Making the decision to feed your baby breast milk, in whatever way and for whatever length of time you choose, is amazing. But, every breastfeeding journey is different, and none are perfect. In this ‘Notes From A New Breastfeeding Mom,’ first-time mother Joy shares her experiences in her own words. Her journey, like other moms’, has its flaws and challenges, but it is a real glimpse into the perfectly imperfect experience of breastfeeding.
Part 1: No, I Will Not Ask My Mother
I was a confident woman. When I needed to make decisions, I did the necessary research, followed my gut instinct, and I never looked back.
Then, I got pregnant.
Everything I thought I knew and every ounce of confidence I had went out the window. I was clueless. So, I went into research overdrive – car seats, sleep schedules, daycares, how to introduce dog to baby. I was researching everything.
Then I hit my limit. Against every fiber inside me, I closed my computer and stopped researching…right before I did a deep dive into breastfeeding information. While this made me very uneasy, I heard from multiple mothers not to worry because babies know exactly what to do when it comes to breastfeeding. “It’s natural to them,” the moms told me. “The nurses are there to help you,” they said. “Lactation consultants will be stalking your hospital room.” The words of encouragement flowed in from all directions.
I wasn’t confident in my decision to avoid doing in-depth research or going to breastfeeding classes, but for my sanity at the moment it was the decision I made.
Late on a Saturday evening, I instantly regretted the decision. My son, Grant, made his entrance into this world, and I laid in the hospital bed holding him with not the slightest idea on how to feed him. Of course, I’ve seen friends breastfeed their children, and I knew the basics. But as I was holding Grant, I didn’t know how or where to start.
The words from my mommy friends played back in my head, “The nurses are there to help.” So, the next time I saw the nurse, I requested a lactation consultant.
“They don’t work after 5,” she said. It was 10 pm.
“Can you help me? I need to feed my son.” Instead of the assistance I thought I was going to get, I got “Your mom is here. Get her to show you.” I was shocked. Mad. Furious – at the nurse and myself.
After pressing the nurse several times and informing her that my mother hasn’t breastfed in 35 years, the nurse gave me a couple pointers. I fed my son for the first time – well, at least I thought he ate.
The next morning, I requested the lactation consultant and started googling. By afternoon I had a small grasp on breastfeeding, but it wasn’t feeling right. I just didn’t feel like he was eating.
A couple calls to friends, another online search and a look under the tongue led my husband and I to the conclusion that our son could be tongue-tied. That could explain why it didn’t feel like he was eating. For the most part, he wasn’t.
As more lactation consultants and nurses came and left, some agreed with our theory. Others didn’t. The naysayers ensured me he was eating. My gut was saying he wasn’t eating the way he should. Unfortunately, I was right.
Grant lost a significant amount of weight, enough weight where they were getting concerned. The nurse, the same one who didn’t want to help me breastfeed, told me I needed to give him formula. She believed I wasn’t producing, and formula was the only option.
Now, I’m not against formula. For some it is the right solution and sometimes it’s the only solution. And I’m definitely not saying my child will never have formula, however, I wasn’t going to give up that fast. Plus, there was just something inside me that told me I was producing and had plenty of colostrum to offer my son.
That’s when I countered the nurse. Instead of formula I wanted to pump first. I needed to see for myself that I had little to no colostrum before I gave in to formula.
This is probably the time I should tell you my son was never in any form of danger or risk. He wasn’t starving. He wasn’t malnourished. He was just losing more weight than they would prefer. I should also state I only had issues with this one particular nurse – all of the other ones were lovely and provided excellent care.
A couple minutes later the nurse showed up with a pump, its supplies and a medicine syringe. I thanked her and asked if she could bring a nipple back for the bottle. She looked at me with a slanted smile and said something similar to, “Honey, if you get 10 mL of colostrum I’d be amazed. Such a small amount you’ll have to feed him with a syringe.”
Challenge accepted lady.
I strapped that pump on and pumped and pumped. I watched it pass 10 mL and was elated. 20, 30, 40…it kept coming…50, 60, 70…80 milliliters! I was over the moon.
I hid my smirk and calmly walked to the hallway to request a nipple. Shocked is the only word I can use to describe the nurse’s response. I was so proud and so happy to feed my son and know he was eating, actually eating.
Later that week my son was diagnosed as tongue-tied. Another week went by and it was corrected with a little snip under the tongue. He latches now and eats. He’s just not a good eater off the breast. Instead of worrying about it, I do what I feel is right. I breastfeed Grant. Then I pump and offer him my expressed milk. Sometimes I just bottle feed him my milk.
Not all of our doctors and nurses agree with my method – some do. They tell me about nipple confusion. The chance of my supply drying up. They tell me a lot of things, but I feel what I’m doing is right for Grant and for me.
I still feel clueless most days on many aspects of caring for my son. But, I’m back to following my instincts. I’m listening to my gut. I research until my little heart is content. And I’m 100% confident that Grant is not only getting but also eating the best milk I can provide him.
Real Stories, Real Support
Moms, take the guesswork out of preparing to breastfeed with our collection of helpful resources, information, and expert advice.
Healthcare professionals, support your patients by preparing your team with the most up-to-date lactation facts and research.