I have so much to say here about breastfeeding, that I don’t know exactly where to start. First, I need to preface this with FED IS BEST. Feeding your newborn (bottle or breast, formula or breastmilk) is hard. Between food intolerances, colic, reflux, gas, and the sleep deprivation, sometimes it’s hard to know which way is up.
My original goal was to breastfeed Theo for six months. That was approximately the length of my maternity leave, and seemed doable. But little did I know, breastfeeding would be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.
Theo latched fairly effortlessly after he was born, but it quickly turned into severe pain. In my prenatal class regarding breastfeeding, they told me that it won’t hurt, and if it hurt, that means I’m doing something wrong. I assumed I was doing something wrong, but no one was able to help me. The lactation consultants in the hospital were terrible. I decided to pump and bottle feed until my nipples healed, letting Theo latch once or twice a day just to practice. We also supplemented with formula at this time as well, because he just wasn’t transferring enough milk.
After about 3 weeks, I contacted a private lactation consultant because I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I was in incredible and indescribable pain. I was afraid of Theo and dreading when he would wake up to eat. I cried a LOT, not just because of the pain and the hormones, but the lack of education that I had received on the challenges of breastfeeding, although I thought I had really educated myself.
My lactation consultant was our saving grace. She diagnosed Theo with a tongue tie, and helped me gain more confidence in nursing my baby by teaching me about different positions we could try, and assuring me he was transferring an appropriate amount of milk per feeding. After we had Theo’s tongue tie corrected (clipped at an ENT specialist’s office) I assumed nursing would be a breeze after that.
I was wrong. It still hurt, not as bad and not all the time, but it still hurt. And I knew that nursing wasn’t supposed to hurt, but I pushed through anyway. After pumping and bottle feeding most of the first few weeks of Theo’s life, I really didn’t want to deal with bottles (breastmilk or formula, it didn’t matter). I was determined to make nursing work, so I called my lactation consultant back when Theo was around 3 months old. Lo and behold, his original tie procedure (frenectomy) either wasn’t successful. It either grew back, or the doctor did not clip enough in the first place.
We proceeded next to a pediatric dentist when Theo was just shy of 4 months old, where they diagnosed him with a lip tie as well as confirmed that his previous frenectomy was incomplete. that day, we got his lip and tongue tie lasered and I hoped that it would help my breastfeeding pain. Ties can also cause speech development and eating issues down the road, so it was important for me to get this resolved for a number of reasons. It was after this procedure that breastfeeding finally got much easier for both of us. Also, Theo’s weight gain really took off. He was consistently in the 40th percentile for weight until his second revision procedure, and after that, he’s been consistently in the 70th percentile. But, it was 4 months of breastfeeding hell before that.
I’ve learned a few things that no one told me. (1) Breastfeeding is really hard, and it’s okay to stop if it doesn’t work for you. No one asks on your college application whether you were formula or breast fed, because no one cares. (2) It’s going to hurt. Imagine a piece of skin that’s never been really exposed before, being tugged and sucked on for 8+ hours per day. It’s not normal for it to hurt for weeks or months. The pain should eventually subside. (3) if it hurts for more than 2 weeks or so, ask for help. Most insurances cover lactation consultants!
Now? I’ve been breastfeeding Theo for over a year (!!!!) with no plans to stop any time soon. He nurses 2-3 times per day – morning, evening, and sometimes in the afternoon. Most days, those are the only moments that I get with him when he’s still and cuddly. I’m so thankful we made it past our six month goal, and that we are extended breastfeeding. I have a lot of thoughts on this also, so I’ll probably write another post on extended breastfeeding / nursing a toddler, because this has gotten quite long! I will say I never ever ever thought I’d be breastfeeding a toddler!
If you’ve made it this far, I hope I haven’t scared you about breastfeeding. It really is amazing, and there’s so many resources to help you – you just have to know where to look. As a first time mom, I had no idea what questions to even ask. I’m so, so passionate about helping moms breastfeed, if they want to! I’d love to answer any questions you have, or help connect you with a resource that can support you on your breastfeeding journey.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains the authors researched opinions as well as actual experiences, and not one of a medical professional. Please consult to your medical professional for their official opinion on items referenced here, and defer to them in case of any conflict.