Breastfeeding. As a pregnant person or a mom – you’ll know that this is a hot topic issue with many people. I got asked by many people who have no business knowing what I do with my boobs my plans on breastfeeding. My stance the whole time was that if I was able to breastfeed, I would. However, if I had difficulty or an insufficient milk supply – I wouldn’t starve my child… I’d give her formula.
I will say that as a flat-chested gal, I worried that I’d have a lot of difficulty breastfeeding. While I realize (and this was later confirmed by a lactation consultant) that breast size has nothing to do with milk ducts (its all about breast tissue and fat) – I still just didn’t see how my itty bitties would produce anything.
After Annmarie was born, she wasn’t given to me to nurse for quite some time. The majority of women that delivery vaginally usually nurse their babies within the first few hours (or so I’m told). And the nurses generally set that up while you’re still in the delivery room. That did not happen in my case and I think it was because of my crazy distended bladder issue that was pushing my uterus to the side. It was all about emptying my bladder for awhile so I didn’t get a chance to nurse. And then I was moved to post-partum where I suspect the staff assumed I had already nursed.
So – I didn’t actually nurse Annmarie for the first 12 hours. If I went 12 hours without food, the world would know about it. I’d turn into a mega-cranky bitch. Apparently babies can go awhile without food so nobody seemed panicked.
Finally – one of the baby nurses helped me in my first attempt to nurse Annmarie (after some prodding).
I assumed it wouldn’t be THAT difficult. You suck a nipple. How hard is that? Babies have a natural suck reflex so I figured it would be easy peasy.
Holy fuck I was wrong. The nurse had me massage my breast to work out some colostrum (the weird liquid crap that comes out of your breasts for the first few days. I find it to be a cruel that a woman’s milk does not come in for the first few days after birth). I was stoked when I saw some stuff ooze out (yay! my boobs work!) but was not prepared for what happened next. I call Annmarie’s mouth the jaws of life because her initial latch (or the clamp of her gums) was so intense that it felt like someone had snapped a mousetrap on my nipple.
So apparently the suck reflex, while natural, takes some “training”. And oy – the first few sessions were incredibly painful. The nurses worked with me to change positions and help Annmarie with her latch (babies need to open their mouths really wide and take in as much of the nipple as possible) before it started to not make me want to cry. However, that initial latch? Yeah – that would continue to hurt for the next couple of weeks. One of the nurses said that the pain would stop but that I’d just have to brace myself before each nursing session.
The nurses also said that if I could tough it out for 2 weeks, it would get easier. I didn’t believe them because my nipples were SO sore. Anything touching them hurt – even water. I couldn’t imagine how this would get better. But it did. I’m 4 weeks into it and it definitely has gotten easier. But here are some things I wasn’t prepared for…
1. The scabbing. My nipples scabbed over and it was SO gross. But the lactation consultants said it was totally normal. They checked Annmarie’s latch and they said it was good so I had nothing to worry about.
2. The leaking. Holy wet shirts. My boobs leak. I used to think it was just a movie gag but I can attest to some leakage. I have woken up to wet shirts because of leaky breasts.
3. Milk coming in. I really thought that maybe I wasn’t “producing enough milk” because my boobs never felt full in the first few days. I had a few women tell me that was the feeling of when your milk comes in. Around day 3, I awoke to the HARDEST and fullest breasts ever. It looked like I had gotten breast implants. I did a little happy dance over my new breasts (I went up a cup size! wahoo!) but wasn’t prepared for the pain of engorgement. It took a few days for me to finally get my breasts back to feeling normal and squishy (and that required A LOT of nursing sessions… like every 2 hours around the clock and some pumping). But now? If I go too long without nursing, my breasts get hard. It is such a weird feeling. And they look fantastic. I have cleavage without the assistance of a bra.
4. The schedule. One of the reasons it is so difficult for me to go out for long periods of time is because I need to nurse Annmarie every few hours. But between nursing her, pumping after nursing (that’s an entirely different discussion… “building a milk supply”), getting the dogs situated… I only have like 2 hours out of the house before she starts fussing again for food.
5. My appetite. Holy shit – I thought pregnancy made me eat a lot. Pregnancy has NOTHING on the appetite of a nursing mom. I’m hungry ALL THE TIME. And I’m thirsty too. But amazingly – breastfeeding burns a ton of calories so even though I’m eating like shit, the weight is still coming off.
Some things that have saved my life during breastfeeding though (and that I highly recommend to nursing moms or those that will be nursing SOON so stock up now…):
1. Lanolin. I use Lansinoh but one of my co-workers said that she used this cream on her nipples after EVERY nursing session to prevent nipple cracking (yes – your nipples can crack! Did you just shudder?). I use this stuff religiously and haven’t had any issues with dry nipples.
2. Soothies. These are gel pads for your nipples. My SIL recommended these and they made the first 2 weeks bearable for me (and my ridiculously sensitive nipples).
3. Target’s Gilligan & O’Malley’s Nursing Tanks. I bought 5 of these tank tops and they are my uniform at home. They are so convenient for nursing and so comfortable. I highly recommend these.
I’ve invested in a lot of long cardigans since my “uniform” now consists of one of these nursing tanks and leggings.
So that’s breastfeeding in a nutshell. Have any questions? I’m an open book!
(I promise to post about non-baby things at some point. This is just my life right now!)