When preparing for the arrival of my baby I got informed about the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby and the new mum, so I was aware that:
- breast milk contains antibodies that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria
- breastfeeding lowers the baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies
- babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and diarrhea
- breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions, such as type I diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease
- “Breast milk contains 20 calories per ounce. If you feed your baby 20 ounces a day, that’s 400 calories you’ve swept out of your body.” Source here.
- It’s cheap and easy. Just pull up your shirt and nurse! (Ha, Ha!!!)
It got me from “a healthier baby”! It sounds like an incredible blessing, doesn’t it? So, I turned into an inexperienced breastfeeding expert, just like those people who had never had children and write books about baby sleep training (ridiculous)! I kept telling everyone around me how I was going to nurse my child on demand for as long as he needed and how amazing this experience was going to be for both of us! Oh, and that I would never feed him the chemicals in the formula as long as I had breasts on my chest! I even said the milk supply came from the mother’s brain power! (Sorry, ladies!) I seriously needed a reality check and a slap!
By the way, my entire life, every time I judged someone, I ended up doing the exact same thing I was judging them for!!!! Every single time! And my world has shaken and widened every time after that! This was no exception!
In my pre-baby life, when I was dreaming about bonding with my baby and nursing I had no idea whatsoever that my nipples would bleed in order for that to happen. I had no idea breastfeeding would make me cry and sweat because of the pain! I was well informed about labour and childbirth but little did I know how difficult the breastfeeding was going to be!
Right after I delivered my beautiful baby boy and I had him on my chest, I lovingly guided him towards my breast, waiting for the magic to happen! The second he starting sucking (the nurse made sure he had a good latch), it felt like someone was sticking a thousand needles into my nipple! I asked the nurse and she assured me it was perfectly normal but again, we were in Holland, where everything is “normaal”. I suffered silently, letting the baby get the nutrients he needed, I thought! To my surprise, there was no milk! Nothing! How was that possible? The serene picture of my baby and me snuggling and nursing was starting to fade away and I was going to fight it with every cell of my body!
I mentioned in a previous post about the blood loss I had during delivery and how it forced my body to produce blood, not milk.
So when I got home with the newborn, the maternity nurse assisted me while I kept trying to breastfeed. The baby was getting very little milk. I started pumping and after 20 minutes I only expressed 5 ml of milk. Five! I could not accept what I then considered a failure! I kept feeding and pumping every 3 hours. My nipples were cracked and bleeding. I was regularly crying and pumping, crying and breastfeeding. After a few days, my baby was starting to lose weight so I had to bring on the formula. The one thing that I hated the most saved us! This doesn’t mean I gave up! I kept doing what I was doing and supplementing with formula.
I fed my baby with a syringe while he was sucking on my pinkie so he wouldn’t get nipple confusion. After a week, I was pumping out 10 ml. The maternity nurse who helped me for 10 days, asked me to decide what I was going to do further because she predicted I wasn’t going to be able to exclusively breastfeed. That statement shook me to my core! It felt like I was having a nightmare and I could not wake up! Why something that was supposed to be a blessing turned into a curse? I locked myself into the bedroom and I cried for a couple of hours. The beautiful nursing picture of my baby and me was shredding to pieces and I could not let go of it. I kept glueing it back together over and over.
I dried up my tears and I called a lactation consultant (Karen). She came to my house the next morning, undressed my baby and put him on the scale, wrote down the weight and asked me to breastfeed him. She observed me quietly and then made a few suggestions on how I could help the baby latch better, then put the baby back on the scale. He weighed 80 grammes more than before the feed. Karen explained that it was close to 80 ml of milk, so my baby was drinking enough and way more than what the pump was getting out!
I’ve learned that the size of your breast does not influence your milk supply and that the amount of milk you pump out it is not the amount of milk you produce!
Karen recommended a good cream for my nipples and told me exactly I what I needed to hear: You are doing an amazing job, mama! You should be proud of yourself for going through so much pain because you want your baby to benefit from breastfeeding! Keep up the good work!
(If you are going through the same struggle, please read these words out loud to yourself! If it’s too much for you and you want to stop, that is OKAY! Don’t feel guilty! Your baby is going to grow beautifully on formula and you can still bond just the same!)
Breastfeeding kept hurting for a few more weeks but I was at peace! I knew the pain was going to go away and the picture I was longing for was going to become my reality! After 15 months, I still pull up my shirt and nurse with a smile! Cheap and easy! What a blessing!
NB: I would like to mention that I respect all parents who chose to bottle feed their babies and I am grateful for the formula! Every story is different and every mother has her struggles! We all chose what is best for us and what works best for our situation! This was my story, I had great support, and for me, it was worth the pain!
Here is an article that says some studies praising breastfeeding and its benefits are made up. 🙂