Life With Piper - We all know that navigating pregnancy and parenting for the first time isn't easy. Join Emily as she shares tips, advice, laughs and reviews along her journey of raising her daughter, Piper. "Life with Piper" is all about her pregnancy, postpartum and parenting and all of the products and tips she loved (and didn't love) along the way.
*Disclaimer: If you are looking for a sugar-coated post about how nursing is easy, click away! This blog post is NOT for you! I’m putting it all on the table here, hoping to help other moms who might be going through the same things I did.
Above all else in my journey of motherhood, nursing was the most important thing for me to master. While I was pregnant I read a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding for my baby and me, and it was my mission that I would exclusively breastfeed. I thought breastfeeding would be an effortless journey that I would embark upon and that I would be surrounded by rainbows and butterflies during each feed. How very wrong I was. What I didn’t realize was how much of a physical and emotional rollercoaster it really was going to be, both difficult and wonderful.
The best way to describe my journey to a good nursing relationship is like this: it was like a slow climb, uphill both ways, during a blizzard, with holes in my boots. It was HARD. To give you an idea, I made it through a bad and shallow latch, a lip tie, over supply, vasospasms and a wound on my nipple that my midwife told me should be stitched closed. Yes, stitched! That wound took about 10-12 weeks to heal, still hurts thinking about it.
I heard everything from “I don’t know how you did that” to “Why are you doing this to yourself?” to “You are so strong” and each comment would give me the encouragement or determination I needed to keep it up. I knew that one day it would be easier and one day it wouldn’t hurt.
Here’s what helped me:
Nursing Bras: Choose your nursing bras wisely as they are what you will live in. They are literally worn all the time and are constantly being washed and dried. It is good to have a few on hand, at least 3: one to wear, one in the wash, and one in the drawer. Make sure to have someone fit you for the correct size. Your body will change “day to day” and “feed to feed” so make sure that you have a bra that will accommodate your changing body.
Breast Pump: I can’t stress enough about the importance of a good pump. You will use it more than you think and often you will need it in a pinch. I loved my Ameda Purely Yours Pump. It was my trusty bedside companion and never once gave me any issues. Here’s a tip: if you notice a decrease in suction, try replacing the valves (little white piece) and diaphragm (small silicone cup) FIRST. It makes a world of a difference.
Breast Pads: To make sure I was comfortable at all times, I turned to nursing pads that were washable and made from natural fibers, like Bamboobies. They were so soft and absorbent. Try out a few to start to see which will best match your absorbency needs. For me, I wore the overnight pads around the clock because of my over-supply (aka I leaked a lot).
Nipple Cream: Thinking back, I think that I have tried just about every nipple cream on the market. Each had its own plusses and minuses, so this is really about your own personal preference. Just remember, if you have any allergies or sensitivities to lanolin, it can be included in a lot of creams so be sure to look at the ingredients.
Other necessities that will help you along your journey:
- Nursing pillow
- Nursing cover
- Water bottle to keep hydrated
- Hot/cold soothing gel pads
- Snacks. It’s ok to indulge a little. If M&M’s are calling your name at 2 am, go for it.
- A book to keep you occupied during long feeds
Allow me to Step on my mommy-advice soapbox for a minute:
GET THE HELP YOU NEED: This is in caps because that’s how important I feel it is. In the last 13 months, I have talked to 2 lactation consultants, went to a weekly breastfeeding support group, emailed Jack Newman a handful of times and talked to dozens of other moms who had successfully breastfed their babes. This was not limited to the newborn stage, either. I asked for help all along the way as each growth spurt, cluster feed, and age can be totally different. Take the advice you are given and think about how it will work for you and your baby. We are all human and can’t be perfect and by the book all the time. Do what works for you and your family.
Set Realistic Goals for yourself: During first week of nursing, I asked a friend “When will it stop hurting and get easier?” her response brought a tear to my eye and my jaw to the floor: 6 weeks. 6 WEEKS? I have made it 6 days at this point and that was a marathon in itself. That was my first goal of many, 6 weeks. She explained that it is usually when you feel like you have mastered your babies cries, know what to look for in a good latch, know when baby is full and you (kind of) have it together. Once I reached 6 weeks, I then set the goal for 3 months, then 6 months and so on. It gave me an attainable goal rather than looking at a long-term time frame (such as 12 months or more). When you reach those goals, celebrate! Have a bath, go for coffee with a girlfriend, have a date night, do what makes you happy! You did it and you should be proud!
Lastly, don’t give up on the hardest day, because you will never give up on an easy day.
I can happily say that we have a great nursing relationship. I experience no more pain and love our down time together during feeds. I am so happy I pressed on and can truly enjoy this amazing time in my baby’s development.
- Emily, Life With Piper