When I was pregnant and we were taking the prenatal classes, they covered breast feeding, but nothing prepares you quite like having your baby here and actually doing it! I knew that I wanted to try breast feeding if all went well with Amelia and myself. Everything in the class made it seem like breast feeding was going to be this super easy and natural thing, but it didn't work out like that for us.
After Amelia was born, I didn't try to get her to latch until we were in our postpartum room. I think I was in a bit of shock after she was born and wasn't quite ready to try. I had no idea how to hold her, but a few nurses came in and out and helped when they could. There is nothing like a nurse massaging your breasts to help collect the colostrum while your mom in the room ;) Luckily, I had lots of colostrum as Amelia wasn't latching very well. When we were in the hospital, we met with the lactation consultant a few times, but still weren't having much luck. It also didn't help that I wasn't connecting with the lactation consultant and felt like she wasn't in the right profession. She was able to tell me that my nipples were flat, which makes it harder to breastfed. The LC had me pump a couple minutes before I tried to breastfed to pull my nipples out. If the nursing session wasn't successful, I would syringe feed the colostrum to Amelia. Before we left the hospital, we had to introduce formula as my milk wasn't in yet and Amelia needed to eat. I felt guilty about it, but I wanted to go home so badly and had hoped it wasn't going to be a long term thing.
Once we were home, I continued to pump/attempt to breastfed/syringe feed Amelia. A big thank you goes out to Mr.D as we were up every 3 hours during the night to do the whole feeding process, and I couldn't have done it without him! I can't remember exactly when my milk came in, but oh man did it ever come in! The next struggle came with having very engorged breasts that it made it difficult for Amelia to nurse. A day after being home, the nurse came by to check up on Amelia and myself. I mentioned struggling with breastfeeding and she referred us to a community clinic that had a lactation consultant. This LC was so amazing! She was kind, caring and actually talked to me like a mom who was struggling. She recommended using a nipple shield (we tried with and without it while we were there and Amelia was able to get so much milk!) because of my flat nipples. Leaving that appointment, I felt so much better about breastfeeding and going in the right direction.
In the following days, we also went to the lactation clinic that is attached to the maternity clinic where I went to. The LC there was also great and noticed that Amelia had a tongue tie. Mr.D and I decided to have her snip it right then (they do it in the clinic and it only takes a couple of minutes). That also seemed to help a lot! We left there feeling good once again and scheduled a follow up appointment for the next week. The next appointment (we saw a different LC) was not good. The LC made me feel like a terrible mother as she thought Amelia was suckling and being lazy at the breast and not getting anything. I wanted to scream at her and be like "I have no f*cking clue what I am doing or how it is to be done!!". I left there in tears and she wanted us to come back the next week to check her weight as she thought it wasn't going up as it should.
Over the next week, things were starting to improve, but I was so nervous that Amelia wasn't getting enough and that I was failing her. Luckily, she gained triple the amount of weight they wanted her to the next week! I had intended to wean her off the nipple shield, but it was working and why mess with it? I can't remember exactly when we stopped using it, but I think it was around 4-5 months. One day Amelia just wouldn't eat with it on, so I was able to get her to latch without it and we just kept going from there. I felt shame about having to use it at first, but it meant that I was able to breastfed.
I was very lucky and had a huge supply of milk. Amelia refused to take a bottle (we only gave her a bottle for the first couples of days while at home until my milk came in) for 3-4 months, and I would be so engorged each morning that I would have to pump. I ended up signing up to be a breast milk donor for the Calgary Mother's Milk Bank and ended up donating almost 12Ls. That blows my mind!
When Amelia was around 8 months old, my period returned and my milk supply took a huge nosedive. I felt like I didn't have enough to make it through the day and give Amelia a bottle at night, so we made the decision to introduce formula. I felt guilty at first about it, but realized that I was able to provide Amelia with breast milk solely for 8 months and that is pretty amazing. Right now, Amelia is almost 9.5 months old and I breast feed 2-3 times per day and still pump in the morning if need be. She gets 1-2 bottles of formula and then a bottle of breast milk before bed (I still have a stock pile frozen that I didn't donate).
If I had to tell a pregnant/new mom to be one thing about breast feeding, it would have to be don't stress if it's hard. Everyone's journey is so much different and it doesn't come easy for everyone. Stick with it, ask for help and it will get better! Enjoy those never ending nursing sessions in the beginning as tough as they can be. Oh and buy nipple cream and breast pads! They will be your best friend :)