Birth Doula Blog
Not one book could ever truly prepare me for breastfeeding. Yes, I had understood the physiology behind it and knew of the benefits, but the actual feeling and experience could never be accurately described in the books. And it wasn't just the feel of a small mouth on my nipple that was never explained, it was the emotional toll it would take.
Thirteen years ago, I was the first in my family to breastfeed, so I wasn't able to get any insight and words of wisdom from my sisters or mother. It was somehow easier for me to envision being a first-time mom than it was to have a baby latched at my breast. That first feeding in the hospital was so awkward. How could something so natural feel so unnatural? I thought that first latch would be the end of the uncomfortableness of nursing, but so many more challenges faced me.
Like most new nursing moms, I wondered if I was good enough, made enough, or nursed enough. It felt as if I was just faking my way through it. I would hope my tiny baby didn't realize that I had no idea what I was doing. Latching was sweat-inducing. Waiting for the next nursing was like watching a ticking time bomb. Pumping was nerve-racking. I would latch her on after many frustrated tries only to be drenched in sweat and end up with a crying hungry baby. She would nurse a few minutes and I'd finally feel relief. I would be convinced I was doing the right thing, but then, she'd fall asleep and I just struggled so hard to keep her awake. I gave my husband the title of "bad cop." He'd be in charge of doing the mean things to wake her. He was also the one to break the latch. For some reason, I just couldn't do it those first few days.
The job was hard and relentless. I could never figure out how moms nursed with one hand while wearing a baby, out in public, or laying on their sides. No, it was never glamorous for me. My first few months were full of tears, bloody milk, cracked nipples, uncomfortable positions, rock-hard breasts, and way too much doubt. At nearly every session I wondered what I was doing wrong, why it wasn't getting easier, and when the misery would end. I dreaded unsnapping my bra and awaiting her hungry mouth.
The only reason I persisted was because I had the support and encouragement from my husband. He sat with me while I cried through the nursings. He helped with the latch, the burping, and the diaper changes. He listened to my fears and told me I could get through it. He never let me quit. I have no idea what he saw in me, but knowing I had someone in my corner was the real key to my success.
I nursed my daughter for thirteen months and we finally got the hang of it. It was incredibly hard at the beginning but so rewarding once we figured it out. How amazing it was to be making magic inside my breasts that kept her healthy and happy! To this day, I miss her little hand placed on my breast as she drifted off to sleep. I still remember how she'd look into my eyes and I felt so loved and needed.
It will be hard at first, but just give yourself and your baby some grace and patience. You are both new to this and it will take time, but you will get there only if you keep trying, I promise. Remember to never quit on your worst day.
Mama, you have enough milk, you are doing enough, you ARE enough!