It’s world breastfeeding week! Breast vs. bottle is a debate that has been going on since the introduction of formula in the ‘40s. I don’t think anyone could argue against the mantra “breast is best”, but formula isn’t poison as many “nursing nazis” may tout. I was formula fed, as well as all my siblings, and we are doing just fine. I have no judgement toward people who choose to formula feed. That being said, I think when many people say they didn’t make enough milk, or some other such reason, it is usually due to a lack of support and knowledge on the part of the nursing staff at the hospital. I feel bad for those moms who really wanted to breastfeed, but didn’t know how to go about it.
I was lucky enough to deliver in South Nassau Communities Hospital, which is working toward a “Baby Friendly” designation. A Baby Friendly hospital is one in which the nurses and staff are specifically trained in and support breastfeeding after delivery. I took a class (yes, and my hubs came too!) where we practiced holds and learned latching techniques. There was a lactation consultant at the hospital every day to help with latching and any issues, and the baby was allowed to room in with us. Our pediatrician also has a lactation consultant on call. All of these things were ESSENTIAL to my success in breastfeeding.
My Breastfeeding Struggles
When Miss Bea was born, I had already decided I was going to “try” breastfeeding. I was adamant that I was going to give it a fair shot. I made sure the staff at the hospital knew of my decision, and she was not to be given a pacifier or bottle. I knew, from my class, that babies’ tummies are very small (the size of a dime) and can only hold less than a teaspoon at a time, so they DO NOT need any supplementation with formula until your milk comes in in a couple of days. I felt as though I was struggling with her latch though. It was a little painful, and I couldn’t seem to hold her correctly. The LC who taught our class (who is btw a Nursing Nazi– she nursed her last child until she was 5) was the LC on duty that day. She is crazy. But amazing at her job. I mean, I can’t even describe her. She has those crazy eyes, and crazy hair to match. A little bit like Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. She will literally do anything to get you to breastfeed successfully. When B kept falling asleep after latching, she went to my meal tray, took a plastic spoon out of the package, and squeezed my nipples (ouch!!) until she got a spoonful of “liquid gold” colostrum and fed it to the baby. She was very satisfied with herself, and the baby was full for several hours.
By the end of my hospital stay, my latching and positioning issues had been taken care of, and B was nursing successfully. However, those two days of bad latches, and weak positioning, did a number on my nipples. They were SO sore, I thought I was going to die. By the end of the first week, they were cracked, bleeding, and scabbed. (I know, gross). I was crying every time I fed her, and was coming to the end of my rope. I met with the LC back in the hospital to make sure my latch was still OK. B was still gaining weight, and everything appeared OK, it was just from those first few days and were healing. She gave me a recipe for a nipple soak (recipe at the bottom), and suggested I give a bottle of pumped milk once a day to give the boobs a break.
That LC saved me from giving up on BF. I went out and bought bottles that resembled the breast, and pumped some milk. But I had heard stories of nipple preference, and Miss Bea was only a week old, so I martyred myself to the cause and fed through the indescribable pain. I followed the orders and soaked my nipples for 5 minutes after every feed, and I noticed a difference in literally 24 hours. They were starting to heal!!! I also HIGHLY recommend Medela Hydrogel Pads. They are these gel pads that are SO soothing in between feeds. I would not have been able to continue BF without the soak and those pads. But I am so glad I got through it!
A week later, I started getting these shooting pains in my back when the baby was sucking. I asked Dr. Google what it could be, and I didn’t think it was thrush (I asked my aunt who is a nurse), but I self-diagnosed vasospasm. Dr. Google said if I took a vitamin B supplement, and an advil, it would help. And it did! Yay! hurdle #2 jumped.
Since then, I have been breastfeeding successfully (nearly 6 months!) and have reached my goal. People keep asking me how long I plan on nursing. Now that the 6 month mark is approaching, I’m not ready to wean her to the bottle completely. The reason, honestly, is sheer laziness. It is just so much easier to whip a boob out if I think she’s hungry than to prep and heat a bottle. When she wakes up at night for a feed, I don’t want to be coming downstairs to get a bottle while she screams and wakes up even more. I can feed her for a few minutes and get her back down without her waking.
I hope that my story can help others overcome difficulties in breastfeeding. It does get easier!! The first few weeks are absolutely the toughest, but moms are made of tougher stuff! Surround yourself with people who support your decision, and you will succeed.
Nipple Soak Recipe
- 1 Tbsp table salt
- 1 C of warm water
After feeding, dissolve salt in the water. Soak nipples for 5 minutes. Pat dry. Express a little breastmilk, and let that air dry. Then, apply lanolin cream. Do it after every feed for a couple of days, and you’ll see improvement.