Oh breastfeeding… nothing can truly prepare you for it. All I knew was that I had decided to breastfeed my children, at least for the first 6 months of their life, just like the poster in my OBGYN’s office said. I thought, “What a piece of cake! Why wouldn’t every mother do this? Besides the obvious monetary benefit with not having to purchase formula, there is a health benefit as well!”
And then I had Caroline…
I had a c-section so I was in the hospital for 5 days and I am so thankful I had those extra days to spend with those amazing nurses; asking every question I had and discussing every concern. I never thought that trying to breastfeed could be so stressful! Caroline had a difficult time latching in the beginning. She wasn’t getting enough milk and lost quite a bit of weight in the hospital. I felt so discouraged and like a complete failure. Many tears were shed and I felt like no one really understood my frustrations. Who knew breastfeeding could be so difficult?? I sure didn’t! It’s just not really something anyone really talked to me about before. And since I was the first one in my close group of friends to have a baby (and ctworkingmoms.com did not exist yet), I did not have a group of girlfriends to ask for advice. Maybe if I had known about some of the possible challenges I might face, if I was just a little more prepared, I would have added a much better breast pump to my baby registry instead of one that really did not work well at all (just because it was less expensive). By the time Caroline was 4 weeks old I had become so discouraged that I was formula feeding during the day and nursing at night. That ended when she began sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old (yes I know I was lucky in that aspect). I felt like that was the best choice for me at the time, but could not help feeling like a failure, not necessarily because I wasn’t breastfeeding, but because I did not follow through with something that was originally so important to me. Looking back on my experience, I cannot even really say I had it that rough. For me, the hardest part was that Caroline would nurse for long periods of time and then twenty minutes later she would be hungry again. I felt like I did nothing more than sit on the couch for the month after she was born.
Fast forward to pregnancy #2… I decided to go with the flow this time around. I wanted to breastfeed Emma but I was trying not to have high expectations when it came to actually sticking with it. To be honest, I really don’t know if I would have continued much past that 6 week point (when I stopped with Caroline) if it wasn’t for on of our bloggers, and my friend, Katie S. She could not offer to let me borrow hers (because she was still breastfeeding her son and using it herself) so she asked her sister if I could borrow her oh-so-wonderful Medela Freestyle pump. Talk about generosity! When I first borrowed it I really did not even realize what a gift it would truly become. Then, to make a long story short, one day it just stopped working. It was old and no longer under warranty (bummer) so I was really in a pickle at that point. Out of desperation I reached out to my fellow working mamas and my hero (a.k.a. Mary Grace) came to my rescue and offered her Medela Pump In Style. It meant more to me than I could put into words. These wonderful ladies offered me the opportunity to do something for my daughter that I wanted desperately to follow through with! I am happy to report that, although I do also incorporate some formula feeding, I am also still able to nurse Emma who is almost 5 months old now!
If you were to ask me what advice I would give to other new moms or soon to be moms, I would have to say:
- Relax and let your best be good enough. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find your original plan isn’t working for you. Just know there are resources out there for you. (Although I did not use them, I have also heard that La Leche League is a great resource and support for breastfeeding moms).
- Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help (or a breast pump!) Us mamas have to stick together and help each other out. The generosity and support you can receive from others can be absolutely amazing!
- Trust your gut as to what is right for you and your baby.
- Your baby is going to LOVE you (and know that you love them) whether they are drinking breast milk or formula.
- Don’t be intimidated about pumping at work. It can actually be a great opportunity for some quiet reading time and a welcome mini escape from a hectic work day. (I really enjoy my breaks in the lactation room!)
If you breastfed your child(ren), how did you deal with the challenges you may have faced? What is the single most important piece of advice would you offer new moms or soon to be moms who have decided they want to nurse (either exclusively or supplementing with formula)?
7 thoughts on “Putting My Breast Foot Forward”
Carly, I LOVE the picture of you two on here! Something about a tiny baby face with a little mouth open like that just makes me smile – so cute!
I was also totally shocked by how difficult breastfeeding was and how PAINFUL. Oh, my God. It hurt so bad for awhile that I would cry anytime my son latched on. The books I read didn’t prepare me for that, nor did the class I took with a lactation consultant. I thought it would be completely easy, and for some moms and babies, it is. I think that health advocates and lactation consultants don’t want to say this stuff out of concern that it will dissuade women from even trying, but for me, I was committed regardless so getting a heads up warning would have been super helpful.
I ended up nursing my son until he was three, and it became natural, painless and easy probably around month three, with various setbacks along the way.
What really helped me through the initial couple of weeks, when it was the most painful and challenging, was the use of a major industrial-style pump. If you don’t happen to have a friend who can lend you a nice Medela, these pumps are available for rent from hospitals and lactation consultants for a very reasonable price. And the lactation consultant was also awesome. Like other, I was the first of my group of friends and family members my age to have a baby, so looking to the professionals for help was necessary.
As for La Leche League, I have heard mostly good things, but be prepared for many of the moms for be extremely in favor of exclusively nursing
May you have many, many successful pumping sessions with the medela pump in style ;). I am so glad it is being put to use for that beautiful daughter of ours. I totally agree that pumping at work is great because it is your alone time.
Thank you for sharing Rachael! That is awesome advice… you may have a really bad day and then the next day can be the total opposite! It is definitely good to not make any rash decisions based entirely on your emotions from one day.I am happy to hear that you are planning to accept your best and not be hard on yourself. After all, we are our own worst critics! Best wishes and good luck with baby # 2 🙂
I just saw this, thank you!
Hi Carly, I really like this post. Like you, I was determined to breastfeed my daughter, had a c-section, and it took a-lot of work to get my little girl to successfully breastfeed. However, she always cried when feeding, it was so hard. By the time she was 5 weeks, because I didn’t know any better than to assume if she’s hungry she’ll eventually eat (which involved a lot of crying and no supplemental formula), she developed an aversion to my breasts. She’d just gotten over a virus, so i didnt know if it hurt her to suckle, or maybe something else I did caused it. But my little girl would scream anytime I was topless around her until she was 9 months old. So, from 5 weeks until 11 months, I pumped exclusively. Saying it wasn’t easy is an understatement.
My best advice is not to quit on a bad day. Give yourself a chance to regroup and reassess how you feel, and remember why you’re doing it. And if it’s just too much, and taking a step back you realize its not worth it, don’t feel bad about stopping. Only you know what’s best for you and your family, and doing your best is something to be proud of.
I’m pregnant with #2 now, and my only goal this time around is to do my best and not be hard on myself 🙂
Loved this piece Carly! It gave me chills. We do have such a great community here don’t we? And you’re right – mamas want to help each other, we’re all in this together!