I was a formula-fed baby. In fact, I had zero experience with breastfeeding when I found out I was pregnant. I hadn’t even seen anyone breastfeeding until I did it myself. I had a strong feeling though that it was something I wanted to do for my baby, and my extensive research into the benefits of breastfeeding backed that feeling up.
I didn’t take any breastfeeding classes, though I read lots of books, so I knew that nursing required practice, that my milk wouldn’t come in right away, but that colostrum was the best thing for the baby during those first days anyway. On the day I had Harper, the doctor put her to my breast within 15 minutes of her delivery. And she nursed. And all seemed well.
Until later that night. I don’t know if we didn’t quite get the latch right, but I was in serious pain. She cried, I tried to feed her, and she kept crying so I became convinced that she wasn’t getting what she needed. By 3 am, I was sitting on the hospital floor, holding my baby and sobbing, telling my husband to go and get the nurse, tell her we need a bottle of formula because clearly I’m not getting enough of anything to feed the baby.
But he wouldn’t do it. He told me to keep trying. He reminded me of everything we had read together about those first few days of breastfeeding. He reminded me that she didn’t actually need that much milk at this point, and that she was probably crying because she was spending her first night outside of her mommy’s warm tummy. I agreed to keep trying for 24 hours.
We met a lactation consultant the next day who showed me how much colostrum I was making (by grabbing my breasts and squeezing them- which shocked me, but I was more happy when I saw they were actually doing their job!) Knowing then that the milk was there, but the problem was our latch (as evidenced by the state of my breasts), I set about working on our technique.
And I continued to work on it for weeks. Those first few weeks were the hardest of my life. My mom came to visit me and help out with the baby and she took one look at me and told me that I should quit. She said “Amanda, why would you do this to yourself?” I don’t blame her- she really didn’t understand what would drive me to continue something that was so painful, when in her experience formula worked out so well. I tried to explain, and she tried to support my decision. But every time I came out of the back room with tear-stained cheeks after a painful nursing session, I could tell she was thinking that it wasn’t worth it.
But I knew it was. And it got better. Honestly, if it weren’t for lanolin ointment, I don’t know if I could have continued, but I did and I successfully breastfed my girl until she self-weened at 9 months (I didn’t know at that time that you could try to nurse through them refusing at that age- but I’ll know better for next time).
An interesting side note to this post though, is my experience with nursing in public. I was never comfortable nursing in front of other people, with the exception of a very few. So my plan in the beginning was to always leave the room when Harper needed to nurse. Because of this, I missed hours of family visits, holiday gatherings, dinners with friends. It’s hard to admit, but yes… I actually nursed her in the restroom of a restaurant on numerous occasions. I assumed that nursing covers didn’t allow airflow, and I didn’t want to worry about her getting enough air when I was trying to feed her, so I just thought that leaving the room was the better solution.
Until one day when I got stuck in public and had no where to go. My mother and I were out in San Francisco, riding the cable cars with my then 6-month old, who was beyond hungry after waiting in a line for nearly an hour. I wasn’t wearing a nursing shirt. There were no hidden places I could go. I was stuck on a crowded cable car with strangers within inches of me and I nursed her.
My mom was mortified. I was pretty embarrassed myself, not because breastfeeding is anything to hide but because I’m just not comfortable with my body, even though I’m amazed at what it can do (after all, it carried my baby for 9 months and nourished her for another nine!) That day, I decided that a nursing cover was a must for me and I found one that had an opening where I could see Harper and I could be confident that she could breathe.
Fast forward to today and I work for the company that made that nursing cover. And my job is to make sure that Moms like me know that there is an option out there for them if nursing in public causes them the worry that it did for me. It’s amazing, but my breastfeeding experience really has come full-circle, and is now a huge part of my life.
I’d love to hear other mom’s breastfeeding experiences. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, share yours in the comments section below.
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