No one told me about breastfeeding

I just knew I wanted to breastfeed.

When I had Sophia, my first baby, I thought breastfeeding was going to be simple. In fact, during my whole pregnancy, especially towards the end, I couldn't wait to put her on my breast. I imagined blissful moments where she'd just stay there and eat and eat and eat. No one told me what the real deal was. Not even my midwife. I had read that I should 'rough up' my nipples for 2 weeks before birth, but I didn't really know what that meant. For me, I envisioned breastfeeding to be easy-peasy.

Then, after I pushed her out and her little slimy squishy body laid on top of me, now was my moment. Within 20 minutes, she was suckling. One of the many vivid memories of that first day was when the nurse on staff at the birthing center walked in, noticed that Sophia was on my boob, and said, "Oh, that looks great. How long has she been on there?" And I said, "About 2 hours." She instantly reprimanded me, "Oh no no no. You shouldn't do that!" I thought, why not? I had no idea why she reacted that way (and I still don't know why she reacted that way).

The first day seemed great. Sophia had a vicious suck, super strong, and it seemed that all she wanted was to be on my boob (and sleep, of course). Then, halfway through the second day, my nipples really started to hurt. And they kept hurting. More and more. I didn't realize that this would happen.

So for the next 3 weeks, I was trying to learn how to breastfeed. I hired a lactaction consultant, she came over and showed me what to do, and when she was happy with what I was doing, she left. She came back a couple more times, but my nipples were still bleeding, raw, and painful. The good thing was that after Sophia lost that initial 8% body weight, she quickly gained it back within 2 weeks. 

My husband was the one who took her to the pediatrician to get her weighed. I was too exhausted to go. Plus, he wanted to do it himself. It gave him that boost of "I'm-being-useful-and-I'm-going-to-take-my-new-baby-to-the-doctor-and-my-wife-can-rest". So I painfully topped her up with milk, strapped her in the sling on my hubby, and off they went. He came back within an hour and proudly told me she gained 700 grams in 2 weeks!

Needless to say, I was elated. All that hard work, determination, and efforts paid off! Right then and there when my husband told me that she gained back the weight and more, I broke down and sobbed. I was overjoyed. 

Within the next week, nearly 3 weeks after her birth, things felt so much better. My nipples were no longer cracked, they were healing (my boobs were out all the time so my nipples could have a lot of exposure to heal with breastmilk leaking out to help the skin recuperate), and the pain was diminishing. I knew I had turned a corner.

Breastfeeding became wonderful after a month, and my confidence and comfort was coming back. I remember those weeks very well.

No one told me how hard breastfeeding is. I had no clue. I think if I had known and I was prepared for the hard work, things would have been easier on me emotionally and psychologically. It is frekking hard. 

I'm writing this to let you know what it was like for me, and even though it was so tough in the beginning, I was able to continue breastfeeding Sophia for 2 years. I also breastfed my #2 and #3 for two years each. 

All things considered, I know many women have even a tougher time with breastfeeding. Much tougher. Some of these stories are heartbreaking. Some women have had traumatic births, which leads to stress, and then leads to doubts about their milk supply, or confidence in being able to do it. Th biggest factors in moms learning to breastfeed are doubt, lack of information, fear, insecurity, and wrong information. There is so much out there, we know. It's frustrating. And so many opinions. What's in breastmilk and what's in formula? All in all, it's essential for women to learn about this and to be aware of the effort that goes into breastfeeding. It's all about the health and well-being of your baby (and you!).

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MaryAnne Shiozawa