I like to research and be prepared for as much as possible. I took extensive childbirth and breastfeeding classes, read tons of books, scored the internet, and drilled any friends who already had kids when I was pregnant with L. I thought I knew everything there was to know, and that I was totally prepared.
Like most things in life, especially in the life of a mom, much of my experience was unexpected. My breastfeeding journey was relatively easy. I never struggled with producing enough (in fact, I had the opposite problem for a while) and my daughter had a good latch and no ties from the beginning. There were, however, a few things I wish I had been more ready for.
On day three of L’s life, a day after we had come home from the hospital, my milk came in. In the following few days, I experienced pain worse than my medication-free labor and delivery. I had rock-solid boulders protruding from my chest; hard hot lumps formed where my ducts were clogged with milk; and I wept if a breeze passed by my tender, engorged breasts (not to mention the pain when my always hungry newborn frantically tried to latch on). I tried to relieve some pressure by self-expressing in the shower, but I couldn’t get that to work. Looking back, I wish I had broken out my breast pump and stored some milk for later.
Which brings me to my second breastfeeding challenge. I returned to my teaching job when L was 8 weeks old, and she stayed at home with my amazing, multi-tasking, work-at-home husband. Many teachers at my school were pumping moms, and it didn’t seem like it would be a big deal. But, I quickly learned that I. Hate. Pumping. It’s the worst. After a few weeks, I settled into a livable routine. I had an inconsistent schedule at work, so the only guaranteed time I had to pump during the day was lunch. I needed to pump three times a day, so I got an adapter, and I pumped in the car on my way to and from school. I stored my pump parts in a cooler or in the fridge during the day, so I didn’t have to wash them. And I got this bra. I pumped milk a day ahead, and froze Friday’s milk for Monday. I usually had a little extra, so I froze that to have on hand. I ended up skipping pumping sessions at the end of the school year, because we had quite a bit stored up. I would not recommend this.. it was very painful and really impacted my supply.
- No Sleep. Ever.
L woke up every three hours to nurse until I weaned at 12 months. Starting solids at six months didn’t help. Soothing her without feeding her (when she was closer to a year old) did NOT work. The one night I tried Cry It Out was the worst of our lives. I think she was small, had a fast metabolism, and was hungry. My doctor reassured me at every appointment that it was normal for breastfed babies to not sleep through the night (even though all those pumping moms at work had babies who slept great from the beginning). I thought it would never end. I didn’t think I would ever get an entire night’s sleep again in my life. But, good news, I did.
Breastfeeding was amazing – my body produced something that met every nutritional need of my child. But, it was also frustrating, disappointing, and annoying. Like every first-time mom, my first year was beautiful and challenging. But, we made it. L was well-fed and grew like crazy, just like all her other friends who were breastfed, formula fed or a combination of the two.
Do what works for you,