Editor’s Note: Here at Tinybeans, we respect and celebrate every mom’s feeding journey. Bottle? Boob? It doesn’t matter—we believe fed is best. Our Voices Contributor Network is inclusive and open to all parenting journeys—yours, too!
I always pictured my babies to be breastfed. I used to see breastfeeding as this natural and spontaneous thing that both my wife and I were going to experience (my wife carried our first child, I carried the second). I never even considered the scenario where our children would be bottle-fed. Yet, life had different plans: our first daughter ended up being bottle-fed, and I really struggled during the first few weeks of breastfeeding with our second daughter.
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What my wife and I experienced with breastfeeding really taught me a lot. I’d love to share with you a list of 6 things I wish I had known about breastfeeding when my wife was still pregnant, before either of us had babies. Had I known these things, I think we could have better prepared mentally for what was coming and avoided so much stress and pain.
1. Breastfeeding does not come naturally. Not always, at least! All those stories of women happily and seamlessly breastfeeding soon after birth are not the norm. The first time I breastfed my daughter I was being stitched up due to a tear during vaginal delivery and the latch hurt like hell. It did not come naturally and it took me several days, a session with a lactation consultant and several midwives showing me how to do it, before I could finally say I got how to hold my baby while breastfeeding.
2. There are multiple positions that you can use to breastfeed your baby. Holding your baby in your arms across your belly, supported by a feeding pillow, is not the only position to breastfeed you baby in! That is the classic “cradle hold” position we are used to seeing in pictures of breastfeeding moms, but it’s not the only one. I was shocked to find out how many different breastfeeding positions there are.
My wife had big breasts and a c-section, so she was shown the “rugby ball hold” When it was my turn, I was struggling with very sore nipples and a midwife must have shown me at least 3 other different positions to try and relieve the pain. Then my lactation consultant showed me the “reclined feeding” position, which totally worked for me and saved my poor nipples. There’s no one right way to breastfeed your baby, you just need to find the one that works for you.
3. It’s important to know of a lactation consultant before you give birth. When my wife gave birth to our first daughter, we didn’t know the importance of seeing a lactation consultant to help us with breastfeeding. It took us several days of struggles, with my wife experiencing extremely engorged breasts before we finally got in touch with one. What we learned from the first appointment with her was priceless. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and we ended up bottle feeding our baby. But it sure came back in handy with our second child a couple of years later.
When I gave birth to our second daughter and I started experiencing sore nipples we didn’t hesitate one bit and went to see her straight away. I really wish we had known about the benefits of seeing a lactation consultant from the start. Who knows, maybe our journey with our first daughter could have been different.
4. Skipping or delaying feeding is never a good idea. My second daughter was a few weeks old and we were out at a Christmas parade. She started showing signs of hunger, but the wind was blowing and it was so cold: I didn’t feel like feeding her in the open air. So, I decided to walk all the way to the car and feed her there: she was screaming at the tops of her lungs, poor thing. The walking soon turned into running.
By the time I got to the car and fed her, one of my breasts was so huge and hard! That’s when I learnt that skipping or delaying feeding can cause plugged milk ducts, which can subsequently lead to mastitis. I was lucky enough to avoid mastitis, but it took me quite a few days of massaging a very sore breast to get the plugged duct to drain completely.
5. It can take up to five days for your milk to come. I had no idea it could take that long so, when I was at day four postpartum, and all I could see was colostrum, I started panicking. I was so afraid I wasn’t going to produce enough milk and I spend so much time trying to hand express under the shower. Milk eventually came on day five. I really wish I had known better and relaxed a bit more during those first few days after birth.
6. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t breastfeed. When my wife and I came to the realization that she could not breastfeed it was devastating. We really wanted our baby to be breastfed. We didn’t really prepare for any other option. But what we soon realised was that bottle-feeding her was not going to be that tragic. On the contrary, we ended up loving the fact that I could also be more involved with feeding and we could share the night load.
Looking back, it was silly of us to react the way we did. It is definitely not the end of the world if you can’t breastfeed. Whether it’s because of some medical reason, or because it’s just too hard and is not working for you, it’s okay to stop. You can still have a perfectly healthy and happy baby!
—Monica Greco, conqueringmotherhood.com