Hi there! I’m Rachel and I blog over at Midwestern and Married. I am a born-and-raised California girl adjusting to a new(ish) life as a Midwesterner. My life revolves around my 17-month-old daughter (Emma) and college football (I’m married to a coach) and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
My breastfeeding journey was a bumpy one. Emma was not going to nurse without a fight…a seriously exhausting 4 month battle of wills (Spoiler alert: I won).
Emma’s birth went smoothly. I had no complications and she was born a healthy, happy little person with 10 fingers and 10 toes. When I held her for the first time, I remember being simultaneously terrified and amazed over the fact that Joe (the hubs) and I were now in charge of another human life. After a few minutes of nothing but staring in awe at the newest member of our family, the nurse in the room suggested that I try breastfeeding.
No problem. I took the breastfeeding class at the hospital. I am super prepared for this. I definitely won’t be one of those moms who struggle because I am informed and well-researched on this topic.
Let me just tell you, that way of thinking is dumb.
As I awkwardly tried to nurse, Emma screamed. I pulled her away from my chest and Joe took her. She immediately calmed down. He handed her back to me. I awkwardly tried to nurse again and again she screamed. Joe took her and she immediately calmed down again. This continued for another 20 minutes or so and it quickly became clear that Emma wanted nothing to do with this business of breastfeeding, so they finally brought in the hospital-grade pump to give my aching totties some relief. After I pumped, one of the nurses fed Emma with a tiny spoon so that she wouldn’t starve while we tried to figure this out. The next day, I tried to nurse again and again she screamed. And again I pumped so she could be fed with a tiny spoon.
I have tried to quantify how inadequate I felt in those moments. Words will never do it justice. And when I was all but ready to throw in the towel and give up hope, the hospital’s lactation consultant walked into the room. Her name was Judy. I loved her. She didn’t bat an eye when Emma screamed and I cried. Then she asked me how long I planned on nursing. ”A year,” I said.
Wait whaaaat? A year? I surprised myself with this answer. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it until that moment. But as soon as I said it, something inside of me changed. In that moment I became determined to breastfeed my child.
The rest of our stay in the hospital came and went with the same results: awkward attempts to breastfeed, Emma screaming, me pumping, nurses spoon-feeding…lather, rinse, repeat.
And then it was time to go home. Since Emma refused to nurse, I had to pump so that we could bottle feed her. As luck would have it, the hospital where Emma was born had just opened a (free-of-charge…score!) Breastfeeding Center. I immediately booked an appointment with Judy, our fabulous lactation nurse! When we got to the Center, I attempted to feed Emma. Each time, she balled her fists, tensed her entire body and screamed until I couldn’t take it anymore. We tried different positions. She hated all of them. My mom sat in the chair next to me and I remember how helpless she looked. I know she desperately wanted to help.
Emma riled herself up so much that Judy had to call in reinforcements. Enter Jennifer, another lactation consultant at the Center…but more importantly, another humongous support person in this battle with my 2 week old.
Eventually, out of pure exhaustion, Emma fell asleep in my lap. With the room finally quiet, Judy, Jennifer and I made a game plan. Each time Emma got hungry, I was supposed to attempt to feed her…no matter what. She got 3 strikes before we could give her a bottle. If she would only take the bottle, someone else was supposed to feed her so I could pump.
For the next 2 weeks, every day looked exactly like those first 2 days home from the hospital: Visiting Judy and Jennifer. Attempting to nurse. Screaming 3 times. Warming up a bottle. Pumping. Frustration you cannot believe. Patience I didn’t know I had. I wanted to quit so badly, but Judy kept telling me that she wasn’t ready to give up on us yet. If she wasn’t going to quit, neither was I.
Nursing Emma was a constant guessing game. Each time she got hungry, I had to try a new trick. There were times where she would only nurse if I stood and bounced while holding her in the football position. Other times I had to lie down in bed. And other times she would only nurse if Joe held her, gave her a bottle for 10 seconds and then put her up to my chest. Each feeding was its own adventure and I never knew what to expect.
Finally, after several days of battling Emma at every feeding, I hit my limit. Judy encouraged me to have Emma’s tongue evaluated. I was referred to a pediatrician who is an expert in infant tongue ties. She took one look at Emma’s tongue and confirmed that she had a severe posterior tongue tie. Feeling like I didn’t have any other options, I decided to move forward with a frenulectomy (Side note: If you are going to the doctor to have your child’s tongue-tie corrected, do not – under any circumstances – go alone. It will be awful and you will cry.).
The next 3 days following the frenulectomy were rough. Emma was angrier than normal when I would attempt to nurse her and I spent 72 hours convinced that I had made a humongous mistake. But the sun rose on that 4th day and with it came a baby who breastfed like a rock star! She would still only nurse with a nipple shield, but who cared?! She was nursing without putting up any kind of fight. Every.Single.Time.
Another 6 weeks passed without event. I cut my visits to the Breastfeeding Center down to once every other week. Being able to nurse my child without fear of a public meltdown was so freeing. I was able to leave the house without a cooler full of bottles. It was pretty much amazing.
I was content with the fact that Emma would only nurse with a shield. After everything we had been through, I was happy just having her breastfeed at all. And then something miraculous happened…
One August afternoon, I put Emma in the car and drove to the mall. When we got there, she let me know she was hungry, so I hopped in the backseat to feed her. It was then that she did the most unbelievable thing. While I was pulling a clean shield out of the diaper bag, homegirl decided she didn’t need the shield anymore and latched on without it. I’m sorry…whaaaaaaat?! This was the kid who refused to even be in the near vicinity of my boob without a nipple shield for 4 months. But here she was…in the back of my Prius at Oakbrook Mall breastfeeding like a pro. I thought for sure it was a fluke. For the next several days, I kept waiting for her to change her mind again. I continued to pack nipple shields in the diaper bag…waiting for things to stop being so easy. I was not accustomed to easy…easy made me nervous. But Emma kept right on feeding without a shield. And, after dealing with some seriously sore nipples, I finally relaxed and accepted that 4 months of ridiculously hard work were starting to pay off.
Over the course of Emma’s first 4 months of life, I learned more about myself and my daughter than I ever thought possible. My breastfeeding journey was not at all what I thought it would be, but I am so happy to report that we successfully nursed for 14 months before Emma weaned herself.
To recap, here are the top 5 things I learned from my breastfeeding journey:
- You can do it! If you really want to breastfeed, you can make it happen no matter how much your baby initially fights it, but be prepared for the massive amounts of patience and time it may take.
- You can know everything there is to know about breastfeeding, but actually doing it is a completely different ball game so don’t get cocky (that one was more for me than anybody else).
- Know your goals for breastfeeding before you actually have your baby (ok, that one was more for me too).
- Seek out a support system. There will be people who say horrible things to you and there will be people who are amazing. Spend as much time with the positive people as you can.
- Take care of a tongue tie early. If you even think your baby might have the slightest hint of a tongue tie, take care of it ASAP. It really does make a world of difference in the breastfeeding process.
Thank you so much to Julie for hosting this series! It has been so great following everyone else’s breastfeeding stories and I hope they keep coming!
Be sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries at the top of my navigation bar. If you would like to share your breastfeeding journey please email me at thegirlintheredshoes @ gmail