Did you tune into last week’s blog about World Breastfeeding Week? This week I would like to share three women’s experiences with breastfeeding and how they quickly overcame challenges and kept nursing.
When our first born arrived, I was eager to start nursing. How hard can it really be? Well, Patrick didn’t latch on correctly and I soon had cracked nipples – a common challenge for nursing mothers. It was a godsend that our first nurse was also a lactation consultant (IBCLC). She quickly taught me how to properly nurse and identify if his latch on was correct. Also, a good friend came to the hospital and gave me some pointers – including feeding in the football hold position. This was so much easier (and became my favorite position!) When our second son came, I knew I was a pro- I already had nursed our first son for 12.5 months. Well, Matthew decided not to latch on! Uh…a new challenge for us! His resistance prolonged the length of time between feedings …he needed to eat. Because I was familiar with pumping, I asked the staff to bring me a pump and a medicine dropper. I pumped, knowing I was going to get colostrum -just some dribbles. We used the medicine dropper and then, quickly brought him to my breast. It worked! And then, our third son…I was ready for any kind of major breastfeeding challenge…Edward didn’t give us any! We are lucky to have nursed all 3 boys for 12.5 to 13.5 months each.
When Marisa started to breastfeed their son, Eli, the main challenges were latch on and positioning. The lactation consultant worked with them about 3 times which was helpful. Once her milk came in, it really came in – she seemed to overwhelm Eli with milk. She overcame this by stopping the feed which allowed her milk flow to slow. Being a smaller baby, it was a lot of milk to tolerate in the beginning. Marisa also noticed how Eli would fuss and wretch and act as if something was wrong after feeds. She discussed this with her pediatrician who initially suggested he had colic and later suggested trialing a dairy elimination diet. Within 48hours Eli was a new baby! Gone was the crying and fussing and he slept better. Marisa eliminated milk in her personal diet. She was diligent in reading food labels and staying milk free for that first year. She did try to re-introduce milk in her diet at 4 months and 7 months with Eli becoming fussy and an uncomfortable baby after each trial. Marisa adds that she and Eli encountered thrush and mastitis along the way, so there were plenty of obstacles to make stopping an easy choice. She really wanted to provide breast milk to their child and she was determined to make it work. Sometimes she wanted to cry and stop, but “your body is telling you to keep going (by continuing to make milk) so I just listened to my body.” Marisa was able to nurse Eli for about 18 months.
Before Jen and her husband, Kevin, became pregnant, they always assumed they would breastfeed – seemed like the natural thing to do. Jen did think ahead and purchased a manual hand pump for just in case! She was glad she had it! They delivered a little girl, Eliot, and worked with 2 different lactation consultants along with their nurses in helping Eliot latch on while in the hospital. Eliot would sometime latch on, but, mostly she didn’t suck well. They tried in the hospital the nipple shield (didn’t help in their situation). Then the lactation consultants suggested pumping so that they could finger feed Eliot with a dropper with the intention to attempt to nurse (Kevin even helped with this by using his own finger). At discharge, they felt confident Eliot was over this hurdle and she would nurse (she had successfully fed a couple of times). The following day at home, Eliot did not nurse. Luckily, they had the manual pump available. They again pumped and finger fed her with nursing at the breast to follow. They saw the pediatrician the next day and talked through their challenges. The final decision at that time was to pump, bottle feed the breast milk and continue to trial nursing at the breast. Jen manually pumped for 2-3 weeks and was pumping every 3 hours for about 8 minutes on each side. During this time, Eliot still would not latch on to Jen’s breast when trialed. They decided that it was time to get an electric pump – Jen was in heaven! She was able to pump both breasts at the same time, saving time. She spread out her pumping to 5 hours and then 6 hours for 15 min. Over the past two months, she started to become more relaxed with timing between pumping sessions. She has accumulated over an estimated 300oz of frozen breast milk! Now, during the day she pumps every 6 hours and at night she varies how often. She became so accustomed to pumping that after a couple months she gave up on nursing at the breast- pumping has become her daily routine. Pumping allowed Kevin and other family members to feed their baby. Jen is determined to continue pumping since Eliot is benefiting from the breast milk. “Pumping definitely takes dedication to providing your baby with breast milk, it’s not always easy but it is worth it to have her breastfed.” Jen’s goal is to provide breast milk for 4 more months until Eliot turns 12 months old.
Why we all chose and continued to nurse:
- We were aware of the benefits and wanted our child to have the best that we could provide!
- We were lucky to have our support systems – starting with our husbands.
- Breast milk provides immunities to help protect the child.
- The bonding promoted by breastfeeding is amazing.
- It can be easier for mom to lose baby weight.
Breastfeeding tips we all would like to share with you:
- Utilize your lactation consultant the first days in the hospital. Know you can call them after discharge, too. Refer to La Leche League’s website. Reach out to Women Infant and Children (WIC) if you use their services.
- The first 2 weeks can be challenging (this is new to both you and your baby!). Then, it is easy!
- Bring a special pillow to the hospital (i.e. Boppy). You will use it while you nurse!
- “Practice” nursing so when you are in public, you feel confident.
- Know if your baby wants to nurse more often, he/she may be going through a growth spurt. Read his/her cues.
- Milk production is hard work! There were plenty of times we all felt like we weren’t making enough or that our production was decreasing.
- Pumping is not as effective as breastfeeding. It takes planning (and commitment) to keep milk production high when at work (or at home in Jen’s story). Watching videos or looking at pictures of your baby helps.
- Invest in a deep freezer to safely store pumped breast milk for longer periods.
- Don’t get frustrated. There are other options. Rely on your support system and contact a lactation consultant.