While pregnant, I hoped that I could breastfeed and was happy when baby latched and my supply increased enough to keep her nourished; I am always marveled and the fact that my body gave birth to her and that it has been entirely responsible for sustaining her life. Scout is seven weeks old and, apart from a few attempted bottle feeds, I’ve solely breastfed her and have used pumping to fill a bottle or two along the way as we are still to find the correct formula to supplement her needs so that I am able to be away from baby for a few hours at a time. I’ve got an over supply but want to use formula because I’m thinking about my return to work which, at this stage, says I will not continue breastfeeding as the logistics around pumping and my experience with engorged breasts has me a little uncertain. Yes, breastfeeding is beautiful; it is a privilege and allows for a really close connection with mom and baby when both are well and calm but the experience comes with many challenges that nobody told me about and I feel that apart from the ‘breast is best’ mantra, I was ill-prepared for this journey. Here are some of the things I’ve faced outside of the marvelous beauty of breastfeeding.
I was fortunate to have Scout latch by the second day of feeding her but found (and still find) that initial suck to be painful, especially when my breasts are full. I struggled with raw nipples for about a week and have been better at caring for them since. I used Lanolin nipple cream when they were sensitive but have learnt to swop which breast she feeds on to avoid cracked nipples; I think my body has also adjusted to the feeding. I know that latching is really stressful for some moms so consulting a lactation specialist can help; I had a nurse in hospital who helped me and I’ve had no trouble since. (To new moms, it’s okay to feed through bleeding nipples. They are quite painful but it’s better than an engorged breast. If you struggle too much, perhaps expressing could help – try keeping the pump on a lower setting).
Breastfeeding is time-consuming, especially in the first few weeks when supply is lower; feeding brings on more milk (as baby’s needs increase). Once Scout started feeding more my breasts filled up and I find that her time spent feeding has decreased (but feeding also comes with the dreaded winding so a session can last up to an hour or more). On good days, the time spent watching her feed are an absolute joy but on bad days (usually when I’ve had little sleep and she’s demanding or fussy) it becomes really frustrating for me, especially when I’d like to get to a shower or have a chance to tidy up because a cluttered space is driving me mad. I often get told to leave the house chores but, being home-bound mostly, I feel that a tidy space makes me feel better about having to be here, so I tidy up daily. I think it’s difficult for dads and others to understand the amount of time ‘lost’ while feeding. Breastfeeding is worthwhile but it doesn’t mean that I don’t miss not sharing my body and I almost feel guilty when I refer to it as a sacrifice. I also feel pressure from some moms to abandon the feeding for formula but my talking about the challenges of breastfeeding doesn’t mean that I don’t value its benefits, the privilege to do so or the bond I share with my baby.
It was a breeze
For about three weeks and before we tried introducing a bottle. I elaborate on this a little later.
Engorged breasts/ milk fever
I’d been home a few days when I had my first bout of what is often called ‘milk fever’ where your full breasts cause your body temperature to rise and a slight Ill feeling to take over. For me, my teeth began chattering and I felt really cold (the irony during a fever!) and my body began convulsing; as a new mom I had no idea what was happening and I panicked, thinking that something was drastically wrong. I learnt that cold cloths or compress packs take away the intense warmth and that it is better to express a little if you feel that your breasts are full. I have an over supply and so I have to push to feed every 2-3 hours so that it takes away the hardness and sensitivity of my breasts. It is stressful when I’m out or when she sleeps for longer stints. Admittedly, I sometimes let her sleep because I need the break but my breasts don’t seem to like pumping and tend to fill up even quicker than if she’d fed.
Scout is seven weeks old and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with breastfeeding. It’s difficult that I’m unable to be away from her because she’s only starting to take the bottle; I have no intention of being out on the town but do feel that a yoga session or a trip to the mall without the carrier and anxiety could do me the world of good! I’m also in a lot of pain because of an oversupply and her feeding a little less than I need her to. I find that trying to have some kind of social life puts strain on the routine of feeding and it makes the experience overwhelming at times.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely! I wouldn’t change this for the world. Speaking about the realities of something doesn’t mean that you don’t cherish every part of it. I love feeding her; I literally prayed that I could and it has been a joy to do so, despite all that you’ve read. I will be attending a talk on breastfeeding at the end of the week and hope to learn a few much-needed tips to continue this journey for as long as possible. And that’s the point, it’s a journey. There were a few weeks when feeding was a breeze and trying to introduce a bottle has resulted in my over supply (because of pumping when she would not take the formula) so it has been an interesting ride, one that I will probably be posting about more than once as she grows and our experience changes.
Have you enjoyed reading this post/ found it helpful? Leave a comment, I’d love you have your thoughts and experiences shared.
Until my next post,