When breastfeeding isn't "the most natural thing in the world."
I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. So during my relatively easy pregnancy, I read as much as possible on the topic and, by the end of my research, felt prepared -- I was convinced that my baby would come out ready to latch on. But it turned out, breastfeeding didn’t come as naturally as I thought it would. Breastfeeding is hard.
After 12 hours of labor, a half hour of pushing and skin-to-skin right after her birth, my daughter didn’t latch on. We opted to room with our baby during our two-night hospital stay, and after six hours, she was still not latching. So the nurses sent in a lactation consultant, whom eventually wheeled in a hospital-grade pump. I needed to start pumping and get my colostrum out. My husband fed our baby with an eyedropper for the first few days of her life, and after the hospital and our own pediatricians both dismissed the possibility of a tongue tie, I began to get concerned. But I thought that once we got home in our comfortable setting, everything would fall into place.
Once home, my husband bottle fed our daughter breast milk, and I diligently did skin-to-skin to encourage latching throughout the day. We started using nipple guards, which our lactation consultant recommended, and she eventually latched on and was on her way to gain weight normally. But my nipples were sore… oh, so sore. I stocked up on nipple butter, slathered it on religiously and steered clear of towels above the waist after showers. I never had mastitis, but I kept having to pump out painful, clogged ducts. And since many of my friends had told me that it took them several weeks to get the hang of breastfeeding, I thought my pain was normal and suffered in silence.
Don’t get me wrong. We did have some good days, but they were rare. And despite all of the tears (mine, not my baby’s) and the fact that I began cringing at the thought of nursing, I was convinced that we could and would make it work! I just needed to wait it out, I told myself.
After three months of excruciating pain and repeated failures, however, I started to lose hope. I delivered my daughter sans epidural. But this prolonged emotional and physical challenge was a lot more draining and grueling. I tried everything: I saw two lactation consultants; I took day-long breaks with bottle-feeding while pumping; I watched videos on YouTube to practice latching; I tried every position in the books; and I talked to our pediatrician, who just told me to “hang in there.” All in vain. We had finally gotten the nipple guards off, but I was still in pain and desperate. So I decided to go to a breastfeeding class, where the instructor told me to get her checked for a tongue tie.
Immediately, several moms in the room referred me to a doctor who performed frenectomies on their newborns. What, was this a thing? Did moms have their babies tongues clipped? Did it work? Was my baby too old? And the most important question, would my baby feel pain? All of these questions were running through my mind.
After researching on the web and talking to my husband, we decided to make an appointment as a last-ditch effort. If this didn't work, I would pump exclusively to feed our baby. Seconds after a quick and simple procedure, my baby was latching like a champ, without causing me pain. I was shocked!
My daughter turned one in February, and although she's eating solids, I'm so happy to say that she’s still nursing. We nurse standing up, lying down, on the park bench, even at her first birthday party at a bar. We even nursed on the go, with the baby carrier -- a sweet moment I wanted to experience since seeing a friend of mine breastfeeding her child that way.
People have begun to ask me when I will stop breastfeeding. Although it's absolutely none of their business, I somewhat politely tell them I don't know and change the topic. It took us a whole 4 months to master the art of breastfeeding. I don’t feel like thinking about shutting it down just yet. Yes, I do miss my normal bras. But I enjoy feeding my baby whenever she needs it, free of pain. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Brooklyn-based designer Shana Luther creates handbags that display her love of classic yet modern styles, as well as her belief in American manufacturing. A Pennsylvania native, Shana has called Brooklyn home since 1995. She lives there happily with her husband, cofounder of Houses in Motion, an animation studio, their pup Jackie, and their new baby girl, Portia.