The Beauty & Beast of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding: My colostrum aka "liquid gold" as they call it, came in and I’ll never forget seeing the first drop leave my nipple. I was so happy and relieved. "Holy crap it's happening!"
All throughout pregnancy I thought I wouldn’t have been able to do it, but here my body was doing its thing.
I was so proud.
I happily spoon and syringe-fed my baby those first few days and a few times we used our pinky finger dipped in my milk like the nurses taught us to feed him so he would learn to suck towards the roof of his mouth and latch on to breastfeed.
It’s normal for your baby to lose weight and then regain it within two weeks given there are tons of liquids coming through the IV during delivery but having a good milk supply was crucial for his survival. It's crucial for all babies, right?
We left the hospital on day 3 and by day 4 my supply had dropped completely. I hit a dark emotional wall and felt completely shattered.. and that's putting it lightly if I'm being fully honest. Those days and nights were filled with fear, overwhelm and a river of tears. It was so hard to deal with this on top of trying to heal physically.
Every hour I was hand expressing like the hospital nurses had taught me but I barely collected a few drops. I felt like a complete failure. Why did my milk stop? What the heck was I doing wrong? How could I feed my baby properly like this?! And why don't I ever hear about other women going through this? I remember hearing Vito's voice as he tried to help reduce any unnecessary stress (which only further hurts your milk supply). "Don't stress, you're doing great." But I felt anything but great. I felt awful.. not to mention emotions were all over the place after birth.
Is the shame so great we hide our pain and frustrations because it's better to hush and keep it hidden instead of seeking community and support? I know I couldn't have been the only woman who struggled with this.. and after joining the many facebook mommy groups and making new mommy friends, I learned I was definitely - not alone! I was so damn far from alone and so many other mamas were there right with me, struggling for what felt like endless hours that flowed into days.
I’ll never forget his screams in the dark hospital room and my heart broke in a billion pieces. I cried from the overwhelming pain. Nothing feels worse than not being able to comfort your baby. As his mother I felt - useless. The next day we went to our lactation appointment and looking back, it was the best thing I did.
Although I could barely get in and out of the car because I had literally JUST pushed a human out of my body two days before, I was desperate for anything that would help. I knew formula was an option and I wasn’t against it if it would help but it hurt knowing I had the goal of breastfeeding because all the research showed how it was always best. And I wanted the best for my baby. Breast is best. It's not an opinion - it's simply 100% a fact. It always has been and always will be better, but at the end of the day, fed is also best too.
After the appointment we decided to supplement with formula for a few feedings which would give me a break emotionally and my breasts and nipples the physical break they needed from me constantly pumping and expressing.
Lactation pediatrician said, “your milk will come in, sometimes it takes a day or two.” I left so damn emotional, but hopeful he was right. I swallowed my pride. Feeding my baby was more important.
Two days later we returned and my breasts felt like they were full of rocks. I joked with Vito and said I felt like I had gotten breast implants overnight! I looked in the mirror and omg, they were HUGE! “Thank god my milk came in!!”
I was so happy to know it was happening. The biggest tip I learned at the next lactation appointment was to not hold baby’s head in closer to my breast, but to apply pressure to his shoulders and mid-back which would allow him to naturally open his neck and chest and latch on - that was a huge game changer for me.
Not only did my milk come in, but I now had the skills needed to properly feed my baby. I’m so glad I didn’t quit when it all felt so painful and stressful. I never gave up and I’m so glad I had Vito and the doctors and nurses support to continue with my goal of breastfeeding, even if it meant getting a little help to hold me over till my supply fully came in.
It’s now day 15 since birth and my fridge has a good supply for dad to bottle feed while I "sleep" (the truth is I hardly ever sleep if baby is up, but I try!) but I’m leaning towards the goal of exclusively breastfeeding. Baby is gaining steady healthy weight and he’s growing. This mama couldn’t be more proud. Sure, there’s a ton of healing I still have left to do but every time I feel worried or stressed, tired or overwhelmed, I look at his sweet little face, head full of silky black hair and I am so grateful for such a beautiful blessing.
Life never gives us what we can’t handle and although motherhood is so challenging, it’s the best and most important job I will ever be lucky enough to have.
Baby is now 2.5 months old (blogs take a bit more time to finish these days!) 😅 but I have to say my supply is amazing and feeding my little man with everything he needs. The little guy I once worried about gaining adequate weight is now a chubby and adorable little man (12+ pounds!!) and eats around the clock... and best of all, my body KNOWS what to do to fuel his needs and it makes more than enough!
Mama's/parents - if can share one thing it's this:
Please don’t quit on yourselves. Whatever you’re struggling with today - will get better and if it doesn't, trust that YOU WILL GET BETTER. Everything is new and tricky at first but it does get easier, I promise. Also, reach out to those who have been through it all, ask questions, seek support and guidance from the experts and most of all - believe in yourself.
I know how vulnerable you will feel especially right after birth but please don't be ashamed to seek help. Also, you were equipped with everything you need to sustain and grow this beautiful little life. Trust yourself, listen to your brilliant intuition because it will always serve you right! I'm so glad I did.
(LEFT: Baby G was 6 days old - RIGHT: 1 week from 3 months! And, yes, all breastmilk fed!!! Look at my big beautiful baby boy. I'm one very proud mama)
PS - once you do get into the rhythm of breastfeeding, there is absolutely no greater bond or love. I meant it. I know it's a challenge, trust me, I get it. but if you stick with it and I hope you do - I hope you reach a state of euphoric love and connection like I have.
There is no bond better than that of a mama and baby. To know that I can instantly calm his cries by my touch and I can feed him everything he could ever need, it truly magical and beautiful.
My genuine hope is that you feel this one day too.
With so much love,
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