I thought I was prepared for what breastfeeding was all about, and it was the one thing I was most excited about in becoming a mother. Being a Registered Nurse and having a passion for teaching breastfeeding to moms, I thought I had everything in the bag. Boy was I wrong. All my years of breastfeeding education did not help me one bit… Little did I know that breastfeeding would take over every second of my day…
I remember the first time I put my tiny 5lb 12oz baby to my breast – I didn’t even manage to get her on the nipple correctly. The hickey I had beside my nipple clearly stated that. However, after trying some different positioning, I managed to quickly feel pretty confident in my skills. And off I went, breastfeeding every 3 hours or so.
Then my milk came in. With a vengeance. I was severely engorged for almost 2 weeks. Nothing I did really helped. I always had a bag of frozen peas tucked into my tank top 24/7. I would spend what seemed like forever in a hot shower using my arms to squeeze my breasts together, trying to just let them drip and relieve some of the pressure without taking too much milk off. I also developed severely sore nipples and ended up using the nipple shield for 3 weeks. It helped immensely- that nipple pain was unbearable, but damage had already been done and a crack in my right nipple became more obvious and stuck around for 2 whole months. My daughter didn’t like the shield much when she got a bit older, so I was forced to just clench my teeth every time I latched her on and hope for the best. Finally that healed after making sure she was latched properly and with the help of some very expensive prescription nipple cream!
My biggest issue, which I still am dealing with today, is milk supply. After being engorged for all that time, I thought I was going to be one of those mothers with too much milk. Wrong again. Nobody has given me a reason why this happened (I’ve been to two different Doctors/Lactation Consultants) but around the end of the first month, I noticed my milk supply had decreased A LOT. My baby noticed too: she would cry and cry at the breast. But I pushed on, pumping and feeding often, doing everything I was told and knew about to increase my supply. I DID NOT WANT TO GIVE FORMULA! In my opinion it was lack of sleep that was the cause, but who knows.
Over the next few weeks, my milk supply increased again, and I worried a little less. Not out of the woods yet, because shortly after that my milk decreased significantly again and this time it didn’t really come back. I began to worry excessively every time I breastfed, feeling like it could be my last time. I was constantly feeling my breasts thinking “are they filling up?!?” I didn’t want to breastfeed outside of my house because I was so nervous about having enough milk, and what would happen if I didn’t. I think the feeling might be similar to a mother who doesn’t have enough money to buy groceries for her child- I didn’t have enough milk for my baby. Breastfeeding quickly took over my entire being and everything I did was to help my milk supply. My life revolved around nursing (which sometimes took over an hour), pumping, washing all the pumping equipment, and doing it all over again. I got my Doctor to prescribe Motilium [domperidone] (a pill that helps increase milk supply) and I am still on 12 pills a day to maintain my supply. I developed severe insomnia and anxiety, and even had a few panic attacks worrying about my milk supply. You could say it consumed me, and I ‘crashed and burned’, so to speak.
When my baby was about 3 months, I finally had to give in. I gave my baby some formula. I cried while I was giving her the bottle. But I was hoping it would help her sleep longer at night so I could sleep. It worked. So every night since then, I breastfeed my baby and then give her a bottle of formula right after and she sleeps well. I remember feeling so relieved when I put away that breast pump and decided I would never pump again. If my baby needed extra milk, she would have to have formula. I slowly felt human again once I got some sleep. The anxiety about my supply has also SLOWLY decreased and I finally felt confident about breastfeeding once my daughter was about 6 months old.
This experience has made me a stronger person for sure, and has taught me that there are no rules when it comes to being a mother or with breastfeeding. It has taught me how to be a more relaxed person and how to deal with stress better. It has definitely made me a better nurse. I often wish I wouldn’t have been such a mess when things were bad because I feel like I didn’t really get to enjoy my daughters first few months. But I feel so proud of myself that my daughter is almost 8 months and I am still breastfeeding, and every day I try to be the best mother that I can be.
Laura is a mother to an amazing little girl named Jayde, and a Registered Nurse. She loves spending time with her little family. Her favorite things include her husband Darryl, Jayde of course, sunshine, sleep!, coffee, and reading. She is currently working on obtaining her credentials to become a Lactation Consultant so she can help other mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals.
Thank you SO much for sharing your story, Laura. I used to work with Laura at the hospital where I have had both of my babies, but I didn’t return to work there after Braden was born. I remember talking to Laura when I was pregnant about breastfeeding because she had such a passion for it, even then. She was one of the go-to nurses when any of us had questions about breastfeeding and teaching. It just goes to show that no matter how much you know or don’t know – breastfeeding is ALWAYS a unique journey for every mommy and babe!
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