Hey ya’ll, I recently joined our local Le Leche League group. I was nervous about getting involved at first. I wasn’t sure if I would fit in. Isn’t it always like that when you try something new?! I overcame the fear and some reservations and I’m really enjoying it now. I love the supportive community of women and the reach they have. New moms and moms of older babies and toddlers and really whoever are all welcome. I love that I get to meet women who are very different from me yet we have common ground as mothers. Maybe we will have even more in common as we get to know each other. This weeks meeting was super awesome as we discussed some of the challenges of maintaining a healthy breastfeeding relationship. I was able to ask questions about my own experience to mom’s with training who have been there and I loved that.
At the last meeting in January we discussed the struggles of the early days. It brought back a flood of memories as I talked to a new mom struggling to use a nipple shield with her sweet, very new baby. I thought I would write down my experience as a continuation of Micah’s story to share with all of you.
Bringing Micah home was such a surreal experience. That first night I was 100% relying on instinct. My mind was blank but my heart was in full control. Having a baby is hard work physically but it’s also hard mentally. I ran my Marathon, but then I realized that I had to keep going.
Bringing a newborn home becomes a challenge much like those silly game shows where people run impossible relays getting knocked or falling into a pit of mud. You feel like a champ, “I can do this!” You might rock the first couple of obstacles but then another comes along, and the mud seems oh so close.
The first real challenge we faced was getting this precious angle to eat. I had colostrum coming in for many weeks leading up to having him, plus I’d read books and attended classes on breast feeding, so I felt confident that I knew what to do and things would go smoothly. (I’m going to get really honest here people. Heads up!)
I was sadly mistaken. I did everything “right”, skin to skin right from the beginning and a lot more when we got home. We let him do the “biological nurturing” of placing him on my bare chest and letting him bob and rout around. He was strong, and able to push with his legs to kind of crawl around. His mouth was gaping open and closed like a little fish. I helped him find what he was looking for. When his mouth was open I’d press his lips to the dark areolas and he’d do a little ‘suck suck’ and fall off. He wasn’t getting any colostrum. This was freaking me out so we went looking for a way to get the colostrum into him. The first two nights I expressed my colostrum and hubby would catch it on a little spoon, we put it into a syringe and fed it to Micah that way. When my midwife came to visit she was happy to see we were trying our best, but concerned that Micah wasn’t getting enough. He was getting dehydrated and possibly a little jaundice. I knew he could do it if the top of his mouth could get a tickle, but in the words of my grandmother, “my nipples weren’t cooperating”.
I borrowed a breast pump from a friend and started pumping a ton of colostrum and feeding it to Micah with a bottle. I was so relieved to be able to feed him even though I wasn’t directly breast feeding him. I was willing to do whatever it takes to keep this kid alive. This was one of the first real lessons I learned about motherhood. We do whatever it takes to keep our young living. My grandmother with ‘uncooperative nipples’ found a food source for her kids that wasn’t breast milk. They lived!
I really wanted to give breast feeding a chance. I was well informed about the many resources Ottawa has to offer breastfeeding moms, so I went seeking help. Day three with Micah at home we set out on a short journey to a free breastfeeding clinic. Because of a combination issue of inverted nipples and a slight tongue tie I was offered the support of a nipple shield. This was a game changer! I went home feeling so liberated and excited. I nursed him often. We set our minds to revolve around stuffing this boy until he gained back his birth weight. It wasn’t long before he had. So- much- relief!
I continued to use the breast pump to supplement nursing. This was great because it helped establish a hearty supply. My milk came in right on time with no concerns that there wasn’t enough. It was also bad in that I may have gotten some mixed up ideas about what we could do with the aid of pumped breast milk. At some point we thought it would be helpful if after I fed Micah I just pumped an extra feed and then I could skip the next feed and let hubby help out. I could get a little longer sleep in the middle of the night. Great idea right?! Wrong! It was lovely to get a nice 6 hour stretch of sleep every night but I’d wake up with engorged, hot, hard boobs. At the risk of sounding stupid (but really I highly doubt I’m alone because no one knows much about boobs these days) I thought it was just what happens when milk comes in. I thought it would steady out after a while. I was getting information mixed up. Anyways, it wasn’t just silly it was unhealthy because I quickly develop mastitis, only I didn’t know it.
The mastitis journey… I was sick with Mastitis and didn’t know it. I left my sweet baby for the first time to go for a massage about a week after having him. My body was achy and we thought it would help. It was lovely but that night I started to sweat like crazy. I had crouched down to look for an outfit for Micah and when I stood up I blacked out. Thankfully my hubby was on the ball to catch me.
I was first checked by my secondary midwife then by my regular midwife, an on call doctor then by a nurse practitioner. They all checked me for infections and talked about why I was so sick and sweaty. I had a high temperature with no reasonable source. It was the nurse practitioner who was convinced that it was mastitis. She sent me away with a prescription for antibiotics.
I am pretty skeptical of medicines under normal circumstances but as a new mom my ‘oh natural’ sense was way heightened. I got in touch with my ND, my mom and good ol’ Pinterest in search of remedies for mastitis. I found some options that really worked for me. If it had gotten worse I would have taken the prescription but I wasn’t in the kind of pain that doctors get really worried about. I felt like time and my awesome immune system were on my side and it was safe to try some gentler approaches. For relief I used cold and warm compresses and cabbage leaves in my nursing bra. To rid myself of the mastitis I stopped over pumping and nursed more. I also used lavender oil to massage any blocked milk ducts, took a LOT of garlic to fight infection and expressed milk any time I felt engorged as well as when I was in the shower. Within two week I was all better and haven’t had a relapse since.
Nursing was a really emotional skill to learn. I thought I was going to be a pro at it but even with abundant supply I really struggled. Getting the nipple shield helped me feed my baby for the first 3+ months but using a nipple shield is super awkward in public. Nursing in public as a new mom is challenging to begin with let alone trying to use extra hardware at the same time. I’m happy to say it does get easier! I am a huge fan of nursing wherever you are to nourish baby and meet their comfort needs. I also know how hard and emotional it can be.
Another interesting aspect of the early days with Micah were the hormonal shifts. So much changes for a new mama. After growing this amazing little human in your body then going through the most intense workout of your life to bring them out into the world, life just isn’t the same. It hits you and hits you again. For me there were a couple of lovely moments of welling over emotions, “I just can’t believe you’re finally here!” or to my husband or baby, “I just love you so much” and of course a bit of, “Can I really do this mom thing?!” Emotions are just on high alert. I knew it would be emotional, but I don’t think I knew the extent. We just laugh about it now thankfully.
My husband had about 4 weeks off to help me with Micah during which time he was a champion. He literally attended to my every wish. I am so blown away by his love. He cooked the meals I wanted, brought me nursing snacks and drinks. He woke up with me during night nursing sessions a lot of the time. He was awesome beyond words. That being said, having a baby doesn’t magically make men into perfect daddy/ husband men. It was a transition for him too. Marriage is way harder for us with a baby, but it’s getting easier again now. When he had to go back to work, I was sad, but I felt more prepared because of how much he helped me. My mom came to spend the next week with me for which I was so thankful. She helped me slowly transition into being able to get out and do fun things again, like shopping and baby photo shoots.
Awwweeee my peanut ❤
I feel like it really took the first three months before we actually gained some confidence and knew what we were doing as parents of a new baby. It was around then that I was able to stop using the nipple shield, I had a good understanding of his cues and when he needed to sleep. It was hard at times after that, but not for as long or intense periods of time.
I hope people expecting their first baby read my story and feel a little more prepared. I loved reading mom blogs while I was preparing to have my sweet boy. I felt a sense of kinship and confidence for reading other peoples stories. Remember we all make mistakes and we all struggle in the beginning and it’s all ok eventually.