In honour of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m writing about my breastfeeding journey. I breastfed my daughter until she was 20 months old. I loved how we bonded during this time but I also loved when it was time for mama to get her independence back. Every mother’s journey with breastfeeding is different and it’s important we don’t judge.
Here’s what I learned on my breastfeeding journey.
My Breastfeeding Journey
The moment I laid on my bed, the nurse handed me my baby and said, “You should try breastfeeding”.
“Wow, what a perfect latch!” she said.
In my head I was thinking, “Ouch, that really hurts!”
I asked if she was sure and the nurse assured me we were doing great. Meanwhile, my daughter proceeded to breastfeed with NO MILK coming out!
This initial phase in your breastfeeding journey is when your colostrum is supposed to come. Colostrum is the most nutritious substance for baby right after birth. It helps prepare their gut for the outside word and your milk. For some moms, your milk can come in immediately. Mine took 3 days! I felt like my baby was starving as she sucked, and sucked, and nothing was coming out. She lost weight, the midwives were constantly checking on her, but we persisted – even through the sore nipples. Waiting for your milk to come in can be heartbreaking. Persevere and stay relaxed. Remember, everybody’s breastfeeding journey is different.
Can Breastfeeding be Painful?
Yes, absolutely! I often tell mamas it’s like breaking in a new pair of Birkenstocks. At first your Birkenstocks feel stiff and can even give you blisters. Then you wear them in and the leather becomes soft like butter. Before you know it, they’re your all-time favourite shoe!
Breastfeeding is similar. At first it’s foreign, feels weird or even hurts. Then, overtime, your body gets used to it and it gets easier. You learn how to position baby for a good latch and it becomes something you enjoy doing together.
My Breastfeeding Tips
- Get a nipple shield. When your nipples hurt or feel raw, pop on that shield – do not suffer!
- Get a good nipple cream (make sure it can be ingested by baby and 100% natural). Most doctors and midwives recommend lanolin. I LOVED lanolin and it’s 100% natural. This is a great one by Lansinoh. Lather that stuff on!
- Latch is EVERYTHING! If you’re unsure about your baby’s latch, find a local La Leche Group, and go to one of their free meet-ups. Those ladies are experts!
- Get a good breast pump. My fave was by Medela (the Medela Freestyle Double Electric Breast Pump). If you want to try a handheld one, ask around in mom Facebook groups or your health care team. Getting a good breast pump can give you independence. This allows someone else to bottle feed baby while you go to work, or go on an outing. I know there is a lot of debate about nipple confusion if you start baby too early with a bottle or soother. My baby was fine, but every baby is different. If you are concerned about this, talk to your midwife or doctor.
- Trust your gut. If you think something is wrong, speak up. If you think your baby might have a tongue-tie, get it checked out. Not taking action may only cause more frustration for you and baby.
Breast Milk is Liquid Gold
You breast milk is AMAZING. If your baby has an eye infection, spray some breast milk in it. If your baby is sick or you’re sick, your body will produce the exact formula your baby needs to get healthy fast, or not catch your cold. You are like a pharmacy that produces the exact medicine your baby needs. Amazing, right?
Breastfeeding is great for bonding with your baby. It’s important to look your baby in the eye when you breastfeed them. Your breathing rate and eye contact helps them regulate their breathing rate too.
Producing too much Liquid Gold?
I would feed my baby in the middle of the night and cover her in breast milk! Never fear, here are some options if you’re over producing breast milk.
- Donate your breast milk. There are lots of moms that need it so find out where the collection places are in your community.
- Freeze it. Make sure you get the right freezer bags to freeze your milk in and read the instructions.
- Avoid mastitis! If your breasts get large, inflamed and hurt, lay in a warm bath with epsom salts (maybe add an essential oil). Lie on your side and massage all the sore spots, pumping milk into your tub. You can do this in the shower too. Start from the outside and work towards the tip. It hurts but you DO NOT want mastitis. Learn more about mastitis here.
- A good nursing bra is essential. I recommend Bravado Designs.
- Put cabbage leaves over your breasts to help decrease milk production in your bra. This tip from my midwife really helped me.
After a few months went by, I felt like a pro. You will discover the positions you and your baby like best (we liked the “football hold”). When we went to Europe and my daughter was 6 months, I didn’t have to bring any food! All she needed for nourishment was my breast milk. It saved big time on the bank and – hot tip – breastfeeding while flying helps to equalize their ears for take-off and landing.
Fed is best
If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, NEVER let anyone make you feel guilty. I see this in my Mom & Baby Yoga classes – moms that feel ashamed breastfeeding didn’t work for them. Fed is best, period. If your breastfeeding support person is making you feel insecure or incompetent, find a new one! Breastfeeding is not a natural phenomenon, it is learned. Give yourself the time to master this skill. Be open minded – your breastfeeding journey is your own and may be different from others around you. Good luck on your breastfeeding journey mama!
P.S. The photo above is my little one passed out after breastfeeding.