The challenges and joys of Breastfeeding!
This is a very personal story of breastfeeding and the challenges I faced and how I overcame them in the first two months after my baby boy was born. This is not to make some moms feel guilty or discouraged, but to show that every individual, every baby is different and if there is something you really want, It can be possible!
Before Viraaj was born, I “thought” I was prepared for everything since I knew how to take care of newborns, such as, bathing, diaper changing, feeding from bottle, etc (from previous babysitting experiences). His nursery and everything else my baby would need was all set. I was ready to be a mom and take care of every need my little one had. The only one thing I was not experienced in was breastfeeding but from my prenatal classes, conversations with friends and family, and my own personal research, I was told it is a very natural process and will happen on its own when you give birth. I couldn’t wait for that moment for him to come into my arms so I can feed him for that very first time.
The moment then arrived and Viraaj Shah was born. I cried looking at my sweet little boy. It was the happiest moment of my life. The feeling is indescribable which most of you moms out there can relate. I couldn’t hold him right away because of my C-section, but an hour later he was brought to me and I held my baby in my arms for the first time. Right away, he reached out for the breast and we started breastfeeding. I felt like a mom. We had to stay in the hospital for a few days after the surgery and the nurses in Meadow Lake were amazing, They took such good care of both of us. They encouraged, supported and helped us prepare for our departure home. I asked them how my breastfeeding was going, and they all said I was doing such a great job based on the number of poos and pees Viraaj was having. I was happy to hear this and was all ready to go home.
The day we were leaving for home, Viraaj did not have any pee diapers all day and that started to worry me. The nurse was also worried and said it is not a good sign. She gave me a bottle of formula and said to feed this to him before sleeping if he still does not pee. When we arrived home, I breastfed him more and hoped for a pee diaper. Unfortunately, I had no luck. My motherly instincts were telling me that he wasn’t getting any food and at that point, I didn’t care that I wasn’t breastfeeding or anything but my only goal was to feed my hungry baby. I fed him the bottle from the hospital and he guzzled it down. I could tell he starving. While he drank that formula, I started to cry… my cry was so loud and uncontrollable. I cried as if the worst thing happened to me and Maanit came running to console me. He looked concerned himself and asked if something had happened. I said, “I’m so glad he is eating but I feel like I’ve failed as a mom. All I wanted to do was breastfeed my little one but he was not getting anything from me”. I felt like I had failed as a mother. This part tore me apart and I couldn’t control my emotions. I told Maanit to go immediately and buy me a pump because if he isnt feeding from the breast, maybe I can pump my milk and give him. He went right away to our little town store and picked up the only pump available and I tried to pump with it. I was able to get a little bit and offered that to Viraaj. He gulped that down as well. I could tell that he really was hungry and wasn’t able to drink straight from my breast. I cried even more. I was an emotional wreck. Maanit hugged me and consoled me and told me, “Don’t worry my love, get some rest tonight and since tomorrow is Monday, we will call public health and have a lactation consultant visit us and help you out.” As much as I wanted to keep trying, I was exhausted and had every ounce of my energy exerted. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong and why I couldn’t feed my baby. I had to wait till the morning.
First thing Monday morning, we phoned our town’s lactation consultant and I couldn’t even speak to her. I was still so emotional and kept crying while trying to explain my situation. Maanit had to take the phone from me and talk to the consultant. She came over to our house within the next half an hour. I feel so blessed to have that service available to me, as that helped me calm down a little bit. We found out that he had lost too much weight and was essentially starving those first few days as he did not get adequate milk supply directly from me. She then watched me try to feed him, but he was not latching on. We tried different positions, angles etc but nothing was working. She then said, I’m sorry but I think he mouth is too small and he’s not able to latch on properly. She suggested we try a nipple shield and see if that works. He was able to get milk from that and it was still pretty much breastfeeding. Boy, did I ever feel relieved. That day and night I breastfed him every 2 hours using the nipple shield and everything was going great. The next day, while breastfeeding him with the nipple shield, I started to experience pain. The pain got worse with each feed and it was excruciating. When the public health nurse came the following day, we noticed he still wasn’t gaining enough weight and they recommended that I pump my milk and feed him, especially since the pain was unbearable using the nipple shield and we wanted his weight to increase. There were times I felt I needed to supplement as well because he needed more milk. The next few days went by and my baby was gaining weight and becoming healthier and stronger. He was getting my breastmilk from a bottle and he was happy. I started to feel happy as well. I still was not myself emotionally, but was in a much better place knowing that he was being well fed, and he was still getting my breastmilk. Initially, I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t feed my baby properly as I always associated motherhood to breastfeeding, but then with help of my husband and friends and family, started to feel more comfortable. Once in a while I’d put the nipple shield on or try breastfeeding, but he would cry so much and just give up.
As the weeks went by, I became more comfortable with the process of pumping and did not feel ashamed to tell people that I was struggling with breastfeeding and would share my challenges. Even though I was comfortable, my inside was still not entirely satisfied and I knew how much I personally wanted to breastfeed. I wanted to experience feeding my baby, which is something that only I can share with my baby and no one else. I kept trying once in a while, even with the shield. At one point I started to feed him with the nipple shield and did not experience any pain. I went for about 2.5 days breastfeeding him exclusively using the shield but then once again, that excruciating pain came back and I had to stop because feeding him was more important than how I was feeding him. I went back to pumping and convinced myself that breastfeeding was just not going to happen for me.
The day Viraaj turned 6 weeks, I just happened to try to breastfeed without the shield. I didn’t think it would work, but magically, HE LATCHED ON!!!! He was drinking for the first time from my breast and I was crying again, this time tears of joy!! I messaged everyone who knew my struggles and told them how happy I was. I couldn’t control my excitement and realized how happy it made me to breastfeed my own baby. That day I breastfed day and night but the following day, my right breast started to hurt. It was that same excruciating pain I experienced while using the shield. I was heartbroken again. What now? I finally can breastfeed naturally and he’s latching on but now it’s mind over matter. I have to get over the pain, and everyone kept saying breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt if he’s latching on correctly.
I spoke to the lactation consultant in town and she checked my latch that day and said everything was okay but she couldn’t figure out why I had that pain. She said she was happy that I could now breastfeed but felt sorry I might not be able continue to because of the pain. I had a few friends who helped me through this process and had encouragement from Le leche league in Saskatoon. They said if the latch was okay, it might just be trauma pain from before and should go away. If you can, keep breastfeeding and see what happens. The nurses in town and lactation consultant told me to give up and just go back to pumping and/or providing formula. It is not worth the pain. So many people told me that I had tried so much but it’s time I just accept that breastfeeding is not for everyone. I did accept it in my mind, but my heart was not ready to accept it for some reason and I felt there was hope for me. I didn’t give up on that little bit of hope and few days later, the pain on the right breast just magically disappeared. Just when I thought everything was going great, Viraaj started feeding every hour and I literally felt like I was feeding all day and all night. It was exhausting and the little part of me wanted to quit breastfeeding all together again. I called my lactation consultant and she said, “Neetu, you’ve gone through so much and I think it’s time that you start supplementing because breastfeeding shouldn’t be this complicated and exhausting.” She had a point and was right in her own way, but little did I know, Viraaj was going through a growth spurt at that time and just needed to feed more often. I pushed and pulled through those rough few days and didn’t give into supplementing, as much as I wanted to.
We are now at 3 months and I have been exclusively breastfeeding for the past one and half months. He is gaining good weight and is a happy and healthy baby. I am so proud of myself to have not given up on something that I really wanted to experience and do, and kept pushing myself through those tough times. This doesn’t mean that it is possible for everyone to breastfeed. I know so many that do not have enough milk or experience too much pain and can not breastfeed. Every baby, every person, and every experience is different. The most important thing is to feed your baby, whichever method works for you. I feel really blessed that I was able to breastfeed and faced all those struggles and stresses, but never gave up. Today I can proudly say that I am so happy with myself, and thankful that God gave me the strength through the past 2 months and I have an amazing husband, family and friends and excellent support that helped me through this.