Director Jewels: Breastfeeding is Hard. World Breastfeeding Week 2013.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Breastfeeding is Hard. World Breastfeeding Week 2013.

 It's World Breastfeeding Week! If you're a regular reader, you probably have noticed that I kind of talk about breastfeeding a lot. Let me assure you that I never intended to become any sort of spokesperson for breastfeeding moms.

I planned to nurse my babies because my mom nursed her own kids. And I knew that on one income, we would not have a lot of budget to spend on formula. That's it. That's my story.

New Mom Nursing Station
So what changed? I learned that just because you have great intentions, it doesn't mean breastfeeding will be an easy journey. Like many other things in this life, it is a skill that you must learn. Instincts are only that - instincts. And sometimes, you need more than that to succeed.

My nursing journey started at the hospital. I expected breastfeeding to be the easiest part of my pregnancy/delivery/birth experience, so I really didn't do much to prepare for it. As a result, I didn't realize that it was important that my baby nurse within the first hour of birth (the sooner the better). We barely met that window of time, and by the time Lincoln first latched after his birth, he had been passed around between several nurses, my OB, my husband, and all of his grandparents. It was probably a pretty confusing welcome to the world for him.

In spite of this, he did latch (I thought) and our hospital nursing sessions always seemed okay. The lactation consultant stopped by a time or two and peeked at us, said we looked fine, and went on her way. I didn't ask her any questions because I didn't know anything was wrong.

We went home from the hospital with a 2-day-old teeny tiny person who forgot how to nurse as soon as we walked in the door. Or maybe he never knew how in the first place. At any rate - it was pretty stressful around our house from that point forward. We didn't know why he cried so much, I thought he must be nursing okay since the lactation lady had said we were fine. But after my milk came in (around four days postpartum), it was suddenly quite apparent that he was not actually latching correctly, and he was not getting any milk.

Yikes.

After a day of tears and engorgement, I timidly contacted a fellow church member who I was told had once led a chapter of La Leche League. I will be forever grateful to her. She replied to my Facebook message right away, telling me that I was a great mama and that she would find someone to watch her own three kids so that she could come over and help me troubleshoot our nursing problem. Without her, it's unlikely we would have continued breastfeeding past the first week.

It turned out that I had (TMI alert) flat/inverted nipples, which made latching pretty impossible for a newborn. No one at the hospital had told me this and I didn't realize! We tried some different things and after an hour, finally got Lincoln to latch. That memory remains one of the best moments of my life.

But here's the thing. After we figured out the problem and the solution, it wasn't a miracle fix. It took a full five weeks before Lincoln could latch without coaxing, prodding, and crying (from both of us). I used multiple tubes of lanolin. I felt so frustrated that it took him an hour and a half to nurse - and that we had to start the whole process over again thirty minutes later. I wept that I didn't want to feed my baby anymore.

This was the point where I started to understand why people choose to nourish their babies with formula. It was so much work. And I didn't even have it as bad as some mothers!

This was a particularly difficult nursing session. We were both exhausted.

But we kept at it. We kept nursing. And kept crying. And kept trying. And finally, one day, it didn't take Lincoln until the end of the Teddy Bear song on our lullaby album to latch on (25 minutes. To this day, when I hear that song I remember all of the times we finally managed to get settled nursing with it playing in the background). Breastfeeding was not pain-free for me until he was eight weeks old. And eventually, we reached a point where nursing was natural for both of us.

We've gone on to have an amazing nursing relationship. Lincoln is, at 2.5 years old, still nursing - right alongside his baby sister. My journey nursing Addie has been much easier, likely due to the choices I made for her birth.

I know that breastfeeding does not work out for every mama - and I totally understand. There were so many moments in those early weeks that I desperately wanted to quit. It's probably only because I am incredibly stubborn that we succeeded. Let me tell you, though - it has been something amazing that I would not trade for the world.

I'm thankful for World Breastfeeding Week because it gives a chance to raise awareness about breastfeeding - but especially to encourage the moms who have made the choice to nurse their babies. It's a lot of hard work!

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