Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Breastfeeding Experience

Upon finding out that I was pregnant with my son, I did what most new expectant moms do, research, research, and research. I read books, watched videos, and talked with veteran moms. I tried to prepare myself as much as I could, and then later realized that no matter how much you prepare, something will happen that throws you off your game. Breastfeeding was no exception. I spoke with family, friends, and colleagues about whether or not they nursed and why, and asked about their experience. I went to the library and browsed through several breastfeeding books and read a couple. I knew that I wanted to nurse my son, after all, they say that breast milk is best for infants and will save so much money, not to mention the bonding experience. However, I did not anticipate that it would take 7 weeks for my son and me to adjust to it.

No amount of reading and research prepared me for the physical, mental, and emotional roller coaster that I endured trying to nurse my son. In retrospect, I was probably over dramatizing things, but at the time, my struggles were real. Not to minimize what I went through, or any moms having difficulty for that matter, but looking back it wasn't all that bad and things could have been worse. 

According to health professionals and lactation specialists, breast milk is supposed to come in a few days after delivery and that the colostrum mothers express should be enough to nourish and satiate the newborn. So I listened. Unfortunately for me, my milk did not come in after a couple of days but almost after a week. A few days after my son was born, he had lost over 10% of his weight and his pediatrician told me to supplement. I soon saw how hungry my son was as he drank formula ravishingly. I began to worry that I was not going to have enough milk to support him. My husband bought me Mother's Milk tea and my mom made me soups and foods all in an effort to increase my supply. This was not just a one time thing. I continuously drank the tea and ate the foods throughout nursing. In the end, I had enough milk for him, however, we did occasionally supplement. I never had enough milk to store and freeze for future use. I was only able to breastfeed for 10 months after which my supply ran out. I was devastated, of course, given all the benefits of nursing, but I felt good that I was able to provide my son with the best nutrition for at least 10 months.

I knew that breastfeeding would take time to get used to and that some amount of pain was inescapable. Unfortunately, I felt pain for 7 straight weeks. I saw 2 lactation specialist to try and figure out what was going on and to ensure that my son was latching on properly (latching incorrectly is a very common cause of pain during nursing). I tried different nursing positions and re-latching my son with no success in alleviating pain. In addition to nipple soreness, I also experienced blocked ducts and mild mastitis. The blocked ducts and mastitis were painful, but I knew just how to remedy them. I followed instructions on my breastfeeding bible and then all was well. The nipple soreness was a completely different thing. I used lanolin and cooling gels. Of course they worked to some degree, but not when I was breastfeeding. I also used a silicone nipple shiled used by moms to help with inverted nipples and that helped a little. Eventually, I just stopped trying and bore the pain. I occasionally cringed when my son started to cry because I knew he was hungry and I had to nurse. I took a deep breath and latched him on. Then one day, one glorious day, the pain stopped. I latched my son and there was no pain while feeding. I waited a few days of pain-free nursing before celebrating since it could have been temporary, but it wasn't. After 7 long weeks, I was finally able to nurse without pain.

My story is not unique. I'm sure there are moms out there with worse stories and experiences and moms who did not have any problems at all (lucky them). I'm just glad that no matter how hard things got, I persisted. All the pain was definitely worth it. Despite what I went through, I highly recommend breastfeeding and will breastfeed the next baby. Different moms will experience nursing differently. There are so many resources available to help with nursing issues on the web, in the library, from experts, and of course fellow moms.

For information on breastfeeding, here are a few websites to start with:

Or you can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 800-994-9662 (TDD 888-220-5446).