My neighbor had a freezer full of breastmilk aka ‘liquid gold’. In fact, she donated her excess liquid gold to a milk bank. It had to be easy.
Strangers used cute ponchos to maintain privacy while nursing in a busy restaurant or at the playground. God created women to have this natural ability to provide nutrients for their baby. Breastfeeding must be easy.
Well, mommas, it was hard for me.
Shortly after giving birth, the nurse brought my baby girl to me and started coaching me on how to breastfeed. Hold the baby like this. Hold your boob like this. Now, let the baby suck. I followed the instructions. The nurse inspected the baby’s latch to the boob. She said, “you are good.” And, she exited the room.
After a few feedings, I expressed to the nurse that I didn’t think my baby girl was latching. The nurse gave me a nipple shield to help the baby girl latch on. The shield was uncomfortable for me and irritated my skin. Baby girl seemed to appreciate the help. The nurse also explained that some women experience a delay in their breast milk coming in and that I needed to be patient with my body.
Just keep trying! Just keep trying!
During my 36-hour hospital stay, I followed the care team’s instructions, used the nipple shield, and remained determined to breastfeed my baby girl. It is the natural way. It is better for my baby. It is my commitment to my baby. I can do this! Even with the positive self-talk running on repeat in my head, I left the hospital as an unconfident and weary breastfeeding mom.
At home, baby girl would nurse for a short period of time. Baby girl would spit up what seemed to be more than a newborn tummy full of breast milk. Baby girl would cry and cry until she fell asleep. I would chug water from my monstrous hospital cup while trying to catch a short nap in between feedings. This was our three-hour cycle on repeat.
We had our first pediatrician check-up on a Monday morning. Baby girl was healthy in all areas except her weight. Our doctor was concerned about the weight loss. He affirmed that some weight loss is normal, listened intently to my desire to breastfeed, supported me in achieving success, and coached me. I found new hope and reassurance that I could be a successful breastfeeding mom with a freezer overflowing with ‘liquid gold’.
Just keep trying! Just keep trying!
After one week of the three-hour feeding cycle and more weight loss for baby girl, we hit a crossroads.
Our pediatrician looked at me and said, “Heather, I know you want this to work. I do too. However, baby girl has to gain weight. We are trending in the wrong direction.”
My heart was broken. I felt like a failure. I followed the rule book and best practices for breastfeeding. I ate the extra calories and drank gallons of water. I checked the boxes only to find my baby was starving. What am I doing wrong?
Finally, I resorted to my last resource, a lactation consultant. My mom and I packed up baby girl and headed to our appointment. My heart was hopeful that the lactation consultant would wave the magic breastfeeding wand and pave the way to success.
We spent over three hours sitting in a comfy chair behind a medical curtain. The lactation consultant observed and coached. My mom wiped my tears and encouraged me. Baby girl snuggled close. We finally found our breastfeeding groove.
In hindsight, I wish a lactation consultant would have been my first resource. It was a combination of being a naive new mom that didn’t know of the resource and my own determination that in time we would figure it out. Remember my perspective at the beginning of this journey, how hard can it be?!
Breastfeeding does not come easy for all moms. If you struggle like me, it’s okay. If you are not able to find your breastfeeding groove, it’s okay.
Give yourself grace. Keep trying until you reach your limit, which varies for each of us. Momma, you know what is best for you and your baby. And, that’s what matters.