Before having my first child, I read every book I could on parenting. I studied how to care for newborns and how to get them on a sleep schedule. I obsessed over all the nursery must-haves for baby safety. I poured over article after article detailing out survival tips for making it through the first years. I even took several parenting classes at the hospital in preparation for the birth.
Once the time arrived for my bundle of joy to make his presence in the world, the one thing I didn’t prepare for was how to nurse him. I naively thought this little being would show me how it all worked, but unfortunately, that was not the case.
After the birth and during my short hospital stay, I summoned every nurse I could to help me. I’d ask if I was nursing correctly, I’d seek advice on how to help my son latch well – but something just didn’t feel right. I could tell my baby was not getting the amount of milk he needed. He seemed frustrated after each attempt at feeding, but the nurses would reassure me that babies have small stomachs and do not need much the first few days. Once I was released from the hospital, the panic set in. My plan to nurse him was not working out the way I had envisioned.
It was very important to me to be able to nurse my son. I wanted the nutritional benefits for him, I wanted the benefits for my recovering body, and lastly I wanted the financial benefits. When the realization set in that this may not be an option, I became severely depressed. I felt like a failure. I had let my family down. When I asked friends and family for advice, everyone had a different answer. This made matters worse. Instead of getting much needed support, I was being told everything I was doing was wrong – and for a new mom that’s the worst thing you can hear.
At my son’s one-week checkup he had lost more than a pound of his birth weight and the doctor told me it was time to consider the alternative. I broke down. When I got home, I went straight for my pump. After expressing 4 ounces of breast milk, I put it in a bottle and tried giving it to my son. To my surprise he guzzled down every last drop and the fussiness subdued. I felt victorious. From that day on, I pumped every day, 5-6 times, for the next eleven months. Eleven months! I also had enough milk frozen to get him to the one-year mark formula free.
When my second son was born I prepared mentally to do the same thing with him. But, luckily, he took to nursing quite easily. Him and I’s nursing journey lasted just over two years. When our nursing relationship came to an end, I actually mourned. Mourned that he was my last baby and mourned that I didn’t get to experience the same journey with his older brother.
Looking back, I wish I would have known more with my first son. I could have been more prepared. I wish I would have known about all the resources out there. If I had, I wouldn’t have felt so alone. One great resource, The Honest Company, provides feeding resources for both formula and breastfeeding mommas. I also wish I wouldn’t have given up so easily. That would have saved hours of my life from being a slave to my pump. The day I retired my pump was a great day indeed!
So, my advice to new moms is to never give up. If nursing is your plan – don’t stop until you and your baby figure it out together. Yes, it will be hard and there will be days you’ll think it’s impossible. Your breasts will feel like rocks and like there’s electric currents running through them at times. But, it gets better! I promise. The bond you’ll feel with your baby is unmatched. Find support groups on Facebook, there are plenty to chose from. Find other new moms in your area to encourage and support you. And finally, always listen to your mommy instincts and go with what you know is best for you and your baby. That, in the end, is what matters most.