My Breastfeeding Story: Overcoming Latch Issues, Supply Issues + More
Breastfeeding was never even questioned when I was pregnant. I had the mentality that I would try my best and give it my all. Through the bloody, cracked nipples, the latching issues, the tears, exhaustion, and the overwhelming trial and error, we came out on the other side.
I was blessed to be able to work and stay at home with my daughter through the many weeks of getting breastfeeding down. I don’t know how women who only get six weeks to get this extraordinary bond down do it. It truly is a dance that has to be learned by mother and baby.
In the beginning, I was so determined. I went into the doctor’s office and pulled out my boob for all to see, as if I was proud, and then it all came crashing down. “Eleanor has a tiny lip tie,” the lactation consultant said to us, as she pulled and smashed my boob, watching my daughter just lightly suckle. The lactation consultant came over and “sandwiched my boob,” squeezing it with her cold hands to get my milk going, while I looked down at my beautiful newborn going at my boob with just a small mouth. I cringed when she just sucked on my nipple. As I was focused on my daughter trying to feed, the lactation consultant was trying to tell me they wanted to get Eleanor’s lip tie fixed. She handed me surgery brochures. My nipples turned beat red when Eleanor finally popped off of me, and I felt so defeated. Asking myself, Why? Why is this so freaking hard? What am I doing wrong? I was just trying to feed my poor daughter who had lost two pounds since birth, due to lack of milk. I cried in the doctor’s office, and my husband held me as the doctor looked at me as if it was all my fault.
She gave us a regiment of pumping and nursing. I was totally against surgery. It wasn’t 100% necessary, so I did all I could to work through the tough days. It was round the clock work. I would nurse her, and then pump after every feed. And then I would give her an extra syringe of pumped milk after every feed. Talk about tired, mentally exhausted, and feeling the most defeated I have ever felt. My husband also felt so helpless in my fits or rage and crying fits. He was ultimately supportive and helpful and did what he could when he could.
After almost two weeks of this regiment, we went back to the lactation consultant. My daughter had gained the weight back and more. The lactation consultant was so pleased and so proud of me, and so proud of my husband for his support. I had made it through my first hurdle. I cried many nights after, as my husband brought me a screaming baby for the hundredth time. She popped on and off my boob sometimes, not getting a full feed. So many pillows were used to try to get the right position for the both of us. Nothing seemed to be going right. I had taken the classes, I had read the books, I had seen a lactation consultant, yet nothing prepares you for the reality of it all.
I was also still recovering from giving birth, which felt like it took forever. I had a few friends who had given birth a few months before me and it seemed like my recovery was so much longer than theirs. I tried not to focus on the blood gushing out of me every time I moved, and the fact that every time I went to pee I cringed and cried due to my horizontal tearing. And my boobs were sore and engorged from trying to getting my milk supply right. It takes so much time to get the supply right.
Honestly, I don’t remember the exact day when it finally went right! The day Eleanor latched and it was harmony. Those early months really just run together, but one day, after weeks of struggle, tears and anguish every time she went to latch, it was harmony. One day I felt my let down and saw her gulp and swallow rather than lightly suckle. I cried and threw my head back and yelled, “Yes!” really loud. She popped off looking up at me with milk coming out of the creases of her mouth. I then saw a stream of my milk spray everywhere. We both finally got the hang of this breastfeeding thing.
Pumping and nursing is a challenge that I am conquering as well. I am trying to boost my milk supply up, which can also be a job in itself. I am trying to take all the right supplements, making trays upon trays of lactation cookies and taking my daily dose of DHA. I am waiting for that first full bag of pump milk, as it just flows graciously. My body only produces what Eleanor eats, so pumping on top of it is hard, because I am slowly tricking my body into producing a little more.
I envy the women who can pump and nurse and stockpile a ton of milk. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few frozen bags of my own, but no freezer full. If you are in that same boat, and are hoping to boost your supply, some of The Honest Co.’s lactation supplements could help you. Their blend of organic fenugreek, fennel, and milk thistle could be your ticket to a full freezer of milk. I know I am going to try it!
I’d like to be able to leave my daughter with family so I can have a night out with my husband, or go take care of some errands. Finding time to pump while you are nursing at every feed is hard. I am trying to pump in the mornings, since that’s when I have the most milk, and also when I take all of my vitamins.
When that second glass of wine looks appealing to you, you start to question yourself, Should I? Since you have to feed a baby in a few hours, and she may wake up mid glass.
My life revolves around nursing and her schedule. I am proud that I surrounded myself with a huge support system while I was having trouble breastfeeding in the beginning. It helped keep my enthusiasm going through the days I wanted to give up.
They never tell you how emotionally hard it will be to breastfeed. Getting the true hang of it takes effort and time. They never tell you how long it will take to get a good routine down, or how long it will take for your supply to get just right. My daughter is now 6 months old and we are still going strong. It took almost 3-4 months to get breastfeeding down to a science. I plan to breastfeed her for a full year. I hope to reach my goal.
As mothers we need to stand together and truly talk about how breastfeeding can be a struggle. It is not as easy as it may seem. We also need to support those mothers who tried and were not able to breastfeed. Formula feeding is something I cannot relate to, but would never shame a mother for doing it. If you decide to formula feed, or have tried breastfeeding and couldn’t, don’t feel discouraged or ashamed. There are a ton of options to make sure your baby gets all the nutrition he or she needs. I know that I have formula in the house just in case of an emergency, or if something happens. A good quality formula to try is The Honest Co.’s sensitive organic formula. If you have to supplement due to going back to work, or if you are full time formula feeding, this a great formula that is made with organic ingredients and is GMO free, which puts a lot of moms at ease.
No matter what you choose or how you choose to feed your baby, I hope we as mothers can come together and support one another. Stop putting each other down for what we decide to feed our baby, or how we decide to do it, and instead build each other up. We are all mothers, we are all raising beautiful children in this crazy world and we need that support to get us through.
Photos: Nisa Burns Cochran