Unexpected challenges of breastfeeding that no one is telling you about…
Breast feeding, probably the hardest thing I had to do, that too for a considerable time. I know women have been doing it for ages but I didn’t realize how hard it was till I actually did it. It all started on 25th of July 2016, the fateful day when I was told I am not going home and will have the baby today. Wonderful, baby is out, now time to feed!
If you don’t know, newborns up to 1 and a half to 2 months feed every 1 and a half hours. When you first start breastfeeding, you can’t really see what’s coming out, if anything. Newborns have the stomach the size of a pea so they don’t really need much. So whether anything is coming or not, you attach the baby to your boob every 1 and a half hours! It’s painful. The baby is learning how to feed and you are learning how to attach the baby properly so it doesn’t hurt. Needless to say, as with any new thing, it takes time and practice on both sides. But till then, you are in pain, the nipples are bruised, you can be bleeding and still after 1 and a half hour, it’s time to feed again!
Couple of things helped me.
The nurses in the nursery are experts and no nonsense. So much so, that one time, she held the baby’s head in her palm and opened his mouth with the other and put it over the boob perfectly! You might be crying in pain but hey baby is latched on!
My husband. Without his support it really would have been very difficult. We had a system where we sat in front of each other on chairs. He would be ready to get me anything I asked while feeding. I used to get extremely thirsty when I breast fed. He would sit there holding a glass of ice cold water or juice or pillow or anything that I needed. It really was great and we actually felt closer than ever.
My friends. They visited in the hospital, brought a lot of food and other supplies. It really felt very nice and kept the morale up. One of my friends brought the soothing gel pads which are the best thing in the world.
Lactation consultant. She did rounds every day and would be available anytime I had a question. She had a dropper full of sucrose. She dropped a couple of drops on to the breast where the baby was so that baby would be tempted to feed. That always did the trick. Or if the baby fell asleep while feeding, she would remove his clothes so that he gets cold and wakes up. Also, she told me to massage the breasts and express a little bit of milk before feeding so that baby does not have to work too hard. She also gave me a nipple cream — Lansinoh- which healed bruised nipples. It worked wonders. I used that and put the soothing gel pads of the same company under the brassiere which provided instant relief from all the pain and soreness.
Perseverance and hard work pays. Slowly you see something transparent come out of the breast, then something yellow and then voila, something white which is the milk!
After 4 days I reached home and my husband set up the pump so that I could pump for the night so he could do some feedings at night while I get a couple of hours of sleep. I was advised by the nurses to pump once in the morning as that’s when the supply is the maximum and it also helps build the supply. I remember at one point my right one was so bruised that I could only nurse from the left one and pump from the right.
Ergonomics are very important while handling the baby. I used a b nursing pillow so I could rest the baby comfortably on it and then feed him. This prevents putting too much pressure on the hands/ palm/ wrist.
It takes 6–8 weeks to get comfortable with breast feeding. After that, it feels easy! If you make it through the first couple of weeks, you would start to see the shoreline for sure. So hang in there!
I also had my mom take care of me who made sure I was eating healthy and on time. I don’t know what I would have done without her. My husband’s younger sister also stayed with us for a couple of months and being a night owl was an immense help at nights. We were surrounded by a lot of family in the first few months which made the whole process so much more enjoyable! I am so glad my dad, sister, brother and husband’s parents were able to visit. We were also visited by a lot of extended family and friends which was a lot of fun!
We went out with family, sometimes for the whole day and I always preferred feeding pumped milk from the bottle rather than nursing in public. That way, anyone could feed and it took lesser time.
Once my maternity leave ended, I had to prepare myself to pump at work. I had to pump every 5 hours otherwise I would get uncomfortable. It is hard work to pump twice at work, get all the work done and manage expectations, come home, wash all the pumping accessories and also take care of the baby! I recommend getting a help for the evenings so that you can enjoy with the baby (babies are very entertaining) and the help can do everything else!
Hopefully my experience would give you some ideas on how to make your breastfeeding experience better or would make you realize you are already doing better than me. In that case, would love to get some tips from you!