Initially breastfeeding was pretty darn uncomfy. I had read and heard from many that that was to be expected, so I prepared myself from the first time I fed Lucy. I don't know if it was all the pain medication pulsing through my veins or the shock from holding my daughter for the first time, but the pain really wasn't that bad; it wasn't pleasant, but it also wasn't excruciating. When Dr. O put Lucy in my arms, she immediately stuck her finger in Goose's mouth, and said, "She's about to rip my finger off, you better feed that girl!" Our awesome nurse, Chelsea, rushed to my side and helped me feed Lucy for the first time. Goose latched on immediately and went to work; I can only describe this sensation as a pinching.
In those first few days of life, a baby nurses almost constantly; this is called Cluster Feeding. This is because the milk hasn't come in and your boobs are full of this thick, yellow stuff called Colostrum. The Colostrum comes out at a much slower rate; 30 minutes of nursing is equivalent to 30 drops of Colostrum. So, because your nips never get a chance to rest, the "its not so bad" feeling quickly turns into agonizing, fist clenching pain. Your nips just get so incredibly sore and SCABBY. For me, the pain lasted until Lucy's two week birthday - especially on the left side - nowadays, it is completely pain free. I read that the pain fades for most women after two to three weeks (so for those just starting out, just know that it does get better). Aside from the constant action, a lot of the pain can be attributed to the baby's latch and feeding position.
For the first day or two of Lucy's life, I was just putting the very tip in her mouth; that is completely wrong. Don't do that. Also, don't wait to seek help; schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant as soon as possible after giving birth. My discomfort and scabbing could have been prevented; I hope that my mistakes will help another breastfeeding momma. For the best latch possible, you should make a "C" with your hand, and compress your breast so that you get as much of your nipple into the baby's mouth.
You've got a few options regarding position. My favorite position is side-lying. At first I was reluctant to try this position, because of my incision; but, it truly enables the best latch possible. There is also the football hold and the traditional cradle hold. The football hold is great for c-section mommas; however, it requires a few pillows (or some serious muscles). The traditional cradle hold is ideal for feeding in public places and/or in front of others; but, it gets a little tiresome...holding a chunky baby for 30+ minutes is no easy task. Speaking of pillows...most mommas are familiar with breastfeeding pillows (i.e.: Boppy and Breast Friend). I have the Boppy. It is an ingenious invention, but I still prefer to feed Goose lying down (sans pillows).
Me, Goose, and Daisy enjoying some side-lying action
Now, while I was prepared for the physical demands of breastfeeding, I was not prepared for the emotional demands. Breastfeeding is exhausting, stressful, rewarding, awkward, beautiful, oh ya, and, EXHAUSTING! Casey and I desperately wanted to avoid nipple confusion. We agreed that Lucy was not to receive any artificial nipples before her six week birthday; that meant all feedings, until that point, were on me. Calling the situation "stressful" would be a massive understatement; but, as stressful as it may be at times, I wouldn't have it any other way. Since I started breastfeeding, I have: pulled my car over to feed Lucy on the side of the road, fallen asleep with my boob out more than once, breastfed standing in stinky, nasty public bathrooms, and I regularly walk around the house with my bra cup yanked out of my shirt.
Its THIS exhausting.
(Yes, I really just posted this picture.)
I am so grateful to be able to breastfeed; it is a beautiful and natural process. I cherish the bond I've developed with Goose because of it. I hope that this post was somewhat helpful, or at least interesting - God knows it was long enough! For those mommas planning to breastfeed and those just starting out, I wish you all the luck in the world, and I hope you love the experience as much as I have. To wrap up this ginormous post, I have two short lists...
Pack nursing bras and tanks in your hospital bag!
Lactation cookies are delicious and beneficial to your supply.
Kellymom is a great online resource for questions and concerns.
Pack a spare shirt for yourself in the diaper bag, leaks are not so cute.
Your boobs will literally spray like water guns, it is so weird!
Your boobs are going to be HUGE.
Breastfeeding cover (hands-free is essential)
Breast milk storage system (I prefer bags to bottles)
Nursing pads (cloth, of course - I have 36)
Nursing tank tops
This post was long overdue, hence the length (I actually started writing it in the beginning of April). Coming up next, Smart Pumping and Introducing the bottle to the breastfed baby...