Everytime, I hear a new momma-to-be answer the question “Are you going to breastfeed” with “Im going to try”, I find myself cringing inside. I do my best poker face, but on the inside Im bursting to tell them/plough them with an endless array of how they can do it, and to have a little more faith in their body. Unknowingly this mindset of their’s often sets them up for failure before baby has even been born!
Now, please understand, I am fully aware that there are indeed those very few exceptions that make breastfeeding actually impossible for baby and mamma. I am by no means under the impression that every single woman out there will be able to do this. And if you’ve read my earlier posts (this post too), you’d know that Im also not under the impression breastfeeding is easy sailing.
But, seriously, what is it with us and this “I’ll try” attitude anyhow?
Not just with breastfeeding but with so many facets of life. Whats with this fear of failure? That we don’t want to openly commit to something with confidence of success? As if we committed to it publicly, and then if we fail, there’s egg on you; Shame on you, and shame on the family name, shame on your cow…
But somehow, in this twisted mental reasoning, if we said “I’ll try” and then subsequently fail, then everyone would be ”ok,now there’s a girl with foresight, and zen about life”…so if we succeed it would just be “bonus”?
My personal take on all facets of life, is that if something is worth doing, its worth doing it right. And Im not going to start something with the possibility of failure looming over me or scaring me off from doing my damndest. This rang especially true for me with breastfeeding, as I was not doing this for myself. It was purely for the benefit of my child.
If I fail, fine. I could accept my failure, if I knew with no uncertainty that I was doing my damdest. Knowing I pursued every possible alley for a solution. There would be no “shoulda’s” and “coulda’s” left to keep me up at night. I would be able to hang my gloves up knowing I put in a good fight, and accept the outcome. Failure is not always bad thing. So why are we so afraid of it?
I admit, I too was an “I’ll try” lady, when first asked by my midwife about my breastfeeding intents with my first child. She stopped me dead in my tracks. She promptly told me, “no try’s. Just decide if you’re going to do it, then do it.” I asked the obvious question any “I’ll try” lady would, “but what if I genuinely cant?” – because I know there are,although very rare, valid cases for not being able to breastfeed. And her answer was a clear, “then we’ll deal with it when we get there.” She was a breastfeeder. I wanted to be breastfeeder.I loved her confidence, and her simplistic approach to the matter. I was sold. From then on in, as far I was concerned, I was breastfeeding, baby! I was gonna breastfeed the crap outta my baby! 🙂 Come what may.
And boy, did it come!
I read up a lot on breastfeeding, in between the other stacks of research I had going about natural birth. (I tend to go balls to the wall with research) But I also felt that it was more of a practical skill to learn, not so much an academic matter. So I “clicked save” in my brain on all that I read and waited with great excitement for some practical implementation.
So DD was born, did her little crawl up my belly, and everything was lovely. Holding her to my bossom was natural and beautiful. Then she started mouthing for the breast. Ummm, how now? Could someone please help me? New mom, over here! I know not how to breastfeed.
I was so anxious to get this right, I didn’t want to try ‘n fail on the first time (again, this fear of failures sneaks up on us anytime). So midwife smiled and just popped my breast into her mouth, and boom! And that’s where DD stayed for another four hours, until the nurses came to fetch her. (They wouldn’t ordinarily, but they knew that the last time I had slept was two days ago. Yes, you read that right.) With all the hormones surging through baby and me, breastfeeding was on like donkey kong! And I couldn’t have been happier – I was a breasfeeder! yay!
Then came day two, and it slowly started falling apart. DD was really going for it at each feeding session. In fact there weren’t really sessions,it was more like full day marathons where I’d just take a break for the loo. Or where she’d nod off thanks to the CCG hormones in the breastmilk. These sessions often just melted into the whole morning or the better part of the day. Needless to say, my nipples were wrecked! Gone was that serene picture of nature at its finest, with baby gently nursing at my bossom, whilst I gazed lovingly into her eyes, tenderly marvelling her perfect form, with the bright glow surrounding us, and unicorns picnicking in the background of rainbows. I was now starting to cringe back with no pokerface in sight, everytime baby starting mouthing for more.
However,still armed with my commitment, I called in the troops in the form of the nurses and paed who all suggested I try a dummy. I wasn’t too keen on a prop, but I did like the idea of keeping my nips attached. Nipples attached is always appealling. And with everyone pushing me to forego using my finger and just get a paci, I relinquished and propped her up. Which helped. For all of one hour –maybe.But still, there was some relief, and I took it with both hands. They then also suggested top up feeds of formula.(huh?) I asked for a deeper explanation as to why, and they said its so that she could give my breasts a rest. That wasn’t whats recommended according to what I had researched, but I wasn’t going to argue to either, as they were nurses. They knew their stuff right? Right?! So off they whisked baby and gave her formula from a bottle.
Then came our first night home, baby’salmost three days old and as most mom’s will find, this is when the wheels really start coming off! The blissful birth hormone levels in DD had obviously dropped by now, and suddenly bub’s latching instincts weren’t so on the ball anymore. And that’s when pain started making its home in my nipples.
My mother, being the loving and concerned mom and grandmother that she always is, was right there by my side for support. However, she was always questioning whether DD was getting enough milk. She didn’t have the satisfaction of seeing how many ml’s of milk baby was getting, and was anxious that I was perhaps starving DD. This questioning certainly made hubby very anxious, which in turn made me anxious. Two anxious team members looming over my shoulder at every feeding, withevery cry that baby made = a very anxious and self-conscious mommy. So I kept up the formula bottle top ups to keep the paranoia levels down. Hmm, I wonder why my boobs are starting to engorge…ahhhhhh, the slippery slope that I did not realise I was on.
Fortunately, my faithful Avent pump held the engorgement at bay – TG that physio therapist who lazered my nips in hospital explained to me that I should ignore the nurses instructions of “not to pump”, and to go ahead and get pumping. The milk needs to move, and be removed constantly, else there’s a new world of problems. But still DD was not drinking as well enough,as my raw nips simply couldn’t stand the pain for too long. (by the way, if you can, have your broken nipples lazered.Its amazing stuff.Otherwise direct sunlight and your tatas as often as possible, is the cheaper option. Seriously ladies, whip them out and have good sunshine session as often as you can. It helps them heal. Promise!)
I was doing everything as they said I should in the book. I was doing it right. Wasn’t I? or was I? I didn’t know. I was no expert, this was my first time. All I had was this theory that I had “clicked save in my brain” but clearly it was very very difficult to implement practically. I knew my problem was the latch. I needed a proper latch. What IS a proper latch? How do I get it again? Umm, what page was that on again? Maybe my nips are just sensitive?
I remember the struggle, the frustration, the googling at all hours of the day and night for breastfeeding how-to’s and wiki’s. Not forgetting the crying. Ohhhh, the crying.Both baby and mine.
In fact, it was day four, that very day that I sobbed and sobbed with tears rolling down my cheeks onto my little girl – with hubby next to me, ready and waiting, with his hands full of cabbage leaves (bless his heart) and my mom on the other side of me. Both giving, although well- intentioned, very misguided suggestions. And that was my turning point. The particular moment was when my mom said, “I think it’s supposed to be sore” that really snapped me out of it. Because I knew its NOT supposed to hurt at all. Of all the researched I “clicked save on”, that was the one that stood out. Its NOT supposed to hurt! It was like I stepped away and looked at this all too familiar scene play out. The very same disastrous scene as my sister’s, with well-meaning loved ones giving very outdated and misguided information. I was not going to let my story go down the same path. I had vowed it, remember?
It was like someone flipped a switch inside me. Like I sobered up from my lost/self pity state …. I stopped sobbing immediately, and instructed hubby to call my midwife, asked my mom to do xyz..Im sure the two of them thought I had suddenly developed bipolar. Because suddenly I was a very different person to one of literally two seconds ago.
Midwife was there in no time (love that woman!), and immediately got baby back on boob. She gently explained that it was to a lesser degree that the drop in hormones made latching suddenly a challenge but thanks to dummy AND the top upfeeds in bottle, DD now had nipple confusion. Fan-freaking-tastic! Why didn’t the nurses warn me of this?! I don’t think I would have as easily agreed to all this, had I known what the possible consequences were. Oh, there was so much for me to learn. And so little time –baby needed to drink NOW.
We took DD off the formula that was filling her tummy, and leaving my breasts to fill up. And if top up feeds were ever necessary, we ditched the bottle- she, instead, received her expressed milk from a glass. (tip alert: babies for some strange reason prefer the feeling of glass, over plastic or metal. So try using a small glass in stead of a spoon the next time you’re trying to feed your newborn some colostrum or milk.)
And just like that, we were back in business, baby!
For the next four days, my midwife would either take ALL my calls of frustration or swing by to help get baby back on boob.(Do you understand my love for midwives?And that is just the tip of the iceburg) I also had the invaluable support of the nurses of Panorama Breastfeeding Clinic, where I did my weekly baby checkups. My midwife and the clinic nurses also took the time to help hubby and grandma know how to help me. So, thanks to the incredible support of my team, I fortunately had a success story with my eldest child. One that lasted nine months.
I have to point out though, that whilst lactation professionals were important pieces to the puzzle, my hubby, without a doubt, was the pivotal team mate of my entire team. Without his loving and steady support, I doubt I would have ever made it passed six weeks. He is an amazing man, and selflessly supported my breastfeeding journey in anyway that I had needed him to. For that, there will never be a sufficient manner to show my gratitude towards him. So, gents, never underestimate the value of your involvement!
So my unsolicited piece of advice to all you mommies who have your hearts set on breastfeeding:
Get your head in the game.Surround yourself with positive people, and women who have successfully breastfed, or who believe in your success.(that includes you hubby/partner) And get in professional help. Don’t wait for the wheels to come off. Get it from the beginning, if you can. They all make up your support team. I firmly believe that, bar any genuine exceptions for being unable to, it is your team and your mindset that will determine your breastfeeding success.
Also keep in mind, that if you ever feel that this journey is also no longer for you, be sure to not riddle yourself with guilt about the choices you make. Guilt-ridden mamas dont make for stable happy moms, which is vital for baby too. I would suggest, empower yourself with knowledge(understanding the pros and cons of your options), and make the informed choice thats good for baby and you.
I think we could all do with a helping hand in our breastfeeding endevours, like hubby and I had with my midwife. It really can make all the difference.
Need someone like my midwife to come save your breastfeeding? Have look-see on my Origins blog post. It’s lengthy but the contacts are there, towards the end.(scroll down past the jabber, if need be)
By the way, The Lactation Consultantancy actually has a purely breastfeeding class for while you are still preggo. So you’re fully informed well before the crunch time descends upon you, when baby is there and wanting milkies now, and the mommy-reality hits you square in the face, and you’re all panic stations. And, and, and… This class is not just a 10 minute gloss-over brief one often gets in the conventional antenatal class. Its alllllll about breastfeeding. I have not personally used that particular service of their’s, but I have used their call-out service with my second DD, and they do a super job at explaining the mechanics of it all. Certainly much better than any book could . Perhaps such a class would be helpful for some mommies out there.Especially the soon-to-be-moms out there, why not give them a call today?
Have you used one before? Or would you be interested in one? Im also keen to know what would be YOUR advice that you would love to impart to any mother that may be struggling or to new moms who are yet to go through this. Please, make yourself at home in the comments area.