My take on EBF: exclusively breastfeeding

I always knew I was going to breastfeed Ryan, no research needed. “Breast is best,” right? Steve and I had no desire whatsoever to feed formula. (Let me put this here now: I have absolutely nothing against parents who use formula.. I don’t even bat an eye at it. Breastfeeding works for us, I realize it doesn’t work for everyone!)

After Ryan was born and I came out of my drug-induced shakes and was allowed to hold him, I breastfed. The nurse in the room to help me was TERRIBLE. She kept grabbing the back of Ryan’s head and shoving him toward me–I was too timid to speak up, because what did I know? I had never done this before. But it seemed like she was inpatient, forceful, and not helping the situation at all. I thought… I’m his mom, I can do this! But she did finally get Ryan to latch on and he was awesome! They had me doing the football hold (which I never used again after leaving the hospital).

When Ryan lost over 10% of his body weight, a nurse came in with a look on her face like she had the worst news in the world to tell us. We were worried off the bat. Steve asked her what his weight was, exactly, and he figured out that he lost something like 10.7%… barely over 10!! Yet she made it sound so dangerous, that she convinced me I had to pump and supplement with formula. At the time I didn’t know any better. I was like- Oh yes! If he’s losing too much weight, we better fix that!- And when they had me pump and barely anything came out (my milk had not come in yet AND I had just finished feeding Ryan… so seriously, there was barely any in the bottle), they made me feel awful, like I couldn’t feed Ryan. They looked at the bottle and said “oohhhhh, that’s really not very much. That’s not enough. Hmmm….”

And so came the formula.

I’d breastfeed him and then give the formula after. We used a syringe thingy so he wouldn’t get nipple confusion. He seemed to chow down so I definitely thought (at the time) that he needed it.

And of course, his weight went back up. And we went home.

I’ve never had a problem with Ryan latching. But lots of problems with pain.

First – engorgement. Boobs hard as rocks and I felt like they were up to my chin. I did basically no research on breastfeeding while pregnant because I thought it was just one of those things you did… and knew how to do… no big deal. UH, wrong. There’s SO much to breastfeeding, I was now reading about it online every day and using the wonderful people on twitter to answer my questions.

The engorgement was… annoying. Yea it hurt, especially in the shower. They’d be so full, I’d have to empty them a bit before Ryan could even latch on. And even then, he’d cough and spit up because there was so much coming out so fast. I also didn’t know breastmilk could shoot out like a water gun and end up all over poor Ryan’s face (haha).

I slept with a towel on the bed underneath me… especially because we were co-sleeping and milk would definitely get everywhere when it was time for Ryan to eat (side-lying position).

Then came the pain. Yea, it took awhile for it to show up so I was thinking I was just rockin’ this breastfeeding thing. Nope, wrong. Holy hell. I dreaded nursing, my nipples were cracked and sometimes bleeding, I wanted to cry. I asked on twitter when this would end and the consensus was 6 weeks post-partum. 6 WEEKS?! That was a month away!!! That was an ETERNITY AWAY! Shoot me now, seriously.

Then came the growth spurt! Not only did nursing make me want to cry in pain, but Ryan started wanting to eat ALL.the.time. Not to mention the fact that he wouldn’t go to sleep unless also attached at the breast.

I did start pumping a little bit at 3-4 weeks and Steve started feeding Ryan with a bottle about once every other day. I loved it. I loved watching Steve able to feed Ryan and I loved the break it gave me. (Now? I wish I never had to pump and got to nurse Ryan for every feeding :))

I don’t want to scare anyone away from breastfeeding, I just want to be honest because I had NO idea what to expect when I was going through this. So don’t worry, I’ll get to the good stuff (really good stuff) pretty soon.

One night, when I was near the end of my rope, Steve asked if I wanted to give just a little bit of formula (we had those free samples that everyone gets in the mail). We even took it out of the closet and set it on the counter. Just in case. But no matter how much I was hating it, I wasn’t going to give up. There was never a single thought in my mind that I’d quit breastfeeding. Never. And I want to say it’s because I wanted to do what’s best for Ryan, and that’s definitely true, but I think I finally realized the reason…. I thought I failed at birth (by having a c-section) and I absolutely was not going to let myself fail at nursing. Whatever the reason, I made it. I made it to 6 weeks. It wasn’t an eternity, it was actually here before I knew it.

Besides, I think the pain started to go away before that.. probably closer to 4 weeks. And then the pain was only there when he first latched on… yes, still awful (I’d kick my feet and grimace for those first few seconds), but then it was gone.

And now? Totally gone. It’s like… I don’t even know he’s there, haha. And what’s more? I absolutely love it. I think especially because I’m back at work, when I get to nurse him it’s like our bonding time. He looks up at me while he’s feeding and sometimes he smiles – cutest freakin’ thing in the whole wide world. He’s so content, his eyes roll back in his head, he looks “milk drunk,” and he drifts off to sleep with a hand resting on me. And I just get to hold him and stroke his little head and stare. I don’t even mind getting up in the middle of the night for his 4am feeding. Steve has not fed him with a bottle once in the middle of the night (by my choice- it’s not that he’s not willing!)

*Relief from pain: I used ice packs… or the Booby Tubes from Earth Mama Angel Baby. Also nipple cream – my favorite is non-lanolin (like the Simplisse cream or the Earth Mama Angel Baby stuff).

So if you think you can’t do it, if you think it hurts too much or it’s too hard… don’t give up! It truly gets better and is SO worth it (not to mention the awesome benefits to baby AND mom). Plus, there’s tons of support out there… just search twitter. Use the hashtag #bfing – and now on Thursday nights at 9pm CST there’s a breastfeeding chat with the hashtag #bfcafe

And here is a great site I used daily (and still do on occasion) – it has everything you could possibly want to know about breastfeeding – kellymom.

Any awesome breastfeeding stories out there? How long did you/are you planning to nurse? (My goal is 1 year) Any bfing questions?? Oh, also.. there’s a website with a gallery of breastfeeding images and I have a picture on there. I’m posting a link to it instead of the actual picture because I think there are some people who read this who just don’t want to see that 😉 If you do, it’s here: babydickey (and this is the hand resting on me that I love oh-so-much!)

17 comments to My take on EBF: exclusively breastfeeding

  • devaskyla

    I nursed my oldest for 32/33 months. Wound up using a nipple shield the whole time, which was annoying, but better than not nursing. Nursed my middle until about 20 weeks pregnant; he was nearly 3 1/2. And my baby just turned 1. I plan to nurse him until he’s at least 2 & we’ll see what happens after that.

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  • I totally know what you mean about feeling like you failed at birth.

    I didn’t have a c-section, but I have an incompetent cervix, so I start to dilate when the baby reaches around 2 lbs because my cervix can’t hold the weight. E was born at 29 weeks after 6 weeks trying to stay pregnant on hospital bed rest.

    Anyway, I ‘failed’ at pregnancy and couldn’t get E his 40 weeks – so come hell or high water he’ll get his year of breast milk! We never got nursing well established so I exclusively pump.

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  • Becca M

    Beautiful post, I love it!! You described what every mama goes through during those first few, very hard, weeks. I plan to EBF for atleast a year. I was soo upset when my first child self-weaned at 7 months. I have a 4 week old right now and we a no pain w/ latching but I am always super engorged that sometimes it is hard for him to latch. I think I’ll pump a little before he nurses to make it easier on him, like you did. And he is going through a growth spurt where he wants to nurse CONSTANTLY. I even thought once that if we had formula in the house I would’ve fed it to him. But I didn’t. I will not give up. I love the bonding time, the milk drunk look. I think it is soo relaxing. I love it all. Just like you, I always knew I wanted to breastfed even though my mom did not breastfeed me. Even though my young friends always thought it was weird, I never second guessed it.

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  • Our first experience look a lot like yours (except our baby gain weight right away)

    After our c-section she latch on ok drink ok until engorgement came!!! then pain and crack nipple were awe full Then 2 weeks after birth breast infection and a bladder infection cause from the catheter that they use during section

    So was 2 weeks on antibiotics!!! then one of my nipple was cut so deep that I could see fat coming out from it ouch!!!! but was not ready to give up, use a nipple shield for about 4 months (yap took a long time to heal!!!) then wean her off the shield and she nurse exclusively (no food but milk my milk) until she was 11 months and she wean herself at 15.5 month (I was 5 month preggo with baby #2 at the time)

    Baby #2 experience was a lot better, born vbac no pain med taken, nurse right away no pain no infection no crack, still lots of milk some laugh and said that I was a Holstein cow!!! Really I can shoot milk across the living room!!!

    So same with her no food before 11 month and she self wean at 14 month (yes was preggo of baby #3 LOL)

    So we are expecting to do the same when baby #3 come nothing then mama’s milk for him or her!!!

    PS Baby #2 was 6 weeks premature and we refuse supplement and she did not loose any weight after birth she gain 1 lbs in less then a week!!!! Nurses made joke about my milk being cream!!!!

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  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I am expecting that I will have a hard time bfing, since I HATE to have my nipples touched (or even worse, SUCKED on – gasp!). But, I plan to give it my all and exclusively breastfeed no matter what I have to do. It’s so good to know that there is so much support out there. I am sure I will be joining you girls with MANY questions in a couple of months!

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  • J

    I nursed my son for a year and let him self wean. (My older two were formula fed) Breastfeeding was one of the most wonderful, painful, rewarding, challenging, fabulous experiences of my life. I cried the whole first two weeks every time he nursed…then we were like old pros…I’m really happy I stuck with it. My husband was SUPER supportive and i probably would have quit had it not been for his encouragement.

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  • Oh for sure – breastfeeding is not an easy choice. It’s hard work, and you should be praised for sticking to it!

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  • I think it’s great that you’re telling your story because when moms go into it without knowing how it will be, they think they’ve “failed” and it will never get better so they quit. Knowing that it will get better (even if it’s forever away) will help moms keep going.

    My original goal was 1 year too, but now that Peanut is turning 1 next week I wouldn’t stop for the world. I feel like I worked so hard to get here and we get this special time together that I love. This part of her life is so short in the big picture and I want to take full advantage of it.

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  • Bobbi Janay

    I am so glad it is going well for you, I had horrible lc and ended up not brestfeeding.

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  • Well done for getting the word out and I’m so sorry you didn’t have any extra help with this, although Twitter is awesome. I’m still pregnant with my first, but I too had no idea that breastfeeding was something you needed to do a little research on. I suppose because the emphasis is always on the ‘natural’ side of it, so somehow we think it will come naturally.

    Luckily, I have come across the podcasts ‘Pregtastic’ and ‘New moms, new babies’. Pregtastic has done some awesome AWESOME shows on breastfeeding, telling all you need to know. I feel so much more informed and also know that should I feel anything isn’t going right, I am calling a lactation consultant asap! Both podcasts are really informative and fun and positive. The NMNB podcast is also shorter, as it’s geared towards new moms, who obviously don’t have the most time in the world. You can find both by searching itunes for them – let me know if you need any help. I cannot recommend them highly enough (and no I don’t work for them – they’re donation based).

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  • Julie

    Wow, that about summed it up for me the first two times I tried. Good for you for sticking with it.

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  • My sister had similar issues when starting to breastfeed. I had it easy, I pumped for 2 weeks first (while Nolan was in NICU) and then continued pumping when he was home while we worked on learning how to latch. I only got to breastfeed for four months though, and I wish I could have done it longer. Le sigh.

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  • I had read up a lot before Killian was born and I’m so greatful for it. I think if I didn’t know just WHY breastmilk is the best, I might not have stuck with it, and it would have been much, much harder mentally if I didn’t know that it was normal, but yes, we had a bit of a rough time of it.

    Everyone jumped the gun and though K wasn’t breathing when he was born (actually he just cries weird like I do which looks like you’re just not breathing) and he was taken from me right at birth and i didn’t get to hold him for 12 hours. Luckily my hospital seemed unsurprised by my no-formula rule & so he was just on an IV instead of fed other things through a tube (they didn’t want him swallowing anything until his breathing was “perfect”). We had a LC but she wasn’t very good.. though the SCU nurses helped in whatever way they could, most of them seemed to have nursed too.

    It hurt for the first few MONTHS. Especially at first! I now know where “Toe curling pain” comes from- it is literal! Engorgement was OUT OF CONTROL. I was dolly parton, seriously. An Ariel version because I had cabbage leaves on them a lot (and they were too small!) . I pumped a little during engorgement, but never again because it hurt so bad, as i was basically always bruised due to K’s bad latch. He had mild tongue tie but his doctors & the LC kept saying it wasn’t bad enough to affect nursing. O_o

    I’m not sure when.. probably around the 3 month mark or a little earlier, the pain went away. Now I can hardly tell when he’s on (though pumping still hurts). I’m SO glad I stuck with it. May will be our 6 month exclusive breastfeeding mark!! We’ll let him try his first food (we’re not bothering with purees or that sugar baby food, just soft regular food) at that point, I’m excited. Because I can’t pump it can be a little rough with only 2 hours of alone time once a week, but at that point he can rely on something other than me to maybe let me get.. i dunno, a FOUR hour break sometime (WAAAT!)

    Goal is 1 year, but ideally, I’d like him to self-wean so who knows how long we’ll really go! Personally I hope he doesn’t try to go to 2 years (though I’m 110% for other people nursing their babes for that much or longer) but if he does, I don’t think i’d forcibly wean him.

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  • Thank you so much for sharing your story! I went through many of the same things. My son was tongue tied but never diagnosed (until he was 14 months old!) so I had a LOT of pain for a long time and we used a nipple shield for 5 months. It was all so worth it! I even returned to work and still pumped for him until he was 14 months old. We nursed on demand until he weaned himself at 30 months. I still miss it sometimes and he had even told me he misses is sometimes (he will be 4 in June). I love that he has such fond memories of it!

    Also, thanks for the shout out and link to my gallery! I am so thrilled with how it is turning out!! Feel free to send more pictures over time!

    Crystal

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  • Nicole Merrill

    I breastfed my 1st for 10 months then dried up and now I’m still breastfeeding my 2nd who just turned one. I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital before my 1st baby was born which I highly recommend. I work full time so I pump during the day. I used to pump every 4 hours with my 1st baby but with my second, I pump every 3 hours and I think that’s how I’ve kept up my milk supply.

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  • I am going through the exact same thing right now, except my letdown is slow so little Matilda is a little impatient and freaks if the milk does not come right away. They insisted on us starting formula, which I think was necessary because she did lose a LOT of weight. I was hysterical because I felt like we were starving her. She is now packing on the pounds (3 days after discovering she was hungry) and I am pumping and working with her at the breast. We are going to get this! And if not, I will just bottle feed breast milk. Good luck to all! It is a trial I did not expect after giving birth.

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  • Kev

    Great read – your story is my wifes story almost to the letter. I happened upon your page whilst trying to find a way that she can get a break from feeding – she is sooo tired and I just want her to get a solid 10hr sleep but baby won’t take a bottle 🙁

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