She Mothers: Breastfeeding Confessions

tiny toe pictures are easiest to take when baby is eating!

tiny toe pictures are easiest to take when baby is eating!

I am pro-breastfeeding. I’ve nursed Sprout since day one and would not change that decision if I had to make it ten times again. If asked, I would encourage an expectant mother to breastfeed or a nursing mother to keep working at it, even when she wants to give up.

I am not pushy about breastfeeding, though, in that I support the right of every mother to decide how to feed her child. I do not consider myself a breastfeeding “advocate,” nor would I claim to be passionate about it.

As we approach the 6-month milestone, I’ve reflected on the difficulties we had in the first few months of our breastfeeding relationship. Things have improved drastically, and I want to share my experiences with the hope of encouraging some other expectant or new mother to continue nursing, to be determined about it, even if it is difficult. Though I know there are rewards I’ve yet to reap, I think I am over the biggest hurdles now. And trust me, the grass is way, way greener over here!

The Dreaded Nipple Shield

I hope to write more in detail about my experience with the nipple shield in a post of its own, but let me just say this: if you have not needed a nipple shield, count yourself blessed. If you are an expectant mother, don’t let the following frighten you (you may not need a nipple shield). And if you are currently using a nipple shield and wondering when (or if!) it will end, then take heart! your baby will most likely be able to nurse without the shield by 12 weeks.

I know, that sounds like eternity when you are dealing with tablespoons of milk leaving huge spots on your pants on the one day you decide to try nursing in public and a baby who is not coordinated enough to latch on his own, but is coordinated enough to knock the shield off just as you are bringing him in to latch. Yes, it is frustrating. Yes, I know what you are going through. We used a nipple shield for the first 8 weeks and, as I’d read would happen, Sprout was suddenly able to latch without it. (No, I didn’t believe the stories either, but really! it did happen just like that!) It was a miraculous, heavenly gift, for sure. I did cry, and I did text/call everyone who knew I was struggling with the shield so I could brag on little Sprout. It took an additional week to wean her completely from it, but we’ve been shield-free ever since. Trust me, momma, it will happen!

Clogged Milk Ducts

Why yes, it is as painful as it sounds! I experienced this twice in Sprout’s first month of life. Both times, I believe the clogs became infected because I had flu-like symptoms and a fever. I was able to resolve the issue by nursing baby on the affected side almost exclusively, getting lots of rest, increasing my water intake, and waiting it out. {Some cases of infection may require antibiotics, but I was able to heal without them, thankfully.}

The best advice I have for avoiding this issue is to nurse often, relieve engorgement if you have that problem, and be careful about tight-fitting clothes. After the second bout with clogged ducts, I realized that sleeping in my loose-ish, non-underwire nursing bra was the culprit.

Yikes! I’ve Sprung a Leak!

My last two “confessions” are going to sound so mild compared to clogged ducts, but leaking was very frustrating for me. Since I could no longer wear a nursing bra to bed (see #2!), I frequently woke to puddles of milk and was washing the sheets all. the. time.

Add to that all the times I sprayed poor Sprout (or myself!) in the eye, and this problem just about made me want to switch to bottle-feeding! If you are struggling with it, please know you are not alone. Also know that your breasts will figure out how much milk baby actually needs and will likely calm down after a few months.

Growth Spurts and Cluster Feeding

When I was pregnant and reading all about breastfeeding, I frequently came across posts about having a baby attached to you 24/7 in the first few weeks. And while I wouldn’t go that far, Sprout did like to “cluster feed” in the evenings for the first couple of months. Right around the time I would need to cook supper, Sprout wanted to eat. And when I was halfway done, she’d want to eat again. And when I had my plate ready (finally, yum!), she wanted to eat again. And we’d start the movie and, you guessed it, Sprout was hungry. She would often nurse every hour for about 4 hours in the evening. So tiring!

One way I was able to at least cook supper was to pump every morning and keep a bottle in the refrigerator for her. Nate would give her the bottle if she was needing to eat while I was cooking. It was often not enough to fill her up, but she was then able to wait another 30 minutes for me to finish cooking. And some days, Nate just wrapped up cooking supper for me so I could sit down and feed the wailing child!

She outgrew the newborn cluster feeding behavior after a couple of months, and we had a blissful four weeks during which she nursed every 3-4 hours during the day and was sleeping through the night. Score! And then she hit the four-month growth spurt and wanted to nurse all the time again, even during the night. Sigh. Thankfully, that only lasted a couple of weeks, so we are back to very regular nursing… until the next growth spurt, anyway.

I hope I have not discouraged any new or expectant mothers out there. You CAN (most likely) breastfeed. It is difficult, but it is so worth it! It is a unique relationship with your baby that no one else can replicate. My intention with this post is for you to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, greener pastures on the other side, and blissful nursing yet to come if you can stick with it a while longer!

I don’t mean to offend any formula or bottle-feeding mothers out there! All moms have special relationships with their babies; there is no one else like momma. But the closeness that breastfeeding encourages should not be devalued in the effort to not offend.


5 thoughts on “She Mothers: Breastfeeding Confessions

  1. Oooh, that brought back old memories! Ha!
    I had many chances to decide whether I wanted the inconveniences of breastfeeding or those of bottle feeding, and chose the breast every time. The idea of fixing or warming a bottle at 2 a.m. while the child WAILED and woke everyone else, was just too much. The lovely ability to pick up the child and simply plug him in was too attractive. Yeh, there were human goof-ups, and no Internet to consult (!) but baby and I always decided, “Hey, billions of moms and babes have done this since forever, so we can, too.”
    Besides, breat babies smell better! 😉

    • I don’t think they smell better. Her spit-up has always smelled foul to me, and she definitely has never had those odorless dirty diapers that so many women told me about when I was pregnant. 🙂

      But, the inconveniences of bottle-feeding were definitely one thing that made me keep working at breast-feeding!

  2. Golly, I can see why breast-feeding would be difficult if you’re trying to combine it with work (I only know one person who managed that), but bottles seem like such a faff to organise the whole time…

    • Bottles are not fun, either. I pumped once a day for about two weeks, and it was such a hassle. I am not envious of the mother who chooses to pump exclusively for her babe–I probably would have chosen formula over that!

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