Breastfeeding is amazing; however, like most things that are special and amazing, it can be HARD.
For so long, you’ve given your body to grow this tiny perfect baby, and just when you think that’s over, you now realize you have to give just as much to continue to nourish this little life. Every two hours – if not more. You watch what you eat … Nothing spicy or that could cause gas. You have to be careful about caffeine and alcohol and even make sure that you’re wearing the right kinds of bras and tops that can easily be pulled down to nurse.
You check the clock like never before. With every cry, you wonder if baby is hungry, if you’re doing enough.
Then you worry. Is baby getting enough milk? You have no way to know. So you check diapers, count how many times baby pees, weigh baby before and after nursing. Some babies will put on a bunch of weight, others won’t.
I remember eyeing my friends with jealousy who would nurse on one side and shoot milk out of the other breast. I would cry when I saw women who soaked through a shirt when a baby was around. Why didn’t I do that? But, what I so envied, was what made nursing hard for them. She couldn’t just nurse at a park or at the zoo because there was so much milk. She would ruin clothes. Her baby would gag and throw up because she has so much milk so quickly.
And there is the lack of sleep and postpartum hormones on top of it. I cried at nights (and in the day) wondering if my baby was getting enough. She was only in the 10th percentile for weight. We are not 10th percentile people but I was so scared to supplement with formula. I thought I would stop making milk completely and baby would never breastfeed again.
But of course that didn’t happen. She never confused the bottle with breast and always happily nursed before taking a bottle if she was still hungry.
I had to cast aside my ideas of what breastfeeding should be, and come to terms of what it actually was for me. But it took me months to get to that point.
With my first baby, I stuck with it until she was a year old and was so glad I did. Do I look back on nursing with all of the warm and fuzzies…? Not really, but I think if I had taken a breastfeeding class, if I had been more prepared, if I had gone to support groups, I think that may have been different. I wish I had realized that with anything, knowledge is power and that your tribe is critical. I had neither and I probably cried more about nursing my first baby than about anything in my life.
I suppose the point of this is to say that if the milk gods have blessed you with easy breastfeeding, I am so thrilled for you. Good job mama.
But if, like for me, it doesn’t come so easily, give yourself grace. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be because you have some preconceived ideals of what it should be. Reach out to other mamas. Take a class, go to breastfeeding support groups.
And remember that as with most things, practice makes perfect (or at least proficient). Don’t give up. It will get better! This baby loves you no matter how much milk you make, whether you breast or bottle feed. You got this mama.
Angie (and Dr. Cap who supported and loved me through the tears)
P.S. My tip for dads: if nursing makes her cry, just give her a hug. Tell her she’s pretty and amazing and that she is doing a great job and everything is going to be ok. It really will be. I promise.