August 22, 2017

14 Things I Didn't Know About Breastfeeding

Are you pregnant or a new mom completely overwhelmed with breastfeeding? I was too and you are not alone. Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful and challenging things I have ever done. In honor of August being national breastfeeding month, I wanted to open up on this very personal topic and share what I learned. My hope is to give you more insight to breastfeeding, and help you be more prepared than I was.
When I was pregnant with Kona I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Giving him formula never really crossed by mind. Mainly because my Mom nursed me and my friends nursed their children. I also worked for an organization that was supportive of breastfeeding mom's and many clients I worked with nursed their children. I was surrounded by mom's who nursed, so I figured that's what I would do. I was completely na├»ve, and didn't have a clue about the struggles I would be faced with while nursing. I assumed everything would go smoothly. My milk would come in, Kona would know how to latch on right away, and everything would be perfect. That's what I thought I saw was happening with my friends, coworkers and clients, so why would my story be any different? What I didn't know was their experience wasn't as flawless as it looked. They were also faced with challenges. The ups and downs that come with breastfeeding, I just didn't know it because I didn't ask and I couldn't really understand even if they would have told me. Like most things with parenting, you don't really get it until you experience it firsthand.

I read baby books, took classes at the hospital and talked to family and friends, so when it came time to deliver I thought I knew what to expect. When the doctor laid Kona on my chest for the first time, I realized I had no idea what I was doing. When it came time to nursing Kona for the first time, I was so scared. I remember being unsure of myself and my decision. What I assumed would be easy and natural turned out to be full of challenges. I'm proud to say that I nursed both of my kids, but I'm the first to say it wasn't perfect. It was extremely rewarding and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but there were many times I doubted myself my decision and if my body would be able to do it.
  Baby Kai being nursed right before our newborn pictures. :)

How much I would leak.
The amount of nursing pads and shirts I went through on a daily basis blew my mind. I swear I was constantly changing clothes. Make sure you stock up on nursing pads, because running out in the middle of the night is never fun.

Latching on can be difficult.
A baby latching on isn't always the easiest thing on earth. There is much more to it than I ever realized. If your baby is having a hard time keep trying, ask for help and remember it takes time.

Nursing will make you cramp.
Nursing helps your uterus contract, but no one tells you just how painful it can be.

Baby can be tongue tied.
Most of the challenges I faced with breastfeeding came from the boys being tongue tied. Kona had a larger tongue tie than Kai, but they both had to have their tongue clipped. Because I didn't know what to look for and Kona seemed to be latching on okay it wasn't caught in the hospital. It wasn't until his 3 day check up that they realize something was going on. By the time they realized it, he had lost a lot of weight and we all went into panic mode. I had to feed him, pump, and syringe feed him for a few days until his weight came back up. With Kai, I was hyper aware and made the hospital check several times. My mommy instincts knew something wasn't right and requested to have a specialist look at him. They determined he had a slight tongue tie and got it clipped. Thankfully both boys were able to nurse successfully after having their tongue clipped. If you are concerned or have questions please ask your doctor, and follow your mommy instincts!

Plugged milk ducts are painful.
With both boys being tongue tied, they didn't latch on correctly the first few days of their life. With Kai I had to hold him and my breast just right or he would come off. Because of this, my milk ducts weren't draining all the way and caused them to become plugged. It was painful and I would dread the next feeding. Now looking back, I should have called the hospital right away, but I waited until our next appointment. By the time our appointment came around I was miserable. Take it from me, if you are in large amounts of pain call your doctor. Pain like that isn't normal and is a sign there is something else going on.

Cabbage can help reduce milk supply.
Due to the tongue tie and plugged milk ducts I was really engorged. As part of the solution, the lactation consultants at the hospital told me to use cabbage leaves to help reduce my milk supply. When they first told me I thought they were off their rockers, but it totally worked! My milk supply decreased just enough to help with my engorgement and plugged milk ducts. If you would like more information, check out this article.
Disclaimer: this is only my personal experience and what I was advised to do. Please talk to your doctor, for medical advice that is geared towards you, if you are concerned with engorgement and plugged milk ducts.  

The boppy pillow isn't for everyone. 
When I was pregnant with Kona, everybody would tell me how amazing boppy pillows were and how I had to have one. I couldn't wait to get one, scrutinized over which cover to get and made sure I took it to the hospital with us. I couldn't wait to use it and experience what everyone was talking about. The first time I nursed with it, I hated it. I found it to be so uncomfortable and in the way more than anything. I tried to use it many times with both boys, and each time I had the same feelings. Regular pillows and a large oversized chair worked the best for me! 

There are different nursing positions.
When I first started nursing Kona, I had no idea there were more than one nursing position. Get familiar with different nursing positions so you can learn what works for you and baby.

How much I needed to drink and eat.
Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories, which made me super hangry (just ask my husband)! I found it helpful to have protein bars in my bedroom and the nursery. That way I had something to snack on during those late night feedings.

It's beneficial for mom's health.
I had no idea there were so many different health benefits for the nursing mom. According to WebMD breastfeeding burns calories, releases the hormone oxytocin, lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and may reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

It takes practice.
Getting the hang of nursing takes time and patience. Don't expect to leave the hospital having a good grasp on it. Keep trying, ask for help, read articles, try different chairs, pillows and nursing positions. You and baby are new to this, give yourself some grace and keeping trying.   

It can feel lonely and frustrating.
I can't begin to tell you how many times I felt frustrated that my husband got to sleep and I was awake all night nursing. I loved nursing and I don't want to sound like I was miserable, but I did have hard feelings at times. Kai wasn't the best sleeper, so a lot of my frustrations came from that. I was extremely sleep deprived and took care of both boys during the day while J.D. was at work. I remember driving home from the store one day and called J.D. crying. I tried to go shopping for some snow boots, because I didn't have any and wanted to play outside with Kona. We got ready, drove across town, got into the store and Kai wanted to nurse. No matter what I did I couldn't get him to calm down long enough to try on a pair. I put everything back, got our things together and headed home. I felt so alone and frustrated in that moment. The smallest errand now became a big deal. It was hard to always feel like my needs were pushed to the bottom. Being a mom can be lonesome at times, and being a nursing mom can feel even more isolating. I don't want to scare anyone away, I just want to speak honestly. I wish someone would have been honest with me so I could have been more prepared. I felt like a horrible parent and wondered what was wrong with me for feeling bitter at times. But the truth is, being on-call 24 hours a day 7 days a week can take it's toll.

How many amazing resources there are.
There are so many resources to help, guide and support the nursing mom. If you are struggling with nursing check these out. Your local hospital or doctor's office, Kelly Mom, La Leche League & Breastmilk Every Ounce Counts. I used these resources all the time and found them extremely beneficial.

Nursing isn't for everyone.
Breastfeeding is a very personal choice and for many, many reasons it doesn't work for everyone. If it wasn't for you or didn't work, don't stress about it. Only you know what's best for your family. You are an amazing Mom whether breastfeeding worked or not.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and letting me open up about such a personal experience. Sharing something so intimate isn't easy. I hope this post was able to help, support and encourage you.

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  1. Reading this struck a lot of nerves with me. My son is 13 now, and the only one I had because of infertility issues, but trying to breastfeed turned in to a nightmare for me. I was up every hour either breastfeeding or pumping, because he wasn't getting enough. I went to a lactation specialist, and after several visits, she told me that for my sake and my son's, it would probably be better if I gave him formula. It was such a relief when I was able to let go of that stress. Part of the reason I tried for so long is because my husband felt it was important, and sometimes made me feel like I wasn't trying hard enough or didn't want it bad enough. I was so glad when I had a professional telling me to let it go! I'm sorry for your struggles, but relieved to know it wasn't just me!

  2. Very informative for new moms. Even i wasn't aware about many of these things about breastfeeding. Thank you so much for sharing. #mommymoments