I’ve talked a little bit about breastfeeding on here before, but now that I’m a solid 8 months into breastfeeding, I thought I’d talk a little bit more about some of the challenges and surprises that I’ve encountered.
Breastfeeding Prim was challenging from the start. I initially chalked things up to us both being new to the process and just assumed that things would fall into place after some trial and error. Unfortunately, we had more than just a few tiny bumps in the road at the beginning. First, breastfeeding wasn’t just challenging, it hurt. A lot. It felt like someone driving needles into an open wound every time she would latch on. I worked and worked and worked at it until I bled, and still Prim lost too much weight. In turn, I felt like an utter failure.
The on-call doctor told me we would need to supplement with formula, which felt like a crushing defeat. I held Prim’s tiny body against my own tired, sore, postpartum body and cried and cried. How could this be happening when I was working so hard?
The lactation consultant drew up a feeding plan, which involved nursing every 2-3 hours, followed by me pumping while KC hand-fed Prim a specified amount of milk. Anything I couldn’t cover with the amount I pumped would be supplemented using formula.
Having a plan helped me re-focus my resolve, and I followed the schedule with military precision. I nursed and pumped all day and all night, building up my supply. And ultimately, it paid off. We only had to give Prim a total of about one ounce of formula over the course of that first day. By the end of it, I was pumping enough to cover the amount I needed to supplement.
We went home from the hospital and I continued to nurse and pump around the clock. I had no idea that I would be pumping so early, so I hadn’t sanitized any of my pump parts and had no hands-free bra, but I kept on. Nursing still hurt (every. single. time.) but I continued, and finally it turned a corner when Prim turned 2 weeks old.
This is all to say that when people opt not to breastfeed or give up on breastfeeding — I totally get it. Breastfeeding is not easy. And I’m lucky — I was able to breastfeed after our challenges. Plenty of other people simply can’t.
After those first few weeks, once nursing didn’t hurt anymore and Prim was steadily gaining weight, I assumed that the hard days were over. And for the most part, they were. However, making the decision to breastfeed for the first year (which was and is my goal), means that those of us who work outside the home need to figure out how to make that work once maternity leave ends.