Long before I gave birth to Little Man, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. That was one of the very few things I was strongly convinced about. What I didn’t know however was that it’s not always that easy as it seems? I mean, I knew I had the choice – breastmilk or formula, I was told at birth school that sometimes a baby has problems with sucking properly, we were shown different breastfeeding positions and the midwife told us about what can happen when we breastfeed (inflammation, nipple infections etc.) but it all seemed to be SO NATURAL = once the baby’s born you “attach” it to your breast and that’s it, the baby drinks/eats milk and everyone’s happy (: Ok, this does happen indeed if you’re lucky but regardless of whether you’re lucky or not, once you start breastfeeding, there’s usually millions of questions crashing into your mind.
I had problems at the beginning as Little Man was sucking too shallow, he wasn’t able to latch on the nipple deep enough to drink milk correctly. Each nurse that entered our room said something different. One of them told me to buy nipple-shields so proud daddy ran to the nearest pharmacy to buy the most expensive shields ever for me just to get to know the next day that the size was incorrect (even though suggested by a nurse). The nurses also strongly insisted on Little Man spending the second night in the newborns room again (I would have never allowed for this now and this is something I regret agreeing to! ) where He was given formula ( I didn’t know by that time that you can state that you do not allow them to feed your baby with formula …. ). The nurses also kept telling me that Little Man isn’t eating enough milk so I need to feed Him some formula too ): If only I knew that all this was so wrong ):
Breastfeeding is something you need to actually practice once the baby arrives and it always takes about 3 months time to settle.. Furthermore, there is no such thing as “you don’t have milk” (such cases are actually one in a million) There is a “ you don’t have enough milk” but this should always be followed by the magic word YET – a baby needs time to produce more and more milk in your breasts by sucking because a baby keeps growing and with growth comes the need for more milk. Nobody I know told me any of this before, not even the midwife at birth school nor the midwife I visited a few times during pregnancy. I felt irritated, confused and lost and all I wanted was to find myself at home with Little Man so that we could work our own way out peacefully, away from all those stressful “advisors”. The day we were leaving hospital, someone knocked at our door and asked whether we need any breastfeeding support. YES! YES, PLEASE! That was a lactation consultant and I feel ever so grateful she was there for us. She answered all our questions, she sat with us for a long time trying to figure out what our problem was. All in all she told me to buy nipple-shields a size bigger than the ones I had as Little Man was sucking very well with them and she told me to keep trying to feed Little Man without them with time. She also answered a few other questions of mine so that I felt at least a bit more confident with what I was doing before we left hospital. It’s such a shame that hospitals don’t have enough money to invest in more breastfeeding consultants….
Back at home I kept struggling. Things were much better because we didn’t have all these people around us, but Little Man seemed to be hungry all the time! He drank for about 40 minutes from one breast and then another 40 minutes from the other.
Taking it that a newborn eats more or less every 3 hours, and one could actually set his watches according to Little Man following this rule, adding in all the necessary tasks and preparations around feeding, I had about 60 minutes left for myself every 3 hours which I usually spent on gathering milk with a breast-pump because I was so sore I fed Little Man with a bottle. I felt like I was nursing Little Man 24/7. I had no idea this approach was leading me to nowhere. I was tired, my nipples were sore even though I kept using shields, there were times I cried (those hormones…) but I kept going on. I can say I was fighting. When our midwife came with her first visit after a few days, upon arrival she said that it’s impossible that Little Man could be eating all that time. “He surely keeps sleeping at your breast being lazy”. She waited until Little Man got hungry, asked me to sit down, she placed Little Man against my breast, checked he was sucking properly and sat down next to us watching Him eat. Little Man kept sucking his usual 40 minutes and then cried for the other breast which he also sucked for about 40 minutes. Our midwife was well surprised seeing that he was really eating all this time (you could see him swallowing very often) and said that Little Man is simply a very hungry Little Man! She also told me to keep feeding him this way and in case I was tired, to give him formula. I gave him this formula a few times and then I came across a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. I started reading and nearly two weeks after Little Man was born I knew I would never again give Little Man any formula milk. There was absolutely no need for that. Nor was there a need for further breast-pumping.
Once you are breastfeeding, you just have to keep on doing it and there really comes a time when you both adjust. I had to understand that together with the need for food comes the need for love and closeness. What more, my hungry Little Man needed more milk and that’s why he spent so much time on eating. He had to “work out” the amount of milk he needed. Some babies are less hungry, others more. Some eat very short, others very long and guess what! It’s all normal! (I’m not talking about the very few exceptions that do happen sometimes remembering that each case is individual and every baby is different, and even every breast is different!)
I was exhausted by the time I came across this group (there are a few of them) but that’s when my real battle began! I didn’t give up! We had a little bottle of formula waiting there in the kitchen, staring at us with a threatening look but I believe my look was more threatening whenever I heard anyone saying “give him that formula bottle, he’s still hungry”…… There were many sleepless nights, there were moments of frustration, there was crying (both mine and Little Man’s), there was pain and even blood but all the happiness and sense of safety that I literally felt coming from Little Man each time he was breastfed, surely compensated the tough beginnings.
We made it! I can proudly say we both made it!!! It wasn’t easy, it was a long process but here we are, 16 months later, still breastfeeding and loving it! Those (now) short moments are only ours and I cherish each and every one of them, knowing, that one day this will only be a beautiful memory….