“Are you still nursing?” “How do you do it?” These were my co-workers questions when Little W got her first two teeth. This was over 6 months ago.
The First Test: Starting Out
I was someone who knew from the beginning that I would nurse. I knew that the body was made to do it for a reason. I knew that it was a two way street – as it helped the mother heal and balance out just as much as it gave the proper set of nutrients for the babe. There was no way I was going to formula feed. But – even with that mind set – I had a struggle with the first two weeks nursing. And with hormones blazing, I FULLY understand why some mothers who really weren’t violently put off of the idea of formula feeding decide to go that route in the thick of it all. If I could recommend one book for all expectant mothers it would be The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I read it while I was still pregnant and it has so much information you will be on overload. It breaks down the composition of breast milk for you and explains everything you would want to know about something you will be doing for quite awhile!
But all the books can not prepare you for the issues you might face nursing in the first few days. My midwife made sure Little W nursed within the first 30 minutes after being caught, but after that she just asked how things were going at her next few check ups and that was it. I thought I had the right latch from the beginning – I assumed so because it seemed to be working. It hurt, but I also assumed that it was just the initial hurting from being over sensitive and I would adapt. Well I did not. Along with the other healing that takes place, my hormones were everywhere attempting to balance myself back out and I was loathing the thought of nursing. My baby was so small and I was so large at this point that I had no idea to even tell if the latch was right. I started pumping a few days later just to keep the engorgement under control. Now I know that I was so engorged because Little W was not latching properly so she was not getting as much as she could. It also was messing with my let-down reflex because she was not hitting the right spots to tell my body to make more milk. So as I was trying to balance this nursing thing out, I wasn’t doing it as well as I could have and therefore it was a circle of issues.
I was nursing on demand which really regulated my milk flow (supply-demand) but also meant I was nursing in pain very frequently. I ended up with sores on both sides and had to pump through the pain. My midwife suggested that I actually use breast milk as a topical ointment (so to speak) on these sores to help them heal. It worked wonderfully and I did heal quickly. At one point I was pumping on one side because I could not nurse at all there and I was nursing on the other. Little W took bottles of pumped milk alright the second week of her life. At this point I was seriously considering pumping full time. And there are mothers who do it successfully. That is how much I disliked nursing. But it was somewhere between waking up at 2 and 4am to go into the living room and pump, getting sick, and sitting in the tub crying out to God thinking that I have to be able to do this where it happened. I thought – if I was not as stubborn as a mule and set on nursing, I would give up right now. For real.
My hormones were in control of me and I did not like it. I realized this in the tub one night about a week after Little W’s birth. I was thinking about how much I would hate getting up to nurse Little W in a second. It was going to hurt. And I already hurt in other places. I was tired, I was healing, I was a mess inside. I had taken one shower since the birth and it hurt like none other when I went to the bathroom. I was letting my hormones put me in a bad place. And I said to myself, “that is enough”. I talked to God in the tub about my issues. I closed my eyes, got under the water, and softened up. I asked for help. I told Him there was no way I could do this by myself. I pleaded that this next nursing time go better. That she would latch on without so much pain. That I could sleep alright with an ice pack between my thighs and not wince as I turned to my side. I hit the bottom and was looking up. I came for air and already felt better because I was not holding onto my burden alone anymore – and I had the control over my hormones. That was the turn around. I went online the next day and saw pictures of how to tell if you have the right latch. I practiced with my little babe. We got it right sometimes and sometimes I could tell we got it wrong. When it was right it was marvelous. When it was wrong it hurt exactly like it had before. That is when I knew I was just doing it wrong, that I could do it right, and that it was going to get better.
After you have your babe the next few weeks seem like they take forever. But once you heal, you are yourself. Once you take regular showers and drive to the store and go out for a stroll just you and your babe, you forget those two weeks of healing. As for nursing, I remember sitting in our living room a few weeks after her birth nursing Little W with no problems.
I said to my husband, “I can’t believe this used to hurt.”
I said to myself, “I can’t believe I almost gave up on this.”
Mothers who chose to formula feed your babes, stick with me here. I have been through the thick of it as many of you have, which lead to your choice. I know the struggles. We all want what is best for our babes, and I will not skirt the benefits of breast milk. I know that as women we need to be able to search out the truth to make the best decisions for our children, and that is all I am wanting to do here. I want to be honest about the struggles, the benefits, and the effect that nursing will have on your life. If you are blessed with another child I would only want you to know the truth, and to know that you have support in me with whatever choice you make – just own your choice. There is little worse than a choice made based on lies, so let us learn and grow together. You will always be welcome here.