Breastfeeding is H-A-R-D. I’m not trying to scare you, it just is. I am so incredibly happy and proud that I chose to breastfeed my son, and that I stuck it out through the difficult times. Whether you decide to breastfeed or formula feed, you’re doing a great job, mama! You are providing nutrition for your baby. I am only sharing my experience with breastfeeding in hopes that it might help someone out there. This was one of the biggest areas of struggle for me in the first few weeks after my son was born.

Yes, breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy! All of the classes and books make it seem like such a normal, easy thing. Maybe for some people it is, but it wasn’t for us. I can’t stress enough, even if your baby has a good latch at the hospital, make sure you ask for help if you have any trouble when you get home. We did fine at the hospital and went home thinking we were doing great. Then the pain came. Holy cow, the pain! I don’t know what caused it, but I somehow ended up with cracked, bleeding nipples. With a newborn baby nursing every 2-3 hours, this was excruciating! I started to have a ton of anxiety around every nursing session. It was not healthy for anyone in my family. I remember one night sitting in bed bawling my eyes out to my husband because I didn’t want to feed our baby. Yes, you read that right, I was so scared of the pain that I physically did not want to feed our baby. The hormones and lack of sleep probably didn’t help either. Luckily I have an amazing husband who was able to talk me down, and we got through that night. That was my breaking point. The next day I asked for help. These are some of the things that got me through.

  1.  You are an amazing mother! Don’t forget it.
  2.  Newman’s Nipple Cream – if you get to the point that you are cracked and bleeding, lanolin isn’t going to cut it. Ask your doctor to write you a prescription for Newman’s nipple cream. This stuff is amazing. It started working within the first day I used it. The ladies at the Windsor Heights Hy-Vee Pharmacy were also super helpful! (This cream has to be made at a compounding pharmacy, so the Windsor Heights Hy-Vee is one of your options in the metro area.)
  3.  Nurse topless. This is not nearly as attractive as it sounds. 😉 You probably don’t want to do this in public, but if you’re in the comfort of your own home, not a big deal. This lets the opposite breast air out while you’re nursing on the other. It’s not good for cracks and sores to be trapped with all that moisture in a tight fitting bra or nursing tank all day.
  4.  Find a prayer or mantra that works for you. I said about a million Hail Mary’s while I was getting through those tough weeks. It helped ease my mind and get through the initial pain sensation of each nursing session.
  5.  Find a position that’s comfortable for you. For me, sitting on the bed was much easier than in the rocking chair in my son’s room.
  6.  Make sure you have support! I already mentioned this, but my husband was my rock. He was so supportive through all of this. Even though it would have been easier at that moment to give in and start formula feeding, I was adamant about breastfeeding, so he supported me through all those painful, tough, night nursing sessions. I also had a couple close friends that I could text at any hour with questions.
  7.  Always have a water bottle nearby. I was so thirsty while nursing, I constantly had water bottles scattered throughout the house.
  8.  Eat, eat, eat! Make sure you stock the house with healthy snacks. I felt like I ate more right after my baby was born than when I was pregnant. It turns out, your body needs a lot of calories to produce milk.

In the beginning there were days that I felt trapped in my house because it was such an ordeal every time I tried to nurse my son. But once things healed, and I was more comfortable with breastfeeding, it was amazing! Our bodies are such a miracle, and the fact that we can produce the appropriate nutrition to grow a baby is just so overwhelmingly cool to me. I honestly started looking forward to the quiet moments my son and I shared when nursing got easier. Also, how about convenience, everything you need is right there with you at all times!

A couple extra tips if you plan to pump….

  1.  If you’re pumping to have extra milk, the best time to do it is early in the morning. I’m not sure why, but you produce more milk in the early morning hours.
  2. If you’re afraid to pump because your baby might wake up hungry the minute after you finish pumping; don’t be. Your body is amazing and can make more milk at your baby’s cues.
  3. Don’t be afraid to speak up at work if people aren’t respecting your space to pump or your space to store your milk. It is your right to have a private space to pump at work and a clean place to store your milk.
  4. Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing. Some people are naturally going to have a larger supply than others. I produced just enough to get by and ended up supplementing with formula while my son was at daycare around the 9 month mark, but he nursed just fine when he was with me.

Guest Blogger: Amanda Bellville