Before I had kids, I always thought that breastfeeding looked so easy and effortless. I would always see pictures of moms nursing their babies with a big smile on their faces. But nobody really talks about the hard work behind it.
With my first child, I wasn't able to breastfeed for long. Shortly after the birth of my son (Landon), I was given 3 rounds of antibiotics for a UTI which quickly gave me a nasty stomach/intestinal infection. I could not keep any food in my system and was incredibly weak while trying to recover from birth. I felt like I was dying. I was completely sleep deprived and malnourished. As if that wasn't enough to handle physically, I had my husband at the time who briefly took my son away from me (at just several weeks old) because I had voiced that I was miserable and wanted to separate. Breastfeeding came to a sudden stop.
When I got pregnant with my daughter, I knew that I wouldn't let anyone or anything stop me from breastfeeding. Not only did I want the best possible nutrients for my little girl but I feel like I was robbed of my breastfeeding experience with my son and this time around I wouldn't let anything stop me.
Shortly after the birth of my little girl (Willow), we began our first of many nursing session in-between her naps. Her strong instinct to suck made it very easy for her to latch on. Unfortunately, her latch was terrible and I couldn't get her to open her mouth very wide. I knew she had the potential to open her mouth significantly more than she did due to her big yawns. By the end of the first week, my eyes watered and toes curled every time she latched on. The pain was unbearable. I was looking up everything I could possibly do for sore nipples. I tried coconut oil, expressing breast milk to dry on the nipple, nipple cream and massaging her jaw to get her to open wide for a deep latch. It became a love/hate relationship every time she was ready to nurse. The release of oxytocin was a beautiful feeling but it didn't come without the toe curling pain that felt like my nipple was falling off. By week 3 I was really getting discouraged. I thought the pain would have gotten better. It just got worse.
Since we didn't have a pediatrician, I took willow for an adjustment with our chiropractor. The chiropractor helped my daughter and I establish a better position for a deeper latch. We also discovered that the her mouth pallet was slanted to one side and I was told that if we used a pacifier (which we don't) it would make her latch much worse.
After the visit with our chiropractor, breastfeeding got a little bit easier. I would stick my pinky in her mouth and apply a little bit of pressure on the side of her pallet that was a bit lower than the other which helped with her latch. Willow began sleeping for longer stretches throughout the night and missed her feedings because we'd both be passed out. Due to the missed feedings, I got several clogged milk ducts that very quickly turned into mastitis. At the time I had no clue what a clogged duct was nor did I think people could get mastitis. I thought it was just something that cows got. It felt like I got hit by a truck, twice. I had terrible flu like symptoms and I spent almost 4 days in bed with a fever and tender breasts from the infection. If that wasn't enough, I started showing the beginning signs of thrush! So then, I was still recovering from birth, I was a hormonal basket case, sleep deprived with mastitis, stiff neck and shoulders and having to care for my newborn and toddler on my own during the day. It takes a village to raise a baby and I was the one person village. I was at the end of my rope.
Then, there's the breastfeeding thirst and hunger. It was intense! I was eating and drinking like a human garbage disposal to avoid getting dizzy. I was always hungry (still am) and felt so unsupported when I would hear, "but you just ate!"
I felt so discouraged and alone. Eventually, I started to reach out and talk about everything I was going through and feeling. It turns out that it's totally normal to feel bat shit crazy. After a little time passed, my infection cleared up, I decided to get a pump to get the milk out once a night (when she slept through her feedings) to avoid another infection and also started taking sunflower lecithin (really helps avoid clogged ducts). My daughters sleep patterns were becoming more routine with longer waking hours during the day and sleeping hours at night. Her latch got better and better as the days went on and the sore nipples totally disappeared.
Dear new moms, it gets better, I promise! I completely understand why so many moms give up on breastfeeding. It's tough! My baby girl is 2 months now and I'm (just recently) past all of the trial and error I wish I knew prior to breastfeeding. I would say that after about 5-6 weeks I reached the light at the end of the tunnel. Now it's a piece of cake. I don't have to get up, mix expensive formula (that's not nearly as nutritious) and heat up a bottle. Now, it's baby + boob = ready! :p