When I gave birth to my daughter two years ago, I didn’t spend a lot of time contemplating how I planned to feed her. With little thought and not a great deal of research, I decided I would give breastfeeding a try. I remember thinking, “How difficult can it be since it’s often described as such a natural process?” It proved to be much more difficult than I expected.
I was fortunate enough to experience the first phase of breastfeeding without angst–my daughter latched on almost immediately, so I assumed the rest would be smooth sailing. Not surprisingly, I experienced some initial pain and sought the help of the hospital lactation consultant. I left the hospital feeling okay about the process, but was definitely lacking in confidence.
Over the course of the next few days at home, I really struggled – I couldn’t figure out how to get my daughter to latch onto both sides, the pain was increasing instead of decreasing, and I was chapped and bleeding.
Five days after my daughter’s birth, my husband and I braved the dismally cold NYC winter and sought the help of another lactation consultant. She tweaked my positioning, suggested a few new products, weighed the baby to make sure she was consuming enough, and sent me home with a renewed sense of confidence. Unfortunately, it was short lived. Several feedings later, I couldn’t quite emulate the positioning she had shown me, and I found myself back to square one–in pain, only nursing from one side, and frustrated.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I attended regular lactation help sessions with other new moms. The sessions were one part help, one part support group. A trained lactation consultant would weigh the babies, help us with positioning, answer questions and more. But I was receiving some conflicting information from the pediatrician about my daughter’s weight and questioning if I would need to supplement the breastfeeding with formula. The process was beginning to take a toll on me as a first time mom, and a very conscientious one at that.
After eight weeks of struggling, I hired one last lactation consultant and promised myself that if she couldn’t help ease the pain, I was finally done. I knew in my heart that I had given everything I had to make breastfeeding work, but ultimately accepted that it might not work for me. Thankfully, something really clicked for me during that session and I continued to nurse my daughter until her first birthday. A complete and somewhat surprising success story in my parenting book!
Throughout the last few years, I've met so many moms who have very similar stories of breastfeeding struggles. I can't tell you how valuable it was for me to hear that I wasn't alone in my frustration and to learn that my experience was actually quite common. The support from other moms and my own growing confidence was paramount to achieving my goal of breastfeeding my daughter-- I took the experience one day at a time and put very little pressure on myself, knowing that it was ultimately my decision to continue.
With so many outside influences and opinions, it can be challenging sometimes to find your voice within motherhood and breastfeeding specifically, but by surrounding yourself with like-minded and supportive people, whichever path you choose to follow will be the right one.
by Anna Julien of The Baby Bump Diaries.