Pregnancy

The Art of Breastfeeding?

Here’s the thing about breastfeeding ….it is NOT EASY.

I know it’s supposed to be something a woman is designed to do – natural, instinctive, enjoyable.  Mama and baby in this warm cocoon-like bubble – you gazing down at this little beautiful being who is happily gulping down this magical milk freely flowing.

Umm, I hate to burst this idyllic bubble…that is definitely not how things usually go down. If you are a first time soon-to-be-mama, I’m sorry but I’m going to be real and honest – you’ll thank me later. If you are a second time mama – can I get a knowing head-nod and an “Amen, sister!”?

There is a steep learning curve to breastfeeding. It’s generally not an easy start and it take a bit of time to get the hang of it. I want you to know, you are not alone.

It’s okay to not enjoy it at first. It’s okay to cry and feel overwhelmed. And it’s totally okay to feel hopeless and want to give up. I know and I understand.

Here’s my story.

My first baby, Rose was born and immediately latched to my breast.   She was the baby you see in those breastfeeding videos. She climbed up my belly where she was placed seconds after being born and found her way to my breast where she latched on and continued to feed for the next 25 minutes.   We had a good start and I am thankful for that. However after the first 4 weeks of breastfeeding, I decided it was time to start pumping. I was heading back to work in a few short weeks and was determined to build up my supply of frozen breastmilk.

Enter pumping.

Breast pumping sucked and I found it cumbersome to use my electric pump and get enough milk.  Gradually my supply started to increase, but I couldn’t keep the pumping consistent. Long story short, before long I ended up with a few episodes of blocked ducts, and eventually mastitis. It was extremely painful and I felt like I couldn’t continue to breastfeed my baby. However with help from lactation consultants, my family doctor and a dose of antibiotics we got back on track and never looked back.

Breastfeeding has a steep learning curve. You are not alone.

Second baby. I’ve done this whole breastfeeding thing before, so this will be a piece of cake, right? Nope. Will and I had a tough time from Day 1. We had to work on his latch, he needed bodywork for his tight neck muscles (including chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, massage), I had to take herbs to increase my supply, we had to work hard on positioning, the list of issues went on. I felt defeated and completely overwhelmed. Why was this so hard? Shouldn’t I know this already? Again, we got help in the form of lactation consults (Taya Griffin), various other health practitioners, a naturopathic doctor and loads of patience. Eventually, we got the hang of breastfeeding together but we also supplemented William with some formula and I don’t regret it for a second. He needed it and I needed the peace of mind.

Two different babies. Two different feeding experiences. But in the end, we got through it. And you will too!

Do I have any advice? Not really because each mama’s experiences will be different and each baby is different.

However, I do have a few things that may help you on your feeding journey:

  1. Remember, you are not alone. Talk to people about what you are feeling – your partner, your best friends, your mom or dad, the lady in line at the grocery store. Honestly, it really does help to talk about the challenges.  La Leche League has weekly breastfeeding meetings that offer support.
  2. Get help. It’s okay to need help with this, whatever your feeding goals may be.  Lactation consultants are basically breastfeeding gurus.  But also talk to your midwives, doctors, chiropractors, other health care practitioners.
  3. “This too shall pass” It’s a phrase that I used to hear so much as a new mama and think to myself “What the heck are they talking about?!? This sucks right now!” But honestly, it does get better. I promise, mama.

Recently, Joy McCarthy, Taya Griffin and myself collaborated and co-authored an article on Natural Solutions for Breastfeeding Challenges.   I am so proud of this piece and I really hope that it helps other mamas out there!

xo

Dr Aliya

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