Oh man: breastfeeding is hard. I mentioned in passing in a post the other day that Zoe and I were having a bit of a tough time getting the hang of things. And after I made that little comment I got a lot of support from other moms via text, email, Facebook, phone call, etc. I was amazed at how many people shared this feeling, yet no one really talks about it beforehand. So I thought I'd open the door on what I had problems with or got frustrated about about in an attempt to share that hey, we all have problems. And maybe I'll sprinkle in some funny pictures of Zoe
1. Why don't they tell you it's so hard?
Seriously, this one seems completely obvious to me, but no one says anything. All the doctors always ask, "Are you going to breastfeed?" And we all know how beneficial it is to baby so we really want to. But, wouldn't it be helpful if they followed up that question with, "Well, it's really difficult and probably going to suck in the beginning. And your nipples are going to feel like they're being ripped off your boob." Don't you think that would be helpful? It would certainly warm you up to getting ready for it to be super challenging. It's amazing how your body just knows what to do and does it when it comes to being pregnant and cooking a baby, but breastfeeding? Get ready for a wild ride in which your body squirts milk everywhere, but you and your baby can't get it under control.
2. I'm trying to HELP YOU
This one is still a challenge with Zoe. We've gotten breastfeeding under control finally, but she still fights it sometimes. She gets hungry and fussy and cries and she certainly has a little pill of a personality sometimes and fights the boob. She pushes it away, shoves her hands in her face and does all she can to not be fed. I try to reason with her that I'm just trying to help her, but so far she doesn't seem to understand it ;) At this point it's gotten funny because I know I can eventually get her to latch on, but for that first week or so I felt like duct taping her hands to her sides.
(she doesn't approve of me talking ill about her :)
3. Look for help!
We're very lucky that with our health care we can set up appointments with lactation consultants at the hospital, and they even set one up automatically when they discharge you for 5 days after birth. Genius I tell you. That 5 day lactation appointment came when I was having A LOT of trouble feeding her and so it was a godsend. I learned some good holds, how to latch her on better and some other helpful advice. The lame thing is that after that appointment their on call line has not been helpful (in that I've left 2 messages and no one has called me back a week+ later). However the mother of one of my great friends is a lactation consultant so she offered me her number and I gave her a call. She was amazingly helpful also and helped me work through some problems I was having. Help is amazing. And you should ask for it.
4. Have your boobs been engorged? Because that sucks
I needed to call my friend's mom because one boob was CRAZY engorged. I was trying to remember things we'd read or what the lactation consultant at the hospital had said - but nothing was really working. And my boob was basically rock hard and nearly no milk was coming out. It totally sucked. Thanks to my friend's mom however the problem was resolved within a day, hooray! Warm compress, massage, feed, cold compress, repeat. It was really uncomfortable and hurt and freaked me out, but in the end we figured it out and I was very thankful.
5. OH MY GOD there are so many opinions
When I was having trouble feeding I was reading a baby book about it, looking things up online and of course asking the hospital's lactation consultant and EVERYONE has a different opinion. Even in the same baby book they contradict themselves. This of course just sets us up for questions later down the line - there is always going to be another theory or opinion on how you're supposed to solve _____ with your child. So I should really just get used to it. But it's hard when you're having a hard time feeding and trying to get some answers and you read things like: learn to cue feed (only feed when the baby wants it), babies who are fed more frequently sleep better at night (ie, feed you baby ALL THE TIME), wake your baby up if they haven't fed for 3+ hours, let your baby sleep through the night if they don't wake up to feed...OH MY GOD what advice am I supposed to follow??? Thankfully Zoe has learned to be a good feeder and feeds on a relatively consistent schedule. She can go a bit longer at night if I really get her good and drunk and she's gaining plenty of weight, so we're doing well.
6. You're basically a slave to the boob.
Man, breastfeeding is a full time job. I knew it would take a lot of time, but man, it takes a lot of time. Feedings take a while, rocking her to sleep or calming her down after, changing her explosive diaper she always gives us in the middle of a feeding...each feeding takes a decent about of time. And then you gotta lather, rinse, repeat just a little while later. We successfully had our first mobile feeding on Wednesday when we were running errands, so that made me feel a bit less trapped to the house with needing to be home to feed her. But it is amazing how quickly life begins to revolve around, "When was the last time I fed her...?"
7. Milk, milk everywhere
Once I figured out how to milk, the milk was plentiful. Oh my god plentiful. As in, one time I fed her on the right boob (pre-breast pads) and I looked over at my left boob and there was milk everywhere. At first I didn't know it was milk and I wondered if she had just peed all over me because it was alllll down my shirt an all over my jeans. So I smelled it. Nope, not pee, I had just apparently milked myself all over myself. I've now learned the importance of breast pads, but still, there is just milk everywhere. If she doesn't have the greatest latch we are both guaranteed to get major drippage all over ourselves.
8. Breast pads are VERY necessary
For all the above reasons.
9. Regression sucks
Just when you've made progress, you slide back down. The other day she decided for the whole day that she wasn't really very hungry. She would feed for only 2-4 minutes and I was getting totally freaked out (I know, I know, calm down Meryl) so I called the advice nurse who said that because Zoe was still a pooping/peeing machine she was getting enough, but that if that stopped in addition to slow feedings, there was something to worry about. Of course, a few hours later we got our groove back and I was just overreacting :) But those little backslides can be very frustrating.
10. Just because you can't, doesn't mean you're less of a woman
This is the one to REALLY remember. Of course we would all love to breastfeed. We know how important and helpful it is to babies, but if it doesn't work out, that's okay. When Zoe and I were having trouble at the beginning it made me feel like less of a woman. That somehow because I didn't intuitively know exactly how to breastfeed and it didn't work perfectly from the beginning that my womanhood was in question. This is completely false and terrible to think about yourself. There are so many reasons why things might not work, and that is absolutely 100% okay. My brother ripped my mom to shreds and so I was never breastfed. I'm ok. My dad is one of 5 kids with 4 adopted, so naturally my grandma couldn't breastfeed him and his 3 adopted siblings and as she humorously pointed out, "they turned out not to be ax murderers." We're all trying and we'll all make it work in our own way that is best for our own family.
What about you? Any headaches, frustrations, commiserations?