What I have Learned About Breastfeeding that No One Bothers to Tell You, and Other Stories

August 09, 2011
I gave birth to my first child at the beginning of April. I experienced so many emotions in that day that I have never felt before, and I know I will never feel again -- pure joy; while others I have felt since, and often -- exhaustion.

The hospital where I gave birth to my child is very active in pushing mothers towards breastfeeding. I have encountered several people who have given up because the nurses that are there for support are too aggressive in their breastfeeding tactics.

Within a few hours of giving birth to my son, a nurse came into the room to coach me on how to feed him. I had some idea of how it should be done -- my husband and I had taken pre-natal classes like most everyone else -- but knowing how it should be done, and actually trying to do it are two completely different things. There were many times, especially late at night, that I was more than ready to give up nursing my child. At times it felt more annoying than any thing, and it often felt like I could do absolutely nothing because my child was nursing for an hour or more every three hours: I am tied to baby, and baby is tied to me.

We had been home from the hospital for one day when my son was readmitted because his billirubin was too high (jaundice). It was at this time that my milk started coming in, and I was getting frustrated. Because of the jaundice, my son was sleepy all the time, and was not even close to interested in eating. When he did show interest in eating, he couldn't because no milk was coming out. I was pumping to relieve the pressure, but it was still unbearable, and my son still wasn't able to get the nutrients from me that he needed. The trick to jaundice is that babies need liquid so that they can urinate out the jaundice, but they are too tired to drink therefore not getting the fluids they need, and they eventually die.

As I was sitting in the private room that the pediatric ward set aside for mothers to pump, the nurse knocked on the door and asked how I was doing. I showed her how much I had pumped in what felt like an eternity, but in reality was only 15-20 minutes. It was then that she informed me that a friend of her's had discovered she needed to drink a ridiculous amount of water in order to get her milk flowing. I was willing to try anything at that point, so I started drinking as much water as my body would let me. My son was given an IV so that he could get enough fluids to get the jaundice out of his body, and soon after he was feeling better, he was able to start eating more.

Because I was getting so frustrated with the process of breastfeeding, my doctor and the nurses decided to bring in a lactation consultant; she was extremely helpful, and I learned two very important points about breastfeeding from her:

1. You must massage your breast before feeding baby so that the milk is down where it should be, and then you must squeeze your nipple to release some of the milk and then push the nipple into your breast, thus pushing the milk back in, to make the nipple soft enough for baby to latch on.

2. During feeding time, you must feed your baby in the horizontal position across your chest, and in the football position beside your body so that all of the ducts in the breast are engaged. The horizontal position engages the ducts on the left and right side of the breast, and the football position engages the ducts on the top and the bottom of the breast.

Eventually neither of those points no longer need to be done once baby gets more efficient at feeding. Within about three weeks, I no longer had to massage the lumps out of my breasts -- which is incredibly important because the ducts can become clogged and extremely painful -- and, within about five to six weeks I was no longer doing the football position because my son was able to drain the entire breast doing just the horizontal position.

It took me a long time to get used to breastfeeding, and, I'm not going to lie, it hurts. I probably would have given up if it hadn't been for the support of my husband, and if I hadn't found out about drinking a ton of water -- which I still do -- massaging my breasts, and the two feeding positions. Lansinoh was another amazing discovery; it is like Vaseline, but safe for baby, and it works wonders on cracked nipples.

As my son has become more efficient at eating, he doesn't eat as long, and pumping has made it possible for my husband and I to go on dates, as well as allowed me to do such things as go to the dentist. As difficult as it was, I am glad that I did not give up on breastfeeding; I always have food for my son, it's a great time for us to bond, it's free, and, as my mother-in-law told me, it's the best guarantee that you'll get your baby back from snugglers that want to steal him away!

Update: It Gets Easier

1 comment

  1. From one nursing mama to another: I'm so glad you found the support you needed to over come the obstacles you faced as you both learnt how to nurse.

    Its too bad that we go into motherhood knowing so little about how to feed our babies but amazing how with just the right information and a little support how quickly things get better :)


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