Disclosure: I partnered with/received compensation from Babywise.Life to write this post. All text and opinion are my own.
I remember like it was yesterday. I was sitting in the mother’s lounge area at one of the department stores in the mall. As I sat there nursing my first tiny baby, several women walked by on their way to the restroom with a longing in their eyes and said, “Oh, how I miss nursing my babies. It goes so fast; please cherish every moment.” I didn’t feel that way at all then. Breastfeeding was hard. I felt tied down all the time. It was painful (even though I know a lactation consultant will tell you that it shouldn’t hurt). And, I wanted a break and to sleep. How’s that for honesty? For many, breastfeeding those first few weeks is incredibly hard, hence why most women quit. I feel like if we can be honest with new mommas, they wouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of immediate breastfeeding bliss. No one told me it would be hard or how much of a transition it would be with my first baby. Everyone told me how wonderfully amazing it was and how much they missed it, which I understand now, but a little honesty regarding that first couple of weeks would have been helpful.
Fast forward thirteen years and now I’m a mom of four. Every single one of my babies has come with nursing challenges all their own. With my first baby breastfeeding was just hard no bones about it. When my second baby was born, there wasn’t as much of an emotional transition as there was with my first, but due to low supply, I had to supplement. My third baby came eight years later and was born with a severe lip and tongue tie, which made breastfeeding incredibly painful. (In retrospect, my first two babies probably had them too.) We had to have her lip and tongue tie released via laser when she was just a few weeks old. I’m currently nursing my fourth baby and have had to supplement since she was a month old due to low weight gain. She’s seven months old now, and although she is gaining better, we often fight nipple confusion between breast and bottle.
Even after all of these challenges with each of my babies, I have pushed through and breastfeed at least a year with my first three and am still nursing our little caboose at seven months. I’ve had many mommas ask me over the years how I persevered when breastfeeding wasn’t easy. After much thought, here are several tips that have been helpful to me.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lactation Consultants know what they are doing and have such a heart for breastfeeding. Even with my last baby just a few months ago, I called in the lactation consultants after she was born to help give us the best start possible.
- Make a decision and stick to it. With each baby, I made a commitment to give myself at least two months instead of quitting in the beginning. In doing so, it wasn’t a daily option for me to quit and by the time we made it to the two-month mark, it had gotten easier, and most of our tough challenges had been resolved.
- Don’t be afraid to supplement you are not a failure! My first baby only got 2 ounces of formula her entire life. When my pediatrician suggested that I supplement my second baby, I cried like he was suggesting that I feed him poison. I felt so guilty and like I had failed him somehow since I had tried all the suggestions of increasing my supply to no avail. However, once I started supplementing, and my baby started gaining weight as he should he was so much more content. I decided to drop that unnecessary guilt as we continued to have a fabulous nursing relationship until he was a year old.
- If you are experiencing severe pain, blood blisters or cracked nipples have your lactation consultant or pediatrician check for tongue and lip ties. I can’t express in words how painful this can be and how often babies aren’t checked. You may even need to go to a specialist.
- If you can’t pump or don’t want to, supplementing with formula is ok! With baby number four I had hoped that nursing every hour to an hour and a half her first month of life and plenty of skin to skin would give me that amazing supply that I had read about, but it didn’t happen. I don’t know why, but I just have a low supply. I’ve never been able to get hardly anything when I pump either. Instead of driving myself crazy with nursing, pumping, feeding the baby a bottle, washing the pump, then starting all over again I gave myself permission to skip all that and just go straight to supplementing formula after each nursing session. Sure, I could have gotten up in the middle of the night to pump and pump after every feeding. Perhaps it would have made a difference in my supply. Instead, I choose sanity. With four kids I just did not have time to go down that route, and I don’t feel guilty this time.
Breastfeeding your baby can be the most incredible bonding and peaceful experience. At the same time, those first few weeks can be the most difficult. Having walked down this path four times with my last coming to an end soon, I find myself in the position as those ladies that walked by me in the lounge while I was nursing my first baby girl. It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life to be able to feed my babies, and it still blows me away that my body makes perfect nutrition for each of them. Most of all, sweet momma, give yourself a break and a pat on the back for whatever choice you make concerning your baby.