When I was on Facebook the other day Undercover Mama asked their fans if they thought breastfeeding was easy or hard.
Most responded that breastfeeding starts out hard but gets easier after the first six weeks. One woman’s response in particular struck me because it exemplifies why I often find myself envying–even to the point of slight jealousy–other breastfeeding women.
“Breastfeeding starts out hard, but then becomes second nature.”
If this describes how you feel about breastfeeding you can count yourself blessed.
But what about the women for whom breastfeeding doesn’t become second nature? What about mamas like me who start out struggling and continue to struggle for months and months and even more months? Is all the pain, the second guessing, the stress, the tears even worth it?
I’ve now been breastfeeding for almost 8 months! I say this with an exclamation because this is the longest I’ve breastfed any of my children. This is a huge milestone for me.
Though breastfeeding difficulties can come in many forms ours came from a series of partly unavoidable circumstances. Here is what we’ve dealt with this time around:
- To start with Baby Z had more than just mild jaundice for three weeks. Because of his jaundice, Baby Z would fall asleep during every. single. feed that first three weeks. This led to my initial low milk supply.
- Reflux. True reflux is a big hurdle for moms who want to breastfeed. Not only do babies with reflux spit up a lot, but it can also be tiring, difficult, and literally painful to feed them. Baby Z is fine during the initial let-down, but once the flow slows and he has to work harder to get the milk out, the stomach acid starts to creep up and cause discomfort. He’ll clamp down and arch his back (not letting go of me, mind you), or he’ll stop sucking cry and want to sit up only to immediately cry and want to lie down to nurse again. He repeats this every swallow or two. And this is what happens while on medication.
- Low milk supply. Yes, I fed on demand and then some. I pumped, I power pumped, I eat oatmeal every day. I tried More Milk Plus (Baby Z was sensitive to it and it made his reflux flare up terribly), I used an SNS (supplemental nursing system) for almost 3 months. I feel like I’ve ready every article published on the web about how to increase your milk supply.
My days became all about breastfeeding. –Well, for the first 6 weeks breastfeeding is pretty much all I did all day. Approximately 16-18 hours of my day was spent breastfeeding– Even when the number of hours I spent breastfeeding decreased, it was all I could think about. Was baby getting enough? Why was he crying at the breast all the time? Why did he want to eat every hour? What else could I possibly do to increase my milk supply?
These thoughts became invasive. I was obsessed. I’m sure if you’ve ever had any sort of drawn out breastfeeding troubles you can relate. It was really my pediatrician who encouraged me to hang in there. If it had been up to me I would have thrown in the towel at about 4 months.
I’m feel like I’m finally at the point where nursing is getting easier. I wouldn’t say it feels second nature, but I’m holding on to the hope that one day–before he weans, I hope–we’ll get to the point where breastfeeding becomes second nature. Until that time when setbacks come up I just tell myself, “I made it this far without going insane, surely I can keep going.”
The hardest part is over. And, guess what? Even after all baby and I have been through with breastfeeding I can still confidently say, It has all been worth it!
Stay tuned next week to find out what really made breastfeeding take a turn for the better…