The breastfeeding post.

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I’ve been sitting on this piece for months now. I’m hesitant to write about breastfeeding for fear of dividing women or offending those who haven’t been able to nurse their babies successfully. Hear me say this loud and clear – the way you choose to feed your baby is just that… a choice! And I support it. That said, I feel that I am at a place in my life where I can speak to moms who want to commit to breastfeeding. I’ve been there. I’ve been all over.

I’ve given my babies my friends’ milk when mine refused to come in. I’ve sat on toilets to nurse and pump, tears flowing because the milk wouldn’t. I’ve drunk the tea. I’ve drunk the water. I’ve eaten the oatmeal. I’ve eaten the cookies. I’ve treated myself and my babies for yeast and thrush over and over. I’ve cracked and bled and cursed. I’ve threatened to stop nursing my babies at ten weeks, and I’ve threatened to nurse my babies until they’re ten years old.

I also breastfed my son to twelve months and my twins to sixteen, while working full-time and tending to a growing family. I’m in a good place with my current nursling, and I figured it might be time to share a few tips that have worked well for me. If this is a trigger post for some of you, no worries! I’m not offended. Skip right on through and come back another day. Again, I’m writing this from a place of support and encouragement, okay? So here we go.

Breastfeeding hurts at first. Whoever told you it shouldn’t, shouldn’t have. Babies must learn, and mamas must learn. It will become easier and more comfortable once you’ve been doing it for several weeks. But there is nothing easy or comfortable about the beginning. You will find little tricks that make things more bearable. But regardless, no matter how many babies you’ve had or how perfect the latch is, it will hurt. I found a very easy solution for this. I just sucked it up. I gritted my teeth, I dug my toes into the carpet, and I went for it. Setting the bar low made things easier. Try committing to one month of breastfeeding. Most of the time, moms report relief much earlier than this. But I remember hitting one month with all four of my babies and celebrating. I remember looking at the date, taking a deep breath, and smiling at how much easier and more comfortable nursing had become.

Next, your milk might take a long time to come in. With one of my babies, it was a full seven days. Seven. I nursed every two hours those first few days, though nothing came out. So I followed each session with a bottle of my friend’s breastmilk. When my milk actually arrived, it came in like a stealth bomber. No swelling, no pain, no tingling. Just white stuff dribbling down my son’s chin. Weird, right? It can’t all be like the textbooks, folks.

Speaking of textbooks, get some. I think mamas could benefit taking more responsibility in this department. I feel like a lot of us go through our pregnancies without too much prep work. We make decisions about baby gear and baby names and baby sleeping arrangements, and we just assume that the breastfeeding part will come easily. It doesn’t. It may be natural, but it’s probably the hardest part of the newborn stage. Make it a point to spend a week doing some serious research. Don’t listen to your friend or your mom or your mother-in-law for a few days. Just dig in to the literature. Learn about terms like foremilk and hindmilk. I still refer to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and KellyMom when I have a question or concern.

I’ve written about this before, but moms… you should really consider covering up your clocks at the beginning. Stop counting hours between and hours before and hours after. Stop keeping track of the side last nursed. You don’t need the bracelets or the iPhone apps as much as you might think. I’ve done this both ways, and I must admit my method with Hadassah has left me far more peaceful and content. When she seems hungry, I feed her. I don’t worry about training her to go longer, and I don’t waste time trying to pacify her with other things. I just stop what I’m doing and I feed her. The other day, she started wailing as soon as I pulled into the driveway from church. The old me would have dragged all four little kids out of the truck and into the house. The old me would have shushed the baby with one hand and tossed lunch on plates for the toddlers with the other, trying to keep the foul language at bay and reminding myself that these kids are in fact blessings. This time, I just let the pigs play in the yard for twenty minutes while I nursed Haddie Lee in the driver’s seat. Everyone seemed much happier with this plan. When I can’t remember which side I last nursed, or how long it’s been, I just bounce each breast in my hand. Too much? Believe me, it’s silly. My husband and coworkers both have called me out on it, but it works.

Lastly, find your support!

Buy the things that work. I would be a wet mess without my nursing pads. This is the first time I’ve used Bamboobies, and it’s also the first time I’ve avoided yeast and thrush. I can’t praise them enough. Use KIPA20 for a 20% discount through the end of the year! I’m also a staunch support of nipple shields. From my experience, you will not spoil your baby or ruin your breastfeeding experience by using things that make it easier. Ask for these things as baby shower gifts, if you need to. Get the things that work, and get them within your reach before your baby ever arrives.

Reach out to the women who help. I avoid conversations with moms who snub their noses at pacifiers, because I need those things in my life. I high-five moms who encourage whatever sleeping arrangement works for the entire family’s sake. At the same time, it’s become very sweet to surround myself with friends who support without caring too much. Some of my biggest cheerleaders have been women who don’t breastfeed, or women who don’t even have children. Don’t let it get more important than the baby, okay?

Tell the man in your life exactly how you’re feeling and how you envision his role. My husband has always been the nighttime diaper changer. I might be awake, battling the dark night and the dark feelings, but I know he’s just an elbow nudge away. He hops right up to change babies and swaddle them back to sleep. I cannot emphasize how important that teamwork is. And for those of you who have been around this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about both parents being up at night. It’s absolutely vital for my own sanity and marriage. Regardless of which one of us has to get up earliest or work hardest the next day, we are both committed to putting forth effort in the middle of the night. I really can’t speak to that enough. Oh, and for the love… Learn how to nurse lying down!

This very may well be the last breastfeeding post I ever write, and I want to serve that community well. But I also feel that women have allowed these topics to get far too heated and divisive, and I want to do my part to fight that. Mama… no matter how you feed your baby today, I support you. You’re doing a great work.

22 thoughts on “The breastfeeding post.”

  1. Love, Love, Love this post!
    I had major feeding issues with my first daughter (tongue tie, latch issues, low supply issues) but we battled our way to 16 months… and that is what it felt like for me battle. Currently our new little one is 8 weeks and is an amazing nursling!

  2. Thanks for an amazing post! Loved every word. I’ve been guilty of the boob bounce; even finding myself doing it in public accidentally. Oops!

  3. Loved this post so much. I quit nursing early on with the first two kids for different reasons, but am really excited for a fresh start with Baby #3 and trying it again. Now, do you have a list of items that helped make breastfeeding easier for you? The tea? The nipple cream? What do you recommend? I’ll be looking into the Bamboobies!

  4. Thank you for this post – it was encouraging and I’ll definitely be passing it along to some of my new mama friends – I think you offer some great points!

  5. This was a great post :) I think one of the biggest myths about nursing is that if your’e doing it right, it won’t hurt! As an LC, what I tell clients is that, soreness in the beginning in normal. For some mamas (and it seems to mostly be fair skinned mamas), its going to go BEYOND sore. The way to tell tho, if its normal “nipple adjusting soreness” or “get thee to an LC for latch issues” soreness is whether it hurts the *whole* time you’re nursing (quick! call an LC or LLL!) or if it hurts LIKE A BEAR as baby latches but it tapers off and becomes less foot stomping and more manageable after that initial latching (sorry, thats just normal sore!) Because pain *can* mean something is up. But it can also just be an adjustment.

    Also, as an LC, i have to say – don’t just automatically use a nipple shield! Please! They are great tools *when used properly*! But if not, they can lead to supply issues (not getting good enough latch with it on, so enough milk isn’t being drained) or latch trouble (b/c a lazy nurse threw a shield at mama in stead of making sure baby was on there properly to begin with) if there isn’t a plan to “wean off it” if that makes sense. I’ve seen them make worlds of difference but I’ve also seen mamas really struggle to stop using them too. They should be a tool not a default, if that makes sense.

  6. Love this! I breasted tindra for 11.5 months (she self weened) and I had to use a nipple shield the whole time. Maybe we could have tried weaning from it but it was working so well so I didn’t push it

  7. This is super encouraging for so many reasons, thanks Rachael. Definitely going to look into the breast pads – how many sets do you have to make the re-usable ones work with laundry and such?

    1. I’ve been able to make it work with maybe… a 3-4 pairs? I was them after two uses, or if they’re saturated.

  8. Excellent advice. You are completely right on all counts. I discovered all this after a fraught breastfeeding relationship with my little boy. The pain, the boob bounce, the breast shields, the myths versus what actually works. I think knowing when to hold, and knowing when to fold and having the self-assurance to make that choice is important too. If at any point breastfeeding becomes unsustainable, emotionally or physically for mum or bub, there’s empowerment in choosing other feeding methods. I have to say that when it eventually dawned on me that my big, perfectly healthy baby with no latch or tongue-tie issues simply did not want to breastfeed… our lives together got so much better. I fed him breastmilk and formula from bottles and everyone became relaxed and happy.

  9. This is one if the best breastfeeding posts I’ve seen! Fortunately, it came easy for me. No pain, thrush, mastitis, etcetera. We are sixteen months in with no end in sight, but I know things might be different with number two. You give great advice to women who are struggling. Thank you!

  10. What a great post, Rachel. I only wish I could have read this back in May, before my first was born.. and had your encouragement that it would get better. Luckily I did trudge through and am still breastfeeding my now 6 month old – and it’s gotten better (SO much better!).

  11. Yup. Love every honest word that your fingers typed out. Us mommas’ have to listen to our instincts, grow from our mistakes and refine ourselves for future babies. Lord willing, I am blessed with more! I was surely a mom who looked at the clock and timed each side, called the peditirician in tears etc… and now, looking back i just needed to let go and be confident in myself. it was a season. i surely grew from it! and will be refined for the next blessing.

    thanks for this love.

    meg

  12. Hi there, just now stumbling across this great post! I actually wrote a similar one recently, but in list form {http://sarahmkeller.blogspot.com/2013/11/ten-things-on-breastfeeding.html}.

    Anyway, you and I basically started with the EXACT same thing- it hurts! And I really don’t think there’s any way around it! Glad to hear there’s a consensus on this :-)

  13. I laughed so hard on the breast bouncing to figure out which side is fuller. I did the same thing. In fact, it kind of became habit because I would do that to test whether I should pump before the next feeding to avoid getting engorged (I was a cow). Every now and then, I still find myself absentmindedly checking them and I haven’t breastfed for almost 3 1/2 years.

  14. I’ve been breastfeeding for two weeks today. My princess was in the NICU for the first few days of her life, so I had to pump and take her the milk and they also gave her formula. Her blood glucose level was 19 when she was born so we didn’t have time to wait on my milk to come in. She needed to eat, and fast. I was afraid she wouldn’t want my milk by the same it came in, but she latched on perfectly the first time she tried and just as easily five days later once I was able to try to nurse her in the NICU. Since being home, she’s a pro. She drinks so much that I hardly have time to pump anymore. Anyway, thanks for this post because it was encouraging in the sense of not stressing over doing it the way everyone else does.

    …random…giving your child someone else’s milk is okay? I’m sure you’re children are all doing just fine, I’ve just never heard of doing that.

    xoxo

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