Breastfeeding—one of the most natural things that should happen between a mother and her baby.
When you hear about pregnancies, deliveries, and postpartum recoveries, more than likely you’re getting the sugar coated version. I luckily had some friends who gave it to me straight on the worst to expect after delivery. Some of the things they told me were that my nipples were going to be swollen like sausages and maybe even bleed and if I tore during labor, every time I pooped it would feel like I was giving birth again. They were laughing as they gave me this information so it put me at ease knowing they could laugh about it now.
But even knowing what to expect doesn’t fully prepare you to deal with what you’re given. Each and every mom will have a different story. I wish more moms shared those horror stories so that when it happens to you, you don’t feel shame for not producing enough milk or for your baby not latching.
When my son was born we did skin to skin. I was in heaven when he slowly found his way down to my chest to feed. It was happening just the way the articles I read said it would. I was always nervous that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. People would ask, “Did your mom breastfeed?”. My response was yes, which was followed by, “You will too!”.
Once I was in my recovery room I asked for the lactation nurse to stop by. I wanted to learn what I could from her and make sure he was getting enough from me. When she came to our room she taught my husband and I different positions I could feed him in, how to get him to latch properly, and answered all the questions we had. She checked to see if I was producing colostrum ( a thick fluid produced immediately after giving birth that supports immune growth and tissue repair for the baby) and I was. It was very little but she assured us it was enough because of the size of his stomach.
As I continued to breastfeed him I would notice that he would get frustrated while sucking. He would tug, try to latch on differently and then give up and cry. It was such a frustrating feeling because I wasn’t sure what was happening. I tried the different breastfeeding positions, my husband would help me latch him on, but nothing was getting better. I finally asked to see the lactation nurse again.
When the lactation nurse returned she noticed he was struggling with his latch. After attempting to latch him herself and fixing his lips when he would latch (they would curl in) she checked underneath his tongue.
We found out that he was “tongue tied”. Being tongue tied means the tissue that connects the bottom of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth was too short which caused his tongue to have restricted movement. She said we could have it clipped and it would help him feed better. The procedure was fast and did not seem to bother him afterward. I felt a sense of relief that at this point it wasn’t my body not doing its job but a little hiccup in my breastfeeding journey.
After the procedure I started feeling like he had a better latch. I would feed on demand which was about every hour for close to an hour each time. While all of this is going on my husband was still not convinced that our son was getting enough food. I brushed off his concerns as him not knowing because he didn’t know what colostrum was and he wasn’t me, the one with the maternal instincts. I just wanted to believe that my body was caring for my baby the way it needed to.
The night before we were discharged I started breastfeeding at 11pm. He usually came off on his own but this time he was getting frustrated again. What I did was switch him from one breast to another each time he would come off and start crying. I did this from 11pm to 7am. Eight hours!!! I know it sounds insane but it happened. When my nurse would come in every few hours to give me my medications she would say “awe how cute he’s still feeding!” When it was the early morning I told her I had been doing it for hours and asked if it was normal. She said it was and that it was called cluster feeding. Being a first time mom I trusted the nurse who was taking care of me and my baby.