In light of it being breastfeeding month I figured I’d share our story. On TV and in life breastfeeding is portrayed as being easy and just “what you do” but in reality it may not be so easy. I went into being pregnant afraid of the delivery part but my experience for that was actually easier than the weeks and weeks of pain with breastfeeding. This is a bit of a long post as I share my experience.
I never really thought about it but the shape of your breasts and nipples play into how easy breastfeeding is going to be for you. I have large breasts but very small and flat nipples. Sadly that means that getting Ryley to latch was difficult. For one my boobs are hard for her to get her tiny mouth around and for two my flat nipples didn’t really give her anything to “grasp” onto.
At the hospital the nurses didn’t really explain what they were doing, they just tried to jam her face into my boob. Since I wasn’t getting her to latch I had to pump in the hospital because those first few hours and days are so important to your milk coming in. When jamming her face into my boob didn’t work they gave me a breast shield. It basically suctioned my nipple into it and gave her something to suck on. That began to work thankfully so she was able to get milk.
However my nipples were getting raw and bleeding and were SO sore all the time. I didn’t want to keep breastfeeding, I just wanted to cry and often did. I was feeling inadequate, like I wasn’t going to be able to provide for my daughter. It was very hard. On top of feeding Ryley I was trying to pump too so that Matt could feed her a couple times a day and give me a break, but I didn’t get a lot when I pumped so to get Matt two feedings I had to pump at least 3 times a day and if I missed one he wouldn’t have enough milk. I felt horrible.
A couple weeks went by of using the shield so Ryley was two weeks old at this point. I had a hard time getting a hold of the lactation consultants but when I finally did I went in and met with Claire. Claire was great and really helped me see what needed to happen. Thankfully my nipples had started to come out from the use of the shield so latching Ryley onto my boob without it was going to be easier. That day she latched for the first time. The goal was to keep trying every day – start with the shield and get her relaxed and then remove it and get her to latch.
My nipples were still so sore and I was still pumping but we talked to our pediatrician and he said we could supplement some of our bottle feeds with formula so I finally cut out one of my pump sessions which seemed to really help. We didn’t want to feed Ryley too much formula so with each feed we give her about 3 ounces of breast milk and make 2 ounce of formula, sometimes she drinks none and sometimes she drinks all of it. But just know it was “ok” to give her formula took a lot off my shoulders.
That week I did just as the lactation consultant told me, except it didn’t seem to work. She would get SO fussy and cry and cry so I’d just end up going back to the shield to make sure she ate. Then randomly two weeks later, Ryley being 4 weeks old, she just latched. And she latched at every feeding that day and every day since then. Something just worked. Honestly, I can’t tell you what it was. Her latch wasn’t great and my nipples were still incredibly sore and cracking but we were at least making progress.
Now at 6 weeks old we are FINALLY to the point where it doesn’t hurt every time I put her on my breast. Sometimes it still does and I have to adjust her but 8 times out of 10 we are good on the first try. My nipples are still a bit sore but they don’t throb/hurt all day long anymore, thank goodness! I finally feel like I’m getting her an adequate supply of milk AND my pumping sessions are going better too! I do take Fenugreek to help with my milk supply but as long as I pump in the morning, in place of the 7am feeding Matt does, I can get a really good amount then and then a smaller amount when I pump at 10pm in place of that feeding.
The morale of the story is to keep with it. Breastfeeding is hard, I wish they had told me that, but the closeness I feel with my little one and the health benefits for her are so worth it. Any breast milk is better than none so even if you are struggling and you need to mix in formula don’t feel bad. Just don’t give up, keep trying for a few months and try to work it out. It’s truly an amazing feeling to have that bond with your child.