As they say, breast is best. Don’t let this force you into making a decision that isn’t right for you or making you feel like a bad mother if you are unable to breastfeed. It happens every day, and if you tried and didn’t succeed, at least you tried. I’m not going to say formula is just as good as breastmilk, because it isn’t. What I will say is that your baby will get everything he or she needs if that’s the route you choose or need to go and the added bonus: a bit more freedom and peace of mind.
Let’s face it, breastfeeding is hard, painful and not always convenient. No two people have the same experience with it but the wonderful thing about today’s world of technology is we don’t have to rely on superstitious old world advice or awkward conversations if we don’t want to. Doctors and lactation consultants are so much more versed in this subject and there is an entire world of moms online to give advice and support if needed. Everyone needs help sometimes!
The following is my search for help.
When I had my daughter I was desperate to breastfeed her. I had done my research and decided that was what was best for her. Trust me, I thought about just formula feeding and looking back it would have been easier but knowing me, I would have felt so guilty later for no other reason than not even trying. That’s a big thing with me.
Even through all my research I had it in my head that this was going to be some kind of movie scene and everything would just do its job. Not so. It was painful, there was blood, and my experience with the lactation consultant was less than desirable. This was not what I expected, even though I had read as much. They told me that the reason this wasn’t the storybook scene with birds on my shoulder and Bambi popping out of nowhere was that my daughter couldn’t get a proper latch because of tongue-tie. And in the back no less. (I, being drugged and tired from C-section pain, had zero brain cells left over to figure out that this was stupid. Later my pediatrician commented that he didn’t even think that it was possible to be tongue-tie in the rear of the mouth.) The consultant said she would need a laser surgery to fix it. As desperate as I was to make breastfeeding work, I was not ready to stick a laser in the mouth of my little-more-than-day old baby. So, a bit dejected, I went home thinking I would just have to pump and never have that special bond and time only she and I could have.
But I kept trying. God bless my husband for putting up with the tears and the frustration. Finally, one night I was burping her after feeding her a bottle and it just happened. Bambi showed up, birds chirped, and raccoons did the dishes. I was a happy Mom. I could not have succeeded if it weren’t for my husband’s patience and support and my mother and father’s prodding and reassurance. Thanks guys.
But the pain stayed for a while and other problems happened. I had to learn how to deal with that pain, the clogged ducts and low supply. And no I hope that if anyone else has this problem they can learn from my trial and error.
For nipple pain:
Try Honest Co.’s natural nipple butter. I love it because there was nothing in it that would hurt my baby and I didn’t have to worry about wiping it off before feeding her, which to me, just did not sound pleasant when you have trouble just wearing a shirt. Speaking of which:
Sleep shirtless!! Expert tip from my mother of five! I still do it even though I don’t have pain anymore. It took some getting used to because I had never done that before, but can’t argue with the results. It gave my nipples some much-needed time away from the friction of my shirt and aired them out so they could heal. I tried the cooling gel pads and they helped when initially applied but after that, I think they might be better used for engorgement pain.
Pump, pump, pump. This will help with the pain of being too full and help your supply to come in faster. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. The more your baby suckles and eats, the more milk you will have! Freeze and save for later! I figured once my supply was in and the breastfeeding was down pat, I didn’t need it my pump anymore until I went to work. Wrong again! I wish I could go back and let her suckle as long as she wanted and pump after. But I had stuff to do. Nothing is more important than feeding your baby. The dishes can wait, order in dinner and have a little nursing vacation until the baby is full or sleeping, then pump after this is why they call it MATERNITY LEAVE, so you can take care of your baby. Another perk of pumping is getting your nipples used to taking that kind of abuse. Sometimes, it just takes time.
For Clogged Ducts:
You will wish for labor pains. They are terrible. There is nothing worse than having a hungry baby and a clogged duct. And I mean nothing! Unfortunately the only thing you can do here is hot/cold compress and let the baby nurse. Sounds like medieval torture, I know, but that is honestly the best way to fix it. And if it’s bad enough, you will know pretty much right away when it’s fixed because the pain will literally just disappear.
For Low Supply:
PUMP! – There is a roaming theory out that 10 mins on the pump and ten mins off will really help. I have not tried it yet but intend to. I find that staying on about 30 mins drains well, but on the other hand while I’m at work that’s all the choice I get. You’ll find what works best for you. But do not ignore this big step in maintaining or increasing your supply.
Lactation Smoothies! (Yum!) – Find some fruits and veggies and make yourself a smoothie! Add a tablespoon of Brewer’s Yeast, about a 1/3 cup rolled oats and some flax seed. These are all ingredients that will help milk supply, but as always, check with your doctor first. You may have an allergy or sensitivity you are not aware of.
Fenugreek Supplements – There are a number of other supplements out there that are supposed to do a lot of good in this area. I say this because while this may work, Fenugreek can or may amke babies fussy and gassy. I had a great experience with it and it didn’t seem to do much to make daughter fussier. There are a number of others out there if it does seem to have an effect on yours, but check with your doctor as well. Popular galactagogic herbs include blessed thistle, fennel seed, nettle and alfalfa. For the love of all that is holy stay away from mint. This includes teas, mints, gums, anything peppermint. Spearmint is supposed to be bad too, but not nearly as detrimental as peppermint. This is something I wish they had advertised in the hospital. I was downing mints like, well…candy and had no idea why my supply was decreasing. Low and behold, I stumbled on that tidbit. Apparently peppermint tea is a popular go-to when you are weaning and want you supply to dry up, so just stay away from it. At least for now.
Herbal Teas and lots of water – My favorite and the one I find woks the best is Mother’s Milk by Traditional Medicinal. I’ve tried others but this seems to work the best! Drink as much water as you can and try to drink it while you are pumping/feeding or right after. I drink something warm while feeding or pumping as this seems to encourage let down, then drink water right after. Either way, try to get in about 64oz of just water a day. Everything else is extra. Your body will need more fluid intake to keep up with all of a sudden losing so much every couple of hours, so try not to waiver on this one.
Stop stressing about it!! – Seriously, I know it’s difficult and you will think about it every time you pump or feed but try not to. This is what will really hurt you. Relax; sometimes menstrual hormones can drop your supply by nearly half. If you don’t know this is coming, it can freak you out. 99% of the time if you keep up with it, it will go right back up once Flo goes back to her fiery chasm. If it does not, regardless of the reason, just know that you tried and gave it your all. Every drop that you give your child is worth the headache and they are better for it.
All of this is intended to help you endure the breastfeeding months as informed as possible and with the right motivation to keep going. It will be hard and painful at times, but a happy healthy baby is worth every moment.
Keep truckin’ Mommies. J
Stephanie, Co-owner of Here Comes Baby Boutique