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.
pS: my surprise baby shower and what we packed for our hospital bags
'DaraMarch 7, 2018 at 15:59
This article reminds of how life always does not happen as we’d expect. Great plans and all but things don’t always happen the way we want-and that’s totally okay!Like they all noted- formula feeding or breastfeeding- so long as your baby is eating and growing, then you’re fine. No shaming.
Chidimma NjokuMarch 7, 2018 at 22:35
This is informative. I think I will be using the nipple shield. My pain threshold is the lowest everrrr. I’m genuinely scared of biological motherhood cos I can barely bear the pain of making my hair! Lol. I guess children make all the difference no matter what you go through to have and keep them alive.
Annie EjioforMarch 8, 2018 at 09:18
I’ve heard people say, “Breast feeding doesn’t make the breasts sag. All breasts will sag eventually.” While this is often said to encourage more women to breast feed, as women are primarily endowed with breasts for this reason, I can’t say for sure that breast feeding does not weaken the breasts’ ligaments. Maybe, the sagging that most women experience after breast feeding is from the changes in breast size due to pregnancy and lactation or behaviours adopted during breast feeding, such as poor posture, wearing the wrong bra size or use of breast pumps. I can’t say with certainty, but I do know breast feeding or any of the factors associated with it impacts the integrity of the breasts and I will love to learn more either from research or people’s experience.Breast feeding, however, is good for both the mother and child. Its importance cannot be overemphasized.While we work on making exclusive breast feeding in the first six months more practicable for working mums, we should not shame those who for reasons beyond their control could not follow through on that.Someone once asked me, “In the later years of childhood, are there benefits that can be traced back to a child being exclusively breast fed in the first six months of life?” I haven’t the answer to that yet. But until then, with the much we know, we should do the best we can.
Osemhen Elohor AkhibiMarch 13, 2018 at 21:33
I’m exclusively breastfeeding my 2nd like I did my first but this time around, I have an emergency can of formula in the pantry. Fed is best and I remember one day, the creche ran out of expressed milk for my first while I was miles away facilitating a workshop. I felt so bad. He was basically hungry from like 2:30pm till 5pm when we were reunited. He cried and they carried him and petted him till he fell asleep hungry. :(Recommendations: lots of water, a decent diet, good comfy bras and a good pump. Get the nurses at the hospital to teach you a good latch for your baby when he/she’s born. Get nipple cream. Manage expectations. Get that emergency can of formula and be prepared to use it. It eases the pressure.
Kitchen butterflyMarch 14, 2018 at 14:27
so many reasons why I love you, most of all, your sensibilities and wisdom – do we want to be right or do we want results (I digress) but thank you
Osemhen Elohor AkhibiMarch 16, 2018 at 10:38
@ilolaMarch 15, 2018 at 22:13
I’m breastfeeding my son exclusively. He’ll be 6 months old in 3 weeks, and gosh, I am so ready for the whole breastfeeding thing to end. Made me have stupid cravings, and I lactate a looott so I have chests of milk bank. The little man started rejecting bottles, so I’m just tired because he has to be with me all the timeeeee. Can’t wait,
CarolineMay 17, 2018 at 18:48
It is hard but extremely rewarding! But I also had some troubles at the begging. Everything seemed fine back at the hospital but right after arriving home I found myself hunched over my little baby forcing my breast into her mouth but she arched away every time. My husband googled this breastfeeding guide (it is really good: https://www.parental-love.c… and we’ve read it looking for diagnosing. I’ve learned about latching and just changed feeding position and it helped. But it was a lot of stress and blaming myself at some point, wich cannot be good. So prepare yourself well and don’t give up!
Avril GreenJune 7, 2018 at 10:23
I’m just after reading ‘how to make breastfeeding pleasant and easy’ guide and I wanted to give you some feedback 🙂 The guide, in my opinion, is very VERY good! It contains all the information I needed to know – I have no more questions and I feel like I know everything. Thanks for sharing the website