Breastfeeding. It’s hard.

Before I even begin this post on breastfeeding I want to make something VERY clear. This post is, by no means, meant to shame anyone who does not breastfeed their babies. Remember, that’s the whole point of this blog. This is a 100% shame free, guilt free zone. This is simply about my own personal breastfeeding journey thus far, and the tips and tricks that have gotten me to this point. Babies with full bellies are the best kind.

Formula does not make you a bad mom.

With that being said, there are some definite benefits to breastfeeding your baby. Benefits for you, benefits for baby, benefits for your family budget, and benefits for dad….the list goes on.

Some fun facts about breastfeeding:

  • A nursing baby’s saliva communicates with a mother’s immune system to help manufacture specific antibodies that aid in recovery from illness. AKA immune system magic.
  • Breastfeeding can save between $1,200 and $1,500 in formula related expenses in the first 12 months of life. MY goal is to breastfeed long enough to earn a boob job….
  • Breastfeeding releases a certain hormone that helps the uterus shrink back to its proper size.
  • Breastmilk contains substances that promote sleep and calmness in babies. Yes please. I’ll take ANYTHING that promotes sleep for my babies. I don’t care if it is unicorn blood, just make the babies sleep.

Before I had a baby I knew I wanted to breastfeed. It seemed like the “natural” thing to do. And while it is definitely natural, and what our bodies were made to do, it did not come quite so naturally to me.

I remember that first moment they handed baby Hixon to me (after that HELL of a birth experience…) I had watched several YouTube videos where the baby just crawls right over to the boob and latches on.

Uuuummm not what happened. I realized so quickly that I had NO IDEA what in the hell I was supposed to do. Do I just smush his face to my nipple? Does he even know how to open his mouth? Will I just start squirting milk out?  Of course my midwife had told me to read “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” but I had been too busy growing a human and reading about how to get said baby OUT of me. Luckily I had my midwife to really instruct me on what to do and help us get started. I’m not sure how any woman gets started on this whole mom train without a midwife. :: Props to y’all! ::

Then my midwife went home and we were at the hospital alone. Well sort of alone. There were nurses there of course and they offered a little help, but I still felt totally lost. (This is NOT meant to bash any nurses. Just the one that was there that first night.) When I would call for help because Hixon would latch and unlatch and continue to SCREAM, I felt something must be wrong. He had a good case of jaundice so I felt so much pressure to get him to eat and poop so that we didn’t need light therapy. The nurse that was there with us that night did not offer a whole lot of help, just kept saying that his latch looked “ok” and she didn’t know why he was still crying. Cool, thanks lady. Finally around 2AM (after having been in labor and pushed a baby out for over 12 hours total that day) the nurse offered some donor milk and I was desperate for a nap. Hixon took the bottle like a champ, and I cried myself to sleep.

I felt like I was already failing my child just a few hours into his life. How could I be so terrible at something that was supposed to be “natural” to all moms?

Can we just touch on that for a minute? Here I was, less than 24 hours into being a mom and the mom guilt had already hit me full force. Why do we do that to ourselves? We are WAY too hard on ourselves and each other.

Back to breastfeeding. The next nurse that came on shift was TOTALLY different and immediately started offering solutions. Finally we found what worked.

We needed a nipple shield. I didn’t know why at the time, but Hixon almost immediately started eating and it worked like a charm. (Turns out Hixon had a major tongue and lip tie. I’ll write a whole post on that at some point. Long story short. Get a professional to check your baby for this. Don’t wait. Catch it early and it’ll make your life soooo much easier.)

I tell this story to shed some light on the whole “breastfeeding is so natural” myth. It is natural in the sense that your body was made to feed a baby. But y’all. It’s hard. Really hard. It can make even the strongest of women cry all the tears.

Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I have ever done. Harder than giving birth. When you’re in labor you know that at some point it will be over. They will get that baby out. With breastfeeding, sometimes it seems like it will never end. It seems like it will never get any easier. Let’s say your goal is to breastfeed for the first year. If you’re already miserable the first two weeks, 12 months seems like FOREVER.

Things I was NOT ready for when it comes to breastfeeding:

  1. No matter how good your baby’s latch, nursing that little vacuum will hurt at first. Even with baby number two, it hurt sooooo much for the first few weeks. Your nipples will feel like they are going to fall off. At some point you might look down and wonder how such a cute, tiny little mouth can cause so much pain. Never fear friends, those nips will get stronger. Industrial strength nipples. I promise. I always tell new moms the pain goes away. First, it will get to where it only hurts for the first few seconds after baby latches, instead of hurting the whole time. Then it will go away completely (until they get teeth. But, never fear, you can work through that as well if you want to) If it doesn’t stop hurting, seek help. Professional help.
  2. Nursing can seem so time consuming in the beginning. Remember you and baby are both trying to figure this whole thing out. It will feel like nursing the baby is ALL YOU DO and that’s most likely true. Baby’s bellies are teeny tiny and breast milk is super easy for them to digest (hence why it’s so good for them…) so they are hungry often. If they are crying, offer them the boob. 9 times out of 10 it’s what they need. Just keep telling yourself this is a phase. I mean I have never seen a kid go to Kindergarten still needing to nurse every hour.
  3. At some point you will be SO SO SO SO relieved that you don’t have to “make a bottle.” I know it seems crazy. But there are moments where I am glad I can literally take my boob out and feed my kid. Toting snacks around for my toddler seriously seems like such a burden. Once you get comfortable nursing in public, freedom.
  4. There will most definitely be a moment where you look at your significant other and wonder what in the hell they are good for. Nursing a baby in the middle of the night while your husband snores will make you bat shit crazy. It’s annoying that he is asleep. But it’s even more annoying when he is awake, staring at you. Useless nipples, go back to sleep. Its ok, we all go through it. UNLESS your significant other happens to also be a female. Then congrats, you’re a damn genius.

All that being said, breastfeeding is something most of us CAN do with the right support. So I collected some advice from real mamas. Mamas who have fought the hard fight and survived.

  1. Milk is supply and demand. The more you nurse, the more milk your body will make. Offer that baby the nip as often as you can.
  2. ALL. THE. SNACKS. Breastfeeding burns calories. I have told my husband some days I am NEVER full. I could eat and eat and eat. As long as you are consuming good, healthy calories, KEEP EATING. You are literally eating for two now. Keep snacks by the bed. In your bag. In the living room. Just have snacks stashed everywhere.
  3. Water. Water. Water. Drink the water. Anytime I feel a dip in my supply, it is directly related to a dip in my water intake. Chug the water. And then chug some more.
  4. Find a nursing cover that works for you. Being comfortable nursing in public will be a game changer.
  5. Two-shirt method. The absolute best thing for nursing in public. Under any shirt I wear, I always have on a tank with super stretchy spaghetti straps. Regular shirt up, tank down, baby on boob. Even without a cover, once baby is latched, all your audience can see is the back of baby’s head and maybe some side boob, but that’s in now right?
  6. Do not compare your journey to anyone else’s. We are all different. All our babies are different. It’s called being human and it’s ok.
  7. Feeding your baby is important, but so is your mental health. Try all the things, but don’t kill yourself in the process. Always remember you can’t pour from an empty cup.
  8. Start with small goals. Telling yourself you still have 12 months to go will be so defeating. I would give myself the shortest goals. Example: “If I can just make it through the night, we will rethink our plan of action in the morning.” Just take it one day at a time.
  9. Expect to just have your boobs out at all times for several weeks. Tank tops that stretch are your friend. Don’t even attempt a real bra.
  10. Don’t be afraid of your pump. Pumping = date night. And pump on a regular schedule while you’re at work. (Remember, supply and demand.)

My all-time favorite pieces of advice:

  1. Surround yourself with support. You’ll need it. If you’re constantly hearing reasons to quit, you’ll quit. You will need some cheerleaders.
  2. Give yourself grace and don’t feel bad if you don’t love it all the time. There will be some real moments where you hate it. You’re normal. Call those cheerleaders in these moments.
  3. If breastfeeding is something that is important to you, do whatever you need to do to make it work. Seek help. Friends who have done it, lactation consultants, pinterest, google…there are so many tricks you might not have tried yet. Never quit on a bad day.
  4. When in doubt, whip it out. Your breasts are magical and deserve an award of some sort. 

You got thus mama.

Kisses,

Mama Darnell

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