I know that breastfeeding, formula use, and pumping can bring out the most passionate of mommy wars.
I mean, we all want what’s best for our babies and family so, of course there will be strong opinions on this topic.
I’ve done all three (with the same baby, too!) . I would love to share my experience and tips with you if you would like to breastfeed your baby but are struggling right now.
Hopefully my story will make your experience a little easier or help you feel better about your journey.
While I was pregnant, many people tried to tell me how hard breastfeeding is.
My favorite? Breastfeeding is natural but it doesn’t come naturally.
Truer words were never spoken!
See, your baby has to learn and you have to learn how best to help them.
It seems like it would be so easy, right?
When Little Miss was born by C-section at 36 1/2 weeks, neither of us knew what we were doing. We had help from several lactation consultants in the hospital. I had bought all the breastfeeding “gear” I thought I would need.
But it was so painful!
There was cracking and pain at each feeding. It was to the point that I dreaded the next feeding before I had even finished the first one!
The youngest lactation consultant at the hospital felt around and mentioned that Little Miss might have a tongue and lip tie. I had heard about this from a friend whose baby had one but hadn’t really looked into it because, surely we wouldn’t have that issue…ha!
On top of all of this, there was the added pressure of blood sugar levels. Little Miss wasn’t getting enough milk to keep her levels in the normal range.
The nurse gave us the ultimatum from the doctor: supplement each breastfeeding session with formula (since my milk hadn’t come in yet and I wasn’t able to pump anything) or our Little Miss would be sent up to the NICU.
Even though I hadn’t planned on supplementing with formula (I had planned on being a purist for breastmilk), you better believe that I grabbed that bottle of formula every time!
Her blood sugar levels stabilized, she gained back some weight, and we were all able to go home together. Lactation sent me home with a nipple shield, supplemental nursing system, and their helpline.
At home, there were many tears and frustrated feedings.
I started looking into tongue and lip ties (more on that here). So we took our sweet baby for evaluation and eventually had the procedure to release them at the ripe old age of 2 weeks!
We saw another lactation consultant who specialized in working with moms and babies with ties, got some new nipple shields and the reassurance that things would get better as our tiny newborn grew.
To my surprise, they did!
It always seems that the struggles of having a new baby will last forever, but they don’t.
Eventually I was able to stop supplementing with my pumped milk. Then, one day, we were able to start nursing without a shield, with no pain! It was glorious.
I finally understood why all those moms at our local La Leche meetings loved breastfeeding.
It had become so easy!
No more bottles to lug around or sanitize. No more getting up in the middle of the night to warm a bottle.
I finally got it.
Up until that point, breastfeeding had been such a struggle that I couldn’t even imagine how moms stuck it out. I had wanted to give up so many times.
And, to be honest, there were times that I did give up.
I just couldn’t do it, so she got a bottle. But then, I would pull myself together and try again.
I even went 24 hours once with bottles of pumped milk and formula because I just needed a breather.
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, here are my tips:
- Find your local La Leche League – They can provide lists of local providers (lactation consultants, doctors, etc.) as well as support from other moms. I’ve learned some of the best breastfeeding (and life) tips from other moms at these groups. I’ve also made some great mom friends. Whatever your breastfeeding journey looks like, they can help.
- Give yourself some grace – Breastfeeding is hard and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s ok to give yourself a break if you need to and give that baby a bottle! If you’re stressed your baby will be too. This will make your nursing session attempt even more difficult.
- Take some time for some self-care – Maybe this is just a hot bath, a cup of tea, or a favorite Netflix show. Do something that makes you feel good and helps you relax. Being a new mom is tough so be kind to yourself!
- Find a support person – Find someone that is going to be your cheerleader. Someone who will help get you through those days and nights when you just don’t have the power to be that for yourself. I was lucky that this person was my husband, but if you’re partner can’t be that for you, find someone who can.
- Download our FREE Feeding Station Checklist – Set yourself up for success by creating a functional place to feed your baby. The last thing you want to do is sit down to feed your hungry baby and realize that you forgot something. If you have everything right there at your fingertips it will make for a much more relaxed mamma!
- Have patience – Often problems will resolve on their own as your baby grows. So be patient, feed that baby however you need to, and know that you’re the best mamma to your baby!