What I needed when I reached that breaking point was encouragement to keep going and to know that it was 100% okay if I didn't want to breastfeed anymore. Your baby will thrive regardless of whether they are exclusively breastfed or formula fed, so no judgements here. And that's why I'm writing this, so others know its okay to switch to formula if you want to. Breastfeeding may not get easier, but after about 6 weeks you will both get much better at it.
I will preface this by saying I think I have been pretty lucky in the breastfeeding department, and I hope I'm not jinxing myself. I haven't had to experience clogged ducts or mastitis and aside from a few middle of the night feedings when Rowan was just overly hungry, he's had a great latch. It's just the damn postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation that you have to get past!
I know there are so many women who want to breastfeed but can't, and that was part of why mom guilt set in when I considered quitting. The other part is how many advantages there are to breastfeeding, the list goes on and on. The health benefits for Rowan alone are worth it but the cost savings and help losing that baby weight are an added bonus.
First Two Weeks
Those first two weeks are pure survival for breastfeeding mamas. If your babe is like Rowan, they may have their days and nights mixed up. Rowan also cluster fed every night for the first 10 days. I remember sitting in the rocker feeding Rowan every hour, watching my husband and Ruby sleeping peacefully in the bed next to us. I would burp Rowan, swaddle him, and put him in his lounger, but the moment I got comfortable he would spit up or be hungry again.
Soreness and Engorgement
When your milk comes in your boobs feel like rocks. I was in tears it was so uncomfortable and I was leaking constantly... so glam! To top it off, my lactation consultant said not to pump at that stage, just to hand express to the point that your babe can latch. You don't want your body to think you need to continue producing that much on a constant basis.
Even with a good latch, your nipples will still be sore and very sensitive at first. I put Lanolin on before showering because the water hurt them and it helped but only a little. Breast milk also helps a lot.
It wasn't until about 6 weeks when I learned some of Rowan's cues and things got better. He would constantly unlatch and then squirm and cry like a crazy man, which I figured out later was because he needed to be burped. After he burped he would latch right away and go right back to eating. I really wish I had known this early on, it may have prevented some tears from mama at 3 AM. We also learned that he needed to be kept upright for about 45 minutes after feeding to help reduce spit ups.
Remember when I said I was up all night the first two weeks? That lack of sleep contributed to some baby blues, which I haven't talked about much here. Every night when it was time to get ready for bed I would be in tears knowing what was in store... knowing my husband couldn't help and it was all up to me to keep our little man fed.
I tried almost every breastfeeding pillow there was and hated all of them. I would throw them on the ground in a fit of postpartum, hormone-induced rage. Seriously never thought I'd get so angry about a damn pillow.... I ended up sticking with the "My Breast Friend" pillow (terrible name) and cut some of the foam off of the back support.
Before I started pumping I felt trapped, like I was just going to be a hermit forever (dramatic, I know) because I couldn't leave the house for longer than an hour or two. I did a lot of impulse buying at Target because I had to rush back home every time.
A few of the things I use daily...
So what changed? Why did I do a complete 180 about breastfeeding? Here are a few of the things I recommend for breastfeeding mamas.
Push yourself to do it until the 6 week mark and then reevaluate.
Things just clicked around 6 weeks and it was much less stressful. I think it was because I started pumping (see below) and because we were coming out of the newborn fog. The all night cluster feeding does end eventually, I promise!
Start pumping and get a small supply going.
I started pumping after Rowan's noon feeding when he was 3 weeks and got a small freezer supply going before we introduced a bottle. It made me so much less stressed knowing that if I was out running errands and couldn't get back in time, my husband could feed Rowan. That little bit of freedom made a huge difference. I'm also so thankful to Laura for her advice on pumping!
Let someone else do a feeding.
By 4 weeks, we started Rowan on a bottle for his last feeding before bed. This gave my husband the opportunity to be involved in feeding him and me some extra time to clean up after dinner, (maybe) shower, or just relax. I still have to pump at that time, but its been one of the best moves we made throughout this whole experience.
Get on a schedule
Rowan fed on demand the first two weeks but I started using the Moms on Call schedule once we knew he had gotten back to his birth weight (and then some!) and the Pediatrician gave us the okay. Having that structure has been so helpful for us! We don't follow everything exactly, but it works for us so far and we've even had a few nights in the past week where Rowan slept through the night! Not bad for a 9 week old!
I'm so glad I stuck with breastfeeding, it's amazing what your body can do. Knowing that I contributed to those adorable chubby cheeks and wrist rolls is a great feeling. I'm sure the boob situation won't be pretty after breastfeeding though... I propose that breastfeeding mamas should get to put the money we save on formula towards a post-baby boob lift. Who is with me?!
I know this was a long post but I hope it is helpful for some of you! Feel free to reach out if anyone has questions or needs some encouragement like I did!