Before I got pregnant and had my two babies, I rode passenger during my two sisters’ pregnancies, and I saw the challenges they went through when it came to breastfeeding. I still remember when my one sister had my niece, how she was in tears trying to get her baby to latch. My other sister had to drive down and assist!
So I knew there could be challenges going into breastfeeding, namely that it wasn’t going to be as intuitive as I thought it would be. That both baby and mama would have to adjust and learn this beautiful experience together. Here is what I wished I knew, and what I hope will help you!
- Pain is normal, but not intense pain. I was told that latch pain was normal, and that it would take some time for my nipples to adjust to having a little being suck on them. What I didn’t realize was that stabbing, continuous pain, was absolutely not normal. With both of my babies, I had pregnancy-induced thrush. Thrush is essentially a yeast infection in your boobs and man does it hurt! It’s also a beast to treat and get rid of. Telltale signs: 1) Baby has a yellow/white coating on their tongue, kind of yogurt-looking. They might also be irritable when latching because they feel pain in their mouths, as well. 2) Severe stabbing pains in breasts, especially during feeding time. With my first baby, I got a prescription for treating the baby that I also rubbed on my nipples. But the thrush didn’t go away. I remember feeling abject terror any time I had to feed him, and it was really traumatic because the pain was so intense. For my second baby, the midwife thankfully prescribed an amazing compound ointment that I used on my nipples, and that treated the thrush, though I had to stay on top of it because thrush is also easy to get again.
- Oversupply is not necessarily a good thing. Although I didn’t have oversupply with my first baby, I did have a lot of clogged ducts and even came down with mastitis. Because of that, I was super careful when I did have oversupply with my second son, realizing that although the abundance of milk was great for my baby, in terms of my breasts, I had to make sure I was adequately emptying to prevent the aforementioned issues.
- Latch issues might mean tongue or lip ties. Painful latch may also signal that a baby has issues beyond simply adjusting to breastfeeding, meaning there could be a lip or tongue tie. With my first baby, his mouth was so small, and he had a hard time grasping hold of my breasts when feeding. He was diagnosed with both lip and tongue tie, and also a recessed jaw (it’s set back and makes it hard for him to open his mouth). I know of many friends and acquaintances who also have had this issue.
- Pumping can make you crazy. Because of the pain of breastfeeding with thrush, and a fear that I wouldn’t have enough supply, and because latching wasn’t going the best, I decided to breastfeed and pump with my first (and was a pumping/breastfeeding mommy with my second, too). But pumping can make you go crazy. I was obsessed with how many ounces came out of my boobs and that whole pumping every two hours, around the clock (for the first 12 weeks) to maintain supply, etc. was really grueling and arduous and did a number on my anxiety. I stopped keeping track of how much milk I was producing for this reason (deleted the app from my phone and never used an app with my second) and with my second guy, I never pumped more than 5 times a day – period – to protect my mental health. I also breastfeed him as well, so I likely was emptying my breasts about 8 times daily, or more.
- Supplementing with formula is one way I addressed my postpartum anxiety/depression. With our first son, we had to supplement with formula because I spent one week in the pysch ward of a hospital to address my postpartum anxiety/depression just a few days after he was born. Because of this, I made sure to have good-quality (read: European) formula on hand, in case there were other times he would need it. Clogged ducts and the dreaded mastitis are severe supply killers, and after getting mastitis when my first son was four months old, I had to turn to formula to feed him. I’ll be honest: I always died a little death any time I had to supplement with formula, but my next point, I hope will make you feel happier if you must also supplement.
- It’s not all or nothing, even a few ounces of breast milk are beneficial! Did you know that even roughly 2 ounces of breast milk a day is beneficial to your baby? So if you’re struggling with supply, and you’re upset that you can’t feed your baby only breastmilk – don’t fret! A few ounces of breastmilk are better than none at all. I had high hopes of feeding both of my babies at least a year of only my breast milk, but in actuality for my first son, he was fed a mixture of my breastmilk and formula for 8 months, then I weaned him because I became pregnant with our second son, and my supply dried up. With our second son, I had so much milk that I was able to give a good 8 ounces of my milk every day for a few months to our first son! I breastfeed/pumped for my second son for about a year and change. I wasn’t able to make it 18 months (which was my goal) because I just couldn’t do it anymore!