We are seriously so lucky we have made it this far! There are so many things I did wrong in the beginning and only looking back on them have I realized how little I truly knew about breastfeeding. Perhaps I needed to experience these things in order to appreciate the miracle of breastfeeding. I've learned a lot in these 10 months and hope to be able to retain this information for the next time around!
Watch the video here.
I do think it is necessary to give a little background before we hop in.
Calvin was born at 37 weeks and was in the NICU about 48 hours. I did not try to nurse him at all the first day, I instead pumped. (Long story short but essentially Calvin's delivery was traumatic for me and that probably contributed to me not even trying to nurse) He was fed my colostrum through a syringe and nipple in the NICU. They also had us supplementing with formula in the hospital. When he came back to us from the NICU, he would not latch. He didn't latch for more than a second in the hospital. He was born on Friday afternoon, we went home on Monday afternoon, and saw the pediatrician on Tuesday morning. That Tuesday morning was the first time he actually latched on the breast right there in the pediatrician's office after the nurse suggested a nipple shield. (I had actually planned on stopping by Target on the way home to get one that day beforehand anyway) We used that shield for nearly two months.
So now that you know a little about our experience in the beginning, here are all the things we struggled with in the beginning.
1. Not trying to wean from the nipple shield sooner
We used it for almost two months, but at five weeks we found ourselves in a predicament without the nipple shield and we figured it out. It was hard and took awhile, but we got through that feeding. Looking back, I should have used that experience as an opportunity to start the weaning process. But it was hard. It involved a lot of crying and fussing to try to wean for the shield. I wasn't yet familiar enough with his hunger cues to practice at other times. I didn't realize that I could just put him to breast whenever and let him use me as a binky to practice on. I didn't realize the boob would pretty much fix anything.
2. Bringing pumped bottles instead of nursing in public
The nipple shield didn't help either. It was hard to try and wear a cover (because I was afraid of exposing myself) and situate a nipple shield when you can hardly see what's going on, along with a baby who wasn't really good at latching to begin with. It was a mess trying to nurse with a cover in that whole situation.
I wish I just didn't care. I was even nervous to do it in front of my immediate family. Looking back, it was so silly! I tell myself with the next baby I will whip out the boob all the time!
3. Taking cold medicine!
Anything that dries up your sinuses could dry up your milk!
4. Not letting him use me as a binky
I just didn't realize how handy the boob was for calming baby in any circumstances. Literally, the boob will fix pretty much anything. Baby crying? Give them the boob.
5. Using a binky
I know there is conflicting evidence and opinions about this, but letting him use a binky could have contributed to the nipple confusion. (I also wonder if him taking my colostrum through a syringe and nipple in the NICU also influenced that too) I'm just pretty sure letting him have a binky did not help the whole situation.
6. Letting him nurse on right boob more because he liked it
I don't remember the exact series of events that took place, I'm pretty sure we were only like a week in, but I got a plugged duct in leftie and it wasn't producing as much as rightie. Calvin would fuss a lot on the left side, so I would pump that side while he nursed rightie. Perhaps leftie just didn't make enough milk from the start and my uneven nursing made the problem worse. To this day leftie makes half of what rightie produces. I realize this is a common issue, but I just wonder if I made it worse.
7. Pumping too much and not letting my supply regulate naturally.
I would pump all the time. We fed Calvin bottles overnight for awhile. I should have just locked the pump away for the first few weeks.
8. Not trying to nurse in the NICU
It was probably influenced, at least in part, by the whole being afraid to nurse in public thing. Stupid!
9. Not seeking more advice from a lactation consultant
The lactation consultant came in to visit us each morning we were in the hospital. The first day Calvin was not with us so I was pumping. She came in, saw I was pumping, saw that the flanges looked to fit correctly and that was about it. Once Calvin was in the room with us, the regular nurse came in to help me learn different nursing positions with Calvin. He would not latch for more than a couple sucks and she just told me to keep trying, maybe he was too hungry and upset about being hungry in that moment, so he wouldn't latch.
The next morning the lactation consultant came back. I told her Calvin wasn't latching and she pretty much just told me to keep trying. So Calvin never latched in the hospital. The first time he actually latched was at our first out of hospital pediatrician's appointment, the nurse suggested a nipple shield. She had me put it on right then and there, held Calvin up to the breast, and he latched right onto it and I was so happy! I got all teary-eyed to see him finally drinking milk right from the boob!
We made it, obviously, but we struggled a lot and perhaps a lot of trouble could have been avoided had I talked with an expert. I watched videos about nursing and read a lot of articles before he was born and in those early days. I had all this knowledge in my head but just couldn't seem to use it in real life! I thought I knew what we were getting into, but apparently not.
10. Not nursing right after birth
I pushed for two hours, after one hour of laboring down before they decided to do the c-section. They told us we'd have an hour with the baby before he had to go to the NICU. So even though we discussed beforehand and had decided we didn't want everyone to be there at the hospital ASAP, because of the NICU news, Justin called our immediate family when we were about to start pushing. So everyone was there waiting on us for hours to see Calvin. I felt guilty that they waited so long, so I wanted them to be able to spend time with him, so I didn't try to nurse him.
This is one thing I will not budge on next time. I don't care what my family has to say. Me, Justin, and new baby will spend at least one hour together all alone as soon as they're born.
I know this post seems overall pretty negative, so I thought I'd include a couple things that have been good for us:
1. not giving up!
It sucked. The first like two months sucked. Cal's latch problems were very difficult. The plugged ducts and mastitis sucked. The simple fear of getting mastitis sucked! When I got two plugged ducts in one week I felt my first bout of desire to give up, but I am legit so happy we didn't give up. It is literally second nature to us now.
"Don't quit on a bad day!" That is excellent advice.
I am not going to pass on praising myself for pushing through! I am in no way judging formula feeding families, but I'm proud of myself and I deserve to feel proud.
2. teething hasn't been bad
Calvin went about a week when his teeth first started to get big where he would bite me. I would set him aside, put the boob away for a couple minutes and tell him no, that he hurt me. After a couple minutes, we would resume. It took about a week. I'm not sure if it was Calvin learning that he hurt me or if it was just a particularly hard point in his teething experience, but we've been really good since then.
I really hope this helped someone!
Thank you for reading!
I love you guys,