse to pop a couple in your bag before you check out). Oh and these are my favorite nursing pads by the same company.
- You will be soooo thirsty when you breastfeed. Drinking from a water bottle with a straw like this one was a lifesaver.
- Everything a lactation specialist says is merely a suggestion and each one will tell you to do it a different a way. It's okay to take bits and pieces of advice from each one and string it together to make breastfeeding work for you. I remember being so frustrated when I couldn't do the side lying position. Two lactation specialists said it was one of the easiest ones to do so I became discouraged and hard on myself when it didn't work for us. Please don't stress out if a position you try feels awkward or uncomfortable.
- You know those beautiful Instagram pictures you see of mothers effortlessly breastfeeding in coffee shops, at the park, or in the comfort of their bed? I remember looking at those thinking, what's wrong with me? I had to put two pillows underneath my nursing pillow to make it the right height, I had one pillow behind my back and my feet had to be propped up on an ottoman. I had my phone off to my left side running my nursing app (because let's be honest, I couldn't remember which boob I left off on) and a water bottle or two to my right. Nursing was a main event at our house for a while. Yet sure enough, as the days and weeks went by, I too became one of those mamas who could breastfeed anywhere. It just takes time.
- If you can, test out your nursing pillow with your rocker or glider to see how it fits before purchasing it. I think I went through three pillows before I found one that I really liked. I started to use this pillow by Ergo Baby when Winter was about a month old (she seemed a bit too small for it at first). While I don't neeeeeed to use it anymore, I often still do because it's so comfortable.
- The biggest piece of information I wish someone would’ve told me we was how isolating it is at first. There was one day where Winter literally nursed for hours and hours. My butt was sore, my neck had a crick in it and I was so lonely. I could hear my in-laws and husband in the other room laughing and I began to cry. I know it was my choice to nurse in private but at that the time, I felt super awkward and wasn't comfortable breastfeeding in front of anyone other than my husband. Oh and you can forget the nursing blankets that are supposed to cover you! Those still don't work for me. I end up looking like the Loch Ness monster fighting under a sea of material and when I finally emerge from the blanket, my hair has turned into a rat’s nest *sigh*. Anyway, to not feel so alone, I began connecting to a lot of moms on Instagram while I nursed and read a lot too, which helped it seem less isolating. Also, there is a great hashtag called #latenightnursingfeed! Check that out too!
Finally, it does get better, more beautiful and more intimate. I keep one of those a-line-a-day journals and on March 15th I wrote, "Breastfeeding Winter is the best part of my day. The quiet moments at night when she falls asleep in my arms while the sound of her breath permeates the room is a memory I wish I could live in forever. I know one day I will miss this."
Photography by Brittany Renee'
Thank you Ergo Baby for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.