When I first created BougieMama, I hoped it would become more than a personal blog. During my pregnancy, and still today, I have found the conversation surrounding intentional and research-based parenting to be missing voices from mamas who identify as folks of color. Now, more than ever before, I’m hopeful that I can support and unify our community by sharing resources and stories from mamas who have been there, done that.
The first prompt I posted was: Describe your first 2 weeks learning how to feed your baby.
Much of it is a blur but, I approached the situation determined to leave the hospital being able to breastfeed successfully. I consumed any and all information I could get my hands on related to nursing, when I finally took the class offered at the hospital I only learned one new thing. I felt ready. She was born and it was so much more difficult than I imagined, not to mention we had it pretty easy! The lactation consultant at the hospital was no help at all, she didn’t even enter the room, she stood in the doorway and asked questions. More for a census, I think, than actually helping me or my baby.
My daughter was gaining well, plenty wet and dirty diapers, she was alert (when she wasn’t sleeping), everything seemed fine except for this feeling that something wasn’t right. I had no reason to think anything was off but I decided to go to a few drop in lactation support groups, no one was concerned because she was gaining well and there were babies who wouldn’t latch and mothers wanting to increase their production. Thankfully around 2 and half weeks I started experiencing pain on one breast every time she latched, eventually it got so bad I couldn’t nurse her on that side at all. I went to visit an IBCLC and she weighed my daughter, I nursed her she weighed her again, she stuck her fingers in her mouth and told me she had a tongue and lip tie. I got them released about a week later and never felt pain again.
I went into my first birth knowing full well that I wanted to breastfeed but I also knew that my knowledge regarding the subject was extremely limited. My son had a terrible gag reflex from the minute he was born so the nurse had us feed him expressed milk. I asked the lactation consultant about using a nipple shield . She said not to use it, and to feed from a bottle until he learned how to latch properly. A few weeks later he finally latched well but was so used to the bottle that he wouldn’t nurse.
Having had to exclusively pump for 10 months to breastfeed my first, I mentally prepared myself to have to pump for the second as well. But I promised myself I’d do everything I could to nurse him first before resorting to pumping (bc it was a nightmare-ish 10 months). My son latched and breastfed like a champ right away. A few days after he was born my milk started to come in; my breasts were extremely swollen, painful, and engorged. This made it impossible to latch. I called the lactation consultant and they tried to tell me the same thing: feed pumped milk with a bottle until my breasts are back to normal and he can latch again. This time I decided to do what felt right to me rather than listen to their advice. I used a nipple shield to help him latch and nurse, rather than feeding with a bottle. It worked perfect. By the end of the first two weeks my swelling was going down, I weaned him off of the nipple shield, and breastfeeding has been a breeze since. 🙂
Feedings during the first two weeks were ROUGH! The twins were born by c-section at 37 weeks. The babies weren’t latching well, and my milk never came in. Every hour I was pumping, hand expressing or putting them on the breast. The first few days after I had them, I would get 0-5 ml. Then in the weeks after I would get 0-20 ml from pumping and hand expressing and the babies still weren’t latching well. I hated pumping. It hurt so bad, and I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in front of everybody, so often I would be alone in the bedroom pumping. I tried to make the most of it, by spending some “Me” time while pumping but I had incredible guilt that other people were taking care of the babies instead of me when I went off to pump 6 times a day for 30-60 minute sessions. When we put the babies on the breast, I would feel rejected and inadequate when they didn’t latch. Hand expressing hurt really bad too but it helped me get the most milk and I would get soooo much joy from seeing it squirt out. I wasn’t really effective at hand expressing on myself (I would avoid tender spots) and so my husband would help me hand express and often that was the best part of my day. In the meantime, the babies were very small and Joshua’s health, especially, was pretty fragile so we were supplementing with formula. Unfortunately, though after 3 weeks of giving it my best, I had gotten to the point where I was crying at every breastfeeding session and my depression had gotten pretty bad. Once I made the decision to stop breastfeeding though (after 3 weeks), things started turning around. I was crying less, I was enjoying the babies more, and I felt much less guilt and anxiety. Definitely, the best decision for me 🙂
This is a really interesting question and I want to respond but don’t know how to do so without talking about my own mental health at the time and struggling to find myself as a new mother at such a young age in a different state without support. I had a c-section and within days after the birth was traveling across the country to a new home. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it was learning how to be comfortable with my body and see my body in a completely different way that was for once not sexualized. Looking back on it what I remember most isn’t the actual breastfeeding itself but struggling to figure out who I was and who I would be as a new parent.
I was fortunate enough to have a baby that had no problems latching. The problem as the weeks passed, was me. I began feeling like my body was not mine, and yet, I felt compelled to continue nursing my daughter because I could and in order to save money as our family was struggling financially with a new business. My husband worked overnight often and I was left alone to care for our daughter day and night and nursing sometimes felt overwhelming. With no family nearby to help, I struggled through it and today, my 10-month-old nurses less often since her diet is supplemented with solids and water. I think it’s easier to try to convince someone that nursing is not the only way to go than to reach an understanding that it really is ok to stop nursing even if you can, simply because it’s pushing you to a mentally unhealthy space.
Last but not least, I’ll add my own perspective:
The first two weeks of feeding were a painful nightmare for me. My birth experience resulted in extended hospital time, and some NICU time for my little one. I was determined to nurse, so I was pumping every 2 to 3 hours, while traveling across the hospital to NICU to put my daughter to breast every time she woke. I was not sleeping, and barely eating. We still had to supplement with formula, and I cried thinking she would prefer the bottle. Once we got home, I nursed directly as much as I could, but her latch wasn’t quite right. It was painful, and I began to DREAD it, bracing myself before every feeding. I went to hospital support groups, and got some pretty bad advice from a few lactation consultants there. At week 2, I was seriously considering pumping exclusively, and thought we’d never get through the pain (it hurt so badly, I had to fight the instinct to throw my baby off of me). At week 4, my husband convinced me to get an ICBLC Lactation Consultant to come to our home, and she taught me how to get a deep latch. It took quite a while to not be afraid of my baby and feeding time.
My question for this week is: What is your number one piece of advice to an expecting or brand new mama?