Wow! All of these blog posts about breast feeding (post 1, post 2, and post 3), and now I can finally post about some real hands-on experience!
All in all, it was what I expected. Hard. I had done my research, but it seemed that baby Max hadn't been reading the same books I had. It took us some time to get the hang of it.
I was able to start skin-to-skin an hour after Max was born, the delay of course was related to my c-section. A lactation consultant was there, and helped us get a good latch. He nursed for a little while, and again a couple of hours later. During his second feeding, he actually used his arms to push himself away from my breast, and turned his head! This was 3 hours after he was born! Scary how strong he was already.
The feedings were tough to get started. I wasn't able to get him latched on my own. I would try for a few minutes, and I would ask for help once he was wailing and upset. I wanted to learn to do it on my own, but it wasn't worth getting us both worked up. The nurses at our hospital were AWESOME and helped me get him latched each time I asked for help. They were so great with getting him on. It seemed that I just wasn't willing to be as rough with him, they would grab his head and my breast, and just shove it deep into his mouth. Of course they weren't hurting him, but it still wasn't something I could bring myself to do.
His crying killed me. My husband and I would notice him rooting, and try to get him latched as soon as I could. We would fumble around for the latch for maybe three minutes before he would start getting really fussy and crying. That's when I would usually call for help. Once he started crying, there was just no hope in me getting him on by myself. My husband would help calm him down, and then bring him back to me. That sometimes helped. We always knew the nurses were there as a back-up plan.
After the second day, I would ask the nurse to come back and help me before he would get to the point of crying. I wanted to try and learn before he was all worked up. This helped, and on the third and fourth day I could get him latched on my own a few times (although I still needed help 75% of the time). I tried to learn from each nurse that helped us, and of course the lactation consultant. She was great, and gave me tips to help me learn.
I was told to pump to help with the "size issue" and they brought me a pump. When we had trouble getting him to latch, the LC put her finger in his mouth to suck, and use a syringe in the side of his mouth to give him some milk. This was teaching him that sucking would give him milk, which was better than just giving him the milk in a syringe alone. This worked very well with him, and it brought my concerns down a bit. I knew that I had this as a back-up plan.
On the last night of our stay, Max and I were having trouble getting started. I wanted to figure it out without help, but we just couldn't do it. I was getting so frustrated and he was crying, it was tearing me up inside. I told my husband that I wanted to use the syringe to get him started and calm him down a bit. My husband said, "No, try it again. You guys can do this." I got cranky about this, but I did it anyway. You know what? We did it right away! It worked! I'm so glad that my husband pushed me in my moment of weakness, it helped me realize that we could do it. That I shouldn't give up. It really changed my mentality on the whole situation. I love him for that (and so much more), even though it initially made me want to punch him in the throat (love you, Sean!).
Most of the problem was that I had to hold my breast a certain way, I was told that it was too large to have him grab onto himself (which later I noticed in all of the breast feeding pictures I have seen in the past, duh!). For whatever reason, this hadn't automatically clicked in my head. Once it was explained, I got the hang of it.
I hadn't wanted a c-section (see previous posts here and here for more on that), but for breast feeding it probably helped us in the end. Having an extra day at the hospital to learn from the LC and nurses was great. I wasn't a pro by the time I left, but I wasn't scared anymore. We (pretty much) knew how to do it, and Max had the hang of it for the most part. We just needed to keep practicing.
The best part? As soon as we got home, it was EASY. Most of the time he is latched on within five, yes five, seconds. The worst so far was maybe 30 seconds, which was when he had woken up from a long nap and was super hungry and fussy. 30 seconds? I'll take it! Easy! My energy changed when I got home. I was in MY environment, and it made all of the difference. i'm even pumping up a stash and storing it (check out my storage system here). I'm loving breast feeding, I really am. My nipples hurt like hell, and the bleeding/cracking isn't fun. But you know what? These are the best moments of my life. I'm loving every second of it, even the painful ones.
The moral of the story: Don't give up, and ask for help when you need it!
If you're interested in following my journey into motherhood, you can find me on Twitter @DawnMarieMcG and I look forward to seeing you online!
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