(Nursing has been such a sweet experience for me that I've tried to take a couple pictures here and there to remember Henny's limp little limbs and closed eyes. This post has a couple discreet pictures of those sweet moments with me nursing Henny. Totally SFW.)
There are two main types of moms: those who choose to breastfeed and those who don't. I'm on one side (the nursing side), but I used to be on the other, so I totally understand women, who for any reason at all, choose not to or are unable to nurse.
Before I got pregnant, I was terrified of two things about having babies: getting the epidural and breastfeeding. Not labor, not pushing, not anything potentially life-threatening. I was afraid of having a child latched onto me. First I thought it was strange, but then, after people so willingly shared their horror stories with me (which most people have), I was absolutely certain I would not breastfeed. Bleeding? Chapping? Infections? Toe-curling pain for weeks? Not for me.
Then I got pregnant. I very gradually started to ease into the idea of nursing, but still straddled that in-between line for most of those nine months. I always said I'd try it, but if it was too hard I wouldn't let myself feel bad if I wanted to stop. Eventually, for the sake of education, I took a breastfeeding class, and that was what led me to decide that I wanted to breastfeed.
Once Henny got here, I was excited about it. It didn't hurt the first day or two, but then the next few days were pretty rough. So rough that I went back to my "if it's too difficult, just don't do it" mindset. In the hospital, we supplemented with formula because Hen had trouble latching and went a looong time without food. When that first bottle went in his mouth, I cried and cried. I was devastated that I couldn't be the one to feed him, and worried that my milk wouldn't come in if I gave him even one bottle, and terrified that even if my milk did come in, he might show nipple preference to bottles.
We brought Henny home and my left side was really painful, so I nursed more on my right side, which led to a production difference (which has since been evened out). On the fifth day, the day after we brought him home, my milk came in, and he didn't have to suck so hard to get the amount of food he wanted, but I was so tender that I didn't want to nurse. I used the little free hand pump they gave me in the hospital, and reminded myself to call Kaiser in the morning and rent their hospital-grade pump. I had decided to pump because it was just too painful.
My whole family was at our house, and saw the difficulty I was having with feeding him (plus recovering from the c-section, and coming down from a lot of drugs and hormones). My mom talked me through each feeding and even helped push on my breasts to express milk while I was feeding him so I wouldn't get a clogged duct from being engorged. She told me how it hurt her, and how you just have to KEEP nursing through the pain, otherwise you'll never desensitize. I cried to her and asked how long it was going to hurt? "If it's for several weeks, I don't think I can do it."
There was a glimmer of hope. I might not have to struggle for much longer.
My dad asked me if I was going to breastfeed, and I told him yes, I wanted to, and he smiled a proud smile and told me how good it was that I had decided to do it. My dad has never been one to talk openly about female body parts or anything especially personal like that, so it was a big deal that he asked, and an even bigger deal to me that he had an opinion about it. In the hardest moment, I remembered how my dad told me it was so good that I had decided to nurse, and I tried harder to push through.
In those first days when I was in pain and considered giving up, I talked a lot to my mom about when she nursed. She told me she nursed me for three months and tried to pump when she went back to work, but lost her supply. With my sister, she nursed for five months - the longest of all of us. With my brother Ryan, she only nursed for two months (a lot of difficult things were happening - including our whole family getting chicken pox - that caused stress and her milk to dry up). With my brother Lane (who was a premie) she couldn't nurse at all because he was too tiny and not strong enough to suck, so she pumped for six months (he got the most breastmilk but didn't nurse at all). Hearing her tell me about her nursing durations with sadness in her voice made me all the more determined to continue. It's so bonding, and to only be able to do it for two months was very hard and sad for her.
I cried from the pain.
I cried from discouragement.
I cried with confusion over what to do. I knew I'd regret it if I stopped, and I'd always wish I had tried harder for just one more feeding.
I cried at the thought that nursing could be something that would be taken away before I was ready.
I cried for Henry, that I might not be able to bond with him through nursing.
I'd put off renting the pump until later. Maybe their encouragement had a placebo effect, but I remember each feeding after that hurt progressively less, until finally I could stand it and was able to experiment with changing positions and be more comfortable.
By the next day, I was excited to nurse, even with the discomfort, and decided I wouldn't need the pump. Now, five weeks later, I nurse like I've nursed my whole life. Like it's the most natural, comfortable thing (though sometimes if he latches wrong...). I would have regretted giving up. I would have missed out on some really wonderful things that Henny does while he nurses.
(the little tiny hand resting on you?! I die.)
(also the drowsy eyes?!)
(and the drunken smiles where milk spills out?!)
I know nursing isn't for everyone, but if you want to nurse but are discouraged or in pain, read about correct latching, get yourself some lanolin and breast pads, and KEEP GOING. It will get better, and you'll be so happy you didn't give up.
And now for one non-cell phone, non breastfeeding picture.