So, breastfeeding…it’s easy, right? I mean it’s portable. It’s always the right temperature. It’s like Visa-it’s everywhere you want to be. Riiight. This is kind of what I was thinking 11 years ago. Hey, I’m going to have my baby and then I’m going to breastfeed her until she’s a year old. No need to mess with expensive formula when I’m a ready made milk machine, right?
Then reality hit. My baby had a “bad latch”. My nipples were cracking and bleeding, pretty much before we were discharged from the hospital. I don’t remember seeing a lactation consultant but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen-I don’t remember a lot from those 2 days in the hospital or the several weeks that followed. My baby lost weight. My milk supply was low. My pediatrician suggested we start supplementing at 2 weeks. Hey, he was the doctor and this breastfeeding thing was hard. I was feeding for what felt like around the clock and when I wasn’t feeding her, I was trying to pump with some little electric pump I picked up at Target. And then I went back to work. My choices for pumping were 1) the office I shared with 3 other managers that doubled as a supply room, 2) the locker room which doubled as a smoking lounge, and 3) the bathroom (which also doubled as a smoking lounge). I’m going to be honest and admit what I never have before: I quit. I just gave up breastfeeding cold turkey one day. My baby obviously liked the bottle better anyway-it made her full. I never did that. So just like that, at 10 weeks, I was done. And I was a little sad, but mostly relieved.
Fast forward 9 ½ years. I’m a nurse, and a labor and delivery nurse at that. I’m surrounded by lactation consultants and midwives and nurses who are certified to help guide women as they attempt what I failed at all those years ago. So even if it’s not easy, it should be easy, right? As I held my newest little miracle skin to skin in the operating room just minutes after she was delivered, I made a silent promise to her that I would do better this time.
Except that her latch kind of sucked (no pun intended); and then she lost some weight the first week home. But this time was different. You see, last time, I didn’t ask the right questions. In fact, I didn’t ask any questions. But this time, I wasn’t timid. This time, I made sure the lactation consultant watched me nurse my baby twice before we left the hospital and we had a follow up appointment with her a week after discharge. I got a really good pump, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, pretty much anyone with health coverage today has this as an option. I drank a lot of water and made better food choices, 2 things I know I did not do particularly well after having my first baby. When I had questions, I called the lactation consultant (or had my super awesome husband do it!). Most large hospitals have at least one LC on staff and these individuals are amazing! They are always willing to take a phone call and give advice, possibly even schedule and appointment if necessary. If the LC isn’t available, the OB nurses are also very knowledgeable and helpful. And I know it may sound odd, but YouTube has some pretty great videos if you need help with positioning your baby. There are websites and support groups out there for nursing moms, but they aren’t going to come looking for you. You have to do the research. You have to ask the questions. Did we have to supplement our second child? Yes, although not until I went back to work at 12 weeks. But one of the most important things I learned this time around is that breastfeeding isn’t an “all or nothing” experience. And I think this realization is what has helped make breastfeeding my second child feel like so much more of a success. Hopefully the patients I see everyday who chose to breastfeed feel the same way.