Breast Milk is one of nature’s best gifts, the perfect food for baby loaded with all the necessary nutrients and antibodies to help your newborn thrive. The first few days breast feeding however will feel anything but natural. Maybe it’s because they are getting sticky colostrum and really have to suck harder, or that many of us have not been exposed to it enough but for what it’s worth in the early days breastfeeding sucks….really really bad. No pun intended.
Even if like myself, you’ve heard first hand accounts from family and friends, and have somehow tried to prepare yourself for the inevitable. You may find yourself looking in the mirror, nipples looking like you’ve been assaulted by Edward Scissorhands and you will just cry, not little cute tears either, I’m talking gut wrenching, deep from your soul sobs. “How long until this stage is over?” “Can I really make it until then…” I thought to myself every time I had to see my sore, cracked, skinned nipples. I cringed with each latch, and repeated the mantra “strong, confident, capable” to remind myself that I could do this, though I had my moments of doubt.
On day 3, when my milk came in and I could immediately notice a difference, my nipples started to heal almost instantly. The initial latch though still a little painful, was slowly getting better. My confidence got a boost when the next day, we went to the pediatrician for a weight follow up (she was on the borderline of losing too much) and Anaïs had gained 8oz in two days, and was almost back to her birth weight.
Of course now 8 weeks later, it’s easy to dismiss those early days when things are going remarkably well. But I’ll tell you one thing, those were some of the most stressful days of my life. When you’re pregnant you hear all the hoopla, about the pain of labor blah blah, but rarely does anyone mention the pain and the anxiety that comes with breastfeeding. There’s of course the anxiety of knowing that this small child depends on you for every meal, and not knowing if you will be able to deliver. I know some of you are currently expecting, so let mama Stepha tell you that the struggle is real!! If I wasn’t dead set on getting things right no matter what and exclusively breastfeeding, I would have totally given up or at least supplemented.
It’s so important to have a breastfeeding support team that will be there in your moments of doubt. Those moments where you may want to reach for that convenient sample of formula that magically appeared at your door out of nowhere, and was probably included in your hospital gift bag. The formula companies know all too well about the struggle, breast is best but…in case you feel completely defeated we have this for you, it’s just a little something to help you along, you’ll see how easy it can be, and inadvertently never get to build up your own milk supply and just get more of our stuff. No big deal, here have some!
I could go on and on, about how formula makers target vulnerable women, but that’s already a given. What I’ll stress instead is reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,the only breastfeeding book you’ll likely need in your arsenal. Establish a strong support team ideally consisting of friends/family who are breastfeeding advocates (have breast fed themselves), a lactation consultant, and your meeting leader from LLL if you have one in your area.
I remember feeling a bit out of place when I went to the first La Leche League (LLL) meeting, at 8 months pregnant, I was the only one there not feeding a baby, just soaking in all of the info I could get. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be able to attend 2 meetings prior to birth and get feedback from other breastfeeding mamas. I would have never known anything about a tongue tie for example and how that can have a negative effect on feeding. Of course, she just happens to have a slight tongue tie, which explained the early painful latch in our case.
Breastfeeding is a journey, with challenges that at first can seem overwhelming, however if you hang in there and able to get the proper help and support, you’ll be on the road to experiencing one of life’s greatest joys. Before you know it, you’ll be looking down and seeing your “milk drunk” babe, smiling back at you, completely satisfied off of the ultimate soul food.