I was so surprised to find out how challenging breastfeeding can be. I didn’t give it much thought before becoming pregnant, but once I was, the horror stories began pouring in. Difficulties latching, inverted nipples, infections, babies reacting badly to mom’s diet, painful cracked nipples, etc. Not to mention everyone’s opinions on the formula vs. breastmilk debate, or whether or not it’s appropriate to cover up your ladies while feeding your babe.
As with all parenting-related things, I’ve decided it’s best to not decide what others should be doing. Do what feels best for you, and don’t beat yourself up about your situation and/or decisions. Being a new mom is tough, to say the least, and you are doing an amazing job. Seriously, look in the mirror and tell yourself you are AMAZING!
I REALLY wanted to breastfeed, but sure enough, things were pretty rough in the beginning. Actually, we left the hospital with our baby girl (OBG), who latched no problem, thinking, “Huh, that was easy! What’s all the fuss about?” Those thoughts quickly faded at our first doctor appointment with a slightly jaundiced-babe, my confession that OBG hadn’t eaten in 5 hours (no matter what I tried, she was just so tired), and a nurse practitioner that held me hostage until OBG latched and ate a good amount because “a newborn baby that hasn’t eaten in a few hours should be aggressively rooting, not uninterested in a nipple.” Ugh, that was so terrifying. Just when I had convinced myself that we were ER-bound because something was horribly wrong, OBG latched on and ate away. Phew, what relief.
Things were pretty smooth for the next few weeks, until I began pumping to get the babe used to a bottle in preparation for going back to work (and the freedom to have a margarita!). Enter engorgement, mastitis, cracked nipples, OBG’s dairy sensitivity, a flow that was so fast it was like OBG was drinking from a fire hose, which caused all sorts of gas issues and too much foremilk/not enough hindmilk issues for her. HIND and FORE WHAT?! TOO much milk?! Who knew that was a problem … or a thing?! Well, I certainly didn’t.
Thankfully everything balanced out at about 8 weeks for us, which I’ve heard is true for most moms. But in an effort to prevent you going through some or any of the above, here’s what I would have loved to know before it all began:
Get a FREE Pump! Okay, so I knew this one. But surprisingly a LOT of women don’t, so you’re not alone if you don’t know, and if you do, spread the word! Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), your insurance is required to provide you with breastfeeding supplies (aka a free pump). Just call your provider and they will give you a choice of a few pumps (all top of the line) and mail one to your house. The ACA guarantees many other breastfeeding benefits too, like a nursing mother’s room and adequate breaks for you to pump when you return to work, among many other things. Read more about ACA breastfeeding benefits here.
Hand Expression. I was blessed with amazing nurses both during and post birth. Thankfully, one of them grabbed me as we were leaving the hospital, handed me a breastfeeding pamphlet and said, “If you are only going to learn one thing in this pamphlet, learn this …” and pointed me to the hand-expression page. When your milk comes in, it freakin hurts! So to relieve some of the discomfort and prevent clogging and/or infection, self-expression is so helpful. It’s gentle enough that it doesn’t cue your girls to make more milk. Ask your nurses for a pamphlet, and/or check out Standford’s how-to hand expression video.
Causes of Gas. OBG had horrible gas pains! Poor girl would scream in pain when she passed gas and it seemed to wake her a lot at night. We started to notice her #2s looked stringy and a little green, shared a photo her pediatrician, and were told she was probably sensitive to something that I was eating. By trial and error, I was told to eliminate the biggest allergy offenders from my diet, starting with dairy first. If you ever find yourself in this situation, after the tears settled (AGH NO DAIRY?!?!! I’m OBSESSED with cheese) there are two things of importance to know:
- It takes about two weeks for the protein from cow’s milk to disappear from breastmilk, so you have to give it some time to decide if dairy is the culprit
- Dairy is in EVERYTHING, so make sure to read labels very carefully. Most of the labels these days are good at calling out allergy info, but half of them don’t, especially if you are eating processed foods. Look for obvious terms (milk, duh!), and some of the less obvious terms like whey, casein, caseinates, hydrolysates, anything that has “lac” at the beginning. See a full list of dairy labels here. Also, ask servers to check with chefs before ordering meals out. It’s surprising how many places we go and it’s as if I’m the first person to ever order dairy-free. The convos usually goes a little something like this:
Me: Sadly, I can’t have any dairy. Do you know if this filet has any dairy in it?
Server: Yes, definitely.
Me: Oh really, how is it made?
Server: They use egg in the sauce.
Me: Eggs are okay, those come from chickens. Can you maybe ask the chef? Maybe there’s butter?
… a few minutes pass …
Server returns: Nope, no dairy. Just eggs.
Stay tuned for more woes and tips for survival!