My first breastfeeding journey
I remember back when I was pregnant with my first baby. I was a nurse, but I was also a girl who grew up with 3 older sisters, a younger brother, who also babysat and nannied ALOT. I never took a parenting, birthing or breastfeeding class while pregnant. I new I wanted to breastfeed and felt like that meant it would work out for me. My mother breastfed all my siblings, how hard could it be? I also just assumed that because I was a nurse, if I had any trouble, I would just be able to figure it out.
Boy was I naive. My son (first born) was a natural birth, no meds, no interventions. But when he came out, he needed some assistance with breathing. He took in too much placental fluid. I was able to do skin to skin with him after 45 minutes of post-birth doctor and nursing intervention. Needless to say, I was terrified. And I knew skin to skin was so important within the first hour. So right off the bat, I felt this journey was not off to the best start. My doubts were already creeping into my head.
When I finally held him, my world stopped. He was perfect, all 6lbs 2oz and 20in of him! Then it was time, I needed to initiate that first nursing session. But I had no idea where to start! I remember thinking to myself, I'll just put his face near my breast and it will just happen. Unfortunately, that was not the case. And to make matters worse, he was born after 3pm so the lactation consultant was no longer in the hospital and wouldn't be back until the next day. The nurses on the floor did their best to help, but they just kept telling me: "it will happen; don't stress; just keep trying". No one was pushy about his nutrition, so I never felt the need to feed him anything else. But I really was not getting any education at all, only encouragement.
Encouragement only goes so far. By the next day, thank goodness the lactation consultant came to visit. She explained to me some positions that could be beneficial for these first few days. I still remember this conversation vividly and I use it now within my own practice. She explained and helped me with Football hold, Cross-Cradle hold, and Cradle hold. She mentioned there were others, but these would be my go to's.
Football hold ended up being my favorite with my son while in the hosptal. He seemed to like it best and he definitely favored one side over the other. My guess to this day is that this hold worked best because of the adjustable bed and the terrible hospital pillows. Because once we got home and I had my own equipment to use, positioning became extremely difficult. I also became overtired and could not longer logically make things work. I could not even figure out how to use a Boppy pillow! I felt so discouraged and overwhelmed. By the time we got to the pediatrician after being discharged from the hospital, my son had lost greater than 10% of his weight. The pediatrician never specifically asked me how nursing was going or asked if I thought my milk had come in or not. He just told me to nurse and then give him an additional ounce of formula after each feed.
I felt like such a failure because of this. But I new, I needed help. So I asked for any recommendations on lactation consultants who could come to my house. Thankfully there was one in the area, though her services were not covered by insurance. I am still so grateful I was able to pay for her services out of pocket. She was incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, supportive, and friendly. She made sure my husband was a part of the appointment so she could teach him things to look for to indicate good latch, good positioning, and whatnot so he could also be a knowledgeable support person for me.
It was only after her visit, that our journey really became what I thought it could be. I finally felt like I had some semblance of what to do and that was I was doing was right. My confidence got the boost it needed! And I was able to see that he was actually drinking because she had a scale that was capable of weighing him before and after a feed to see how many ounces he actually transferred. This validated for me that my body was working the way it should.
But even after all this hard work, stress about finding help a week into my sons life, I still had doubts. For the first month, I never was able to shake the lingering thoughts in my head that this would not work out. That my body was not performing as best as it could. So I went back to the hospital to work with the lactation consultant there. She was also a game changer for me. Once I was out of the hospital with a little more experience under my belt, I was able to talk with the IBCLC and explain to her more about my fears. She was so understanding, energetic, supportive and funny. (I'll even admit, that she is the reason I wanted to become and IBCLC myself). She made me feel like I was not crazy. She made me feel capable. She talked with me about some tips and tricks I could use to help boost my own confidence whenever I was feeling those doubtful thoughts creeping in.
I like to say she is the reason I was able to breastfeed for as long as I did. But ultimately, I know I was the one who searched for help when I needed it, I was the one who put in the work, and I was the one who "taught" my son how to eat.
This is the biggest point I like to stress to all of my clients. YOU chose to reach out for more education. YOU chose to reach out when things became difficult. YOU are putting in the work to make this journey continue. YOU care. YOU GOT THIS. Nothing can stop you if you are willing to learn and put in the work. Your journey does not need to be ideal to have it be successful. It doesn't even need to end looking ideal. Your journey is your journey, and as long as your journey works for both you and your baby, only THEN is it perfect.
My son and I had the perfect journey for us. It was not the dream journey I had imagined, every curve ball sent our way, we had to work hard to make it through. But we made it and I couldn't be happier. Our journey shaped the rest of my life.
Thank you for reading all about my first nursing journey! I hope you enjoyed my story and will come back for more! My next post will be more educational about feeding positions. Pros, cons, tips and tricks! So be on the lookout!