Breastfeeding is an interesting experience – and one I didn’t think too much of. I knew I was going to breastfeed, and I didn’t initially buy any formula bottles. My Medela electric double pump was one of the first items I purchased. It was expensive, but I was that certain it was a need. I also bought 50 milk storage bags, Boppy nursing pillow, a breast hot and cold therapy and a hands-free pump bra.
But alas, these are definitely my most unused baby items. By Day 3, after my mum arrived at the hospital and noticed my son seemed hungry– she advised giving him a bottle of formula. Since then we’ve been happily combination feeding. I breastfeed a lot but pumping and storing just never worked for me.
I was never overly fussed about exclusive breastfeeding, but I have friends who’ve worried so much and one even had to see a psychiatrist. On the other hand, another friend has successfully breastfed her child until he turned 3.
Breastfeeding – as natural as it may seem is often overwhelming. Needless to say, the expectations of many first-time mums are often very different from their reality. 6 first time mum’s share their experience – a whole lot of which I can relate to.
Breastfeeding, I assumed will come naturally.
But the midwife looked at my breasts and noted that my kind of nipple may make baby latching and thus breastfeeding difficult. I thought – difficult, not impossible. So when my baby cried I’d put her on my boobs to feed. By the second day in the hospital, she woke up with an unusual scream. Nothing comforted her. Then we offered her a bottle of formula milk. The way she drank it all up made me feel so bad – like I’d been starving her. We’d then occasionally give her a bottle, but I still wanted to breastfeed .
I used a breast pump to stimulate my supply and help my nipples protrude, but not much changed. I still had flat nipples; baby was taking formula. No milk had come in.
A week later, my milk came in – it literally felt like a balloon that had too much air blown in. But no luck with the latch. My boobs were so uncomfortable and leaking – I spent the whole night crying.
Weeks passed and my milk supply was rapidly decreasing. Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis and since I was not using up my original supply, my body was adjusting by cutting off the breastmilk. My daughter needed about 3 ounces of milk at once and I could only pump 1-2 ounces if lucky. I went on a pumping schedule. I tried supplements, teas, Fenugreek. I braved the pain of latching to boost my supply. Nothing was working. By about 3 months postpartum, I was completely dry on breast milk.
I felt bad. I wouldn’t tell people because I didn’t want to have the “my breasts don’t work” or any similar conversation. I felt like I was to blame, and that I was failing at motherhood.
I was feeding her formula at church when someone said to me that without breast milk, my child wouldn’t be intelligent. People often assume a formula feeding mum is uncaring or didn’t want her breasts to sag. But not everything is within your control.
My little girl latched on immediately which was great but I was in pain. My nipples were so sore – they started off peeling and then bleeding after only a few tries. Coupled with the pain, she was making clicking sounds and got tired very quickly.
We eventually realised she had a posterior tongue tie not picked up at the hospital. Her tongue could not go over her gum, so she was grinding my nipple with her gums while feeding. After this was snipped, it became so much easier. I began to enjoy the whole experience and particularly loved expressing – knowing exactly how much she has eaten at each feed.
But there are reasons why one might not be able to breast feed. I had an interesting and eventful birth experience so I could not breastfeed her immediately she came out and for extended periods a few days later. There are options – you can pump and there’s also formula. Formula is not poison; Fed is best. A happy and sane mother equals a happy baby.
When I got home from the hospital, I had no clue what to do with the large painful rocks on my chest. Despite the pain everyone kept saying “Let the baby suck, that will relieve you“.
In my 10 months of breastfeeding, here a few things I’ve discovered:
I had watched my younger sister store months worth of breastmilk with her 2 children and assumed I wouldn’t have any issues. My baby latched on pretty easily, but for a while I couldn’t get the hang of holding her comfortably for feeding. When I finally got that part, I was a little disappointed to see that my milk production was quite low. Pretty much from birth, I breastfed her once a day and gave her formula the rest of the time.
I researched different ways to increase milk production from pumping every 2 hours (exhausting, especially since I went back to work after 2 months), drinking Mother’s Milk tea, making Lactation cookies and granola, taking Fenugreek tablets and eventually getting prescription medicine. The medicine helped but virtually turned me into a zombie as it made me very drowsy.
Just before she turned 3 months, I made the decision to stop trying to breastfeed. It was making me miserable and very tired, and the baby was doing very well on formula. I was quite sad, but I knew I had tried my hardest.
No woman should be shamed for choosing to give her baby formula over breast milk. As long as your baby is healthy and growing normally, do what you feel is best.
My baby sucked all day; but it was exhausting.
My first week was tough – with no sleeping or eating schedule I breastfed between 10 to 15 times every night. My face was swollen; my nipples were sore and red for 2 weeks. I got Lansinoh nipple cream at week 3. I expected instant healing; but it wasn’t so.
I wanted to immediately stock up my milk bank and so, I bought Medela swing electric breast pump and 50 Lansinoh milk bags. I tried expressing with no tangible results till a friend suggested Tommie Tippee manual breast pump. With this, the largest quantity I have expressed is 150ml in one sitting. So either I don’t have a huge supply or I’m not patient enough to sit and express.
I was overwhelmed by breastfeeding and my thoughts:
How incredibly soft newborn lips and toothless gum can inflict pain is a mystery to me. I often had to steel myself for the impact of the pain – sometimes with tears in my eyes.
I bruised a lot. Until the midwife visited, massaged my breasts with a warm towel and helped me express some milk. My breasts were engorged because I was producing milk but not feeding my baby long enough due to pain. She also showed me how to help my baby latch correctly – by opening wide and latching on to the entire areola and nipple as opposed to just my nipples. We finally got the hang of things; baby is now a latching pro!
Different people, different experiences. Breastfeeding is an awesome experience – well worth it. For the initial pain of latching, nipple cream (or coconut oil) helps and many mums also swear by nipple shields.
But it is also hard – and any form of shaming for not breastfeeding or having a low supply is neither right nor fair.
Was breastfeeding hard for you? Any thoughts, tips or advice – yours or others? Do share.