My time in the hospital after giving birth was spent glued to the pump and filled with emotions. During my first skin-to-skin session with my son, the nurse asked if I was breastfeeding. I had prepared so much for this moment, for my breastfeeding journey. I took classes, read articles, and made sure I had the things I needed so I could have a successful journey. I was prepared to say “yes.”
If only it was that simple. It was at this moment I had to pivot. The nurse told me that I had flat and thick nipples and it would be hard for my son to latch. And it was.
Things moved fast and immediately the nurses began trying to help me breastfeed and teach me how to pump. I was given nipple shields to help my son latch and given different positions to try to help with both of us being comfortable and yet we still struggled. We resulted to using donor milk in the hospital. It pained me to do so, but it didn’t seem like we had any other options.
Fast forward to my discharge day. I was cleared to leave but my milk hadn’t come in and my son still wasn’t latching successfully. Instead of being encouraged and reminded that it would take time for all of this to happen, I was instead made to feel like it was something wrong with me. I wanted so badly to nurse. It’s all I thought about and all I prepared for. Pumping was supposed to only be my back up plan or my back to work plan. I did not mentally prepare for it to be THE plan.
I remember the lactation specialist telling me she thought I should stay in the hospital another day all because of my slow progression in producing milk. I felt like a failure. As she left the room I instantly broke down crying while holding the pump to my breasts. Still trying but also on the brink of giving up because I thought that my slow progression meant something was wrong with me and breastfeeding wasn’t possible. I was given nipple shields to help my son latch and given different positions to try to help with both of us being comfortable and yet we still struggled.
On day 3 of my postpartum journey, my milk came in right on schedule. It wasn’t much but it was more than I had ever seen. My nipples were still flat and it was a struggle to attach the nipple shields and position my son over my lower body where my incision was still fresh and healing.
Pumping was still the main source of removing milk from my breasts. I continued to try to nurse. I got help at each doctor appointment from the lactation specialist (who was amazing unlike the one at the hospital). She measured my nipples correctly so I was able to get the correct flange size and nipple shield size. She gave me tips and tricks to help my son latch and to make it more comfortable for us both. As I healed, we nursed more often and more effectively, still with the nipple shield. But it still was more of an inconvenience for us both than a convenience. He liked his bottle and so did I.
So after about 6 weeks of trying, I told my husband I was ready to stop trying to force him to latch. We were both content with the bottle. My milk production was increasing and he was consistently getting breastmilk without the need for formula supplements.
Fast forward to now, I’m still pumping at four months postpartum and we have an overflow of milk in the fridge and freezer. My milk supply is pretty consistent and I make more than enough to feed my son each day. I often look back at that scared woman in the hospital holding a pump up to her breasts with no results. And I think about how resilient and determined she was. I’m proud of her and how far she has made it.
So if you’re a new mom trying to navigate your breastfeeding journey, whether nursing, pumping or both, remember these things:
Stay patient and consistent. These two things bring results and peace of mind.
Your body has done and is continuing to do some amazing things even if you don’t produce a single ounce of milk.
Your child won’t remember what kind of milk they had but they will remember what an amazing mother they have, so focus on being her.
Don’t let anyone bully you or make you second guess your own body. Find the right person to listen.
And do what’s best for both you and your child. This is your journey and not anyone else’s.