As we enter the month of September, my beautiful daughter has turned into a whooping 8 month old little girl. Time has certainly flown by. As I looked through our immense collection of photos from her newborn days, it feels pretty amazing to see how far we’ve come through (even though it’s only been several months since).
Parenthood, the least to say is an incredible, unforgettable
experience journey. There are days when I’d feel like everything is going so smoothly and all is well. There were also days when I’d just feel helpless and in tears when I don’t know what to do when she’s crying and I can’t do anything to soothe her.
Oh, there are so many things to talk about in this past several months. My days were endlessly packed with mommy kind of activities, so much so I never had much time to write. Today, I’d like to write a little bit about my breastfeeding journey – which is pretty much a huge hallmark of my job as a mother.
Now whoever said breastfeeding is an easy and natural process clearly has not breastfed before. My relationship with breastfeeding has been, well, one of the roller coaster kind. When I was still pregnant and had read from other mothers’ breastfeeding experience, I noticed that almost everyone’s story had a line or two describing the difficult and painful days. I remember naively telling myself that it won’t happen to me, because I arrogantly thought I had the mental knowledge about breastfeeding. After all, I was teaching clinical staff about breastfeeding back in my Slim River days. “Surely it will not happen to me.”
The early weeks following her birth were extremely D-I-F-F-I-C-U-L-T. Difficult probably only minimally describes it accurately. What other words could be use to augment the meaning of difficult? CRAZY difficult? Chloe would cry without end in the most ridiculous hours of the night (i.e. 12 midnight until 3 am)… every. single. night.
Every. Single. Night.
I remember always looking at the clock and dreading those moments of the night. Here’s the sequence. She cries. I pick her up. Feed her. She stops crying. Put her down. She cries again within 15 seconds. Repeat.
Sometimes, it’s like this. She cries. I pick her up. Feed her. Still cries. Feed her. Still cries. Change boob. Feed her. Still cries. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Those are just the nights. The days? She needs feeds every hour or so. So imagine this. She cries. Nurses her for 10-15 minutes. She stops crying. She sleeps. Put her down. She cries again 45 minutes later. Repeat.
Every. Single. Day.
Alright. So that’s just crazy difficult from the timing aspect.
It was also crazy difficult feeding her. The pain when she first latches on. Indescribable. It’s so painful that I have to cringe my face, my toes and pretty much every orifice I have just to feed her. There were days, I would have take deep breaths and brace myself before I nurse her – preparing my body mentally for the pain to come. At first I couldn’t understand why it was such a painful ordeal. What happened to all the beautiful stories of how enriching breastfeeding was for both mommy and baby? This certainly did not feel like one. My latch technique looked right. She seems to suck okay. Must be overactive letdown. I must have got my latch technique right. After all, I went for training. My arrogant brain thought. It hurt so much I had to visit the lactation consultant and was told that my nipples were all cracked. Cracked nipples = wrong latch technique.
Moral story of the day: Learning it with your head is NOT the same as doing it in real life. You may know the books and text inside out and outside in, but let me tell you, it is never the same when there’s a baby in your arms.
All these problems that did not seem to ever get better start messing with your head pretty bad. It became a norm for me to question myself whether I am eating the right things and doing the right things to increase my chance to a successful breastfeeding journey. I kept going through the list in my head again and again. I did what I was suppose to do but why does it still feel like she is never satisfied and I don’t feel like this will ever be second nature to me? I remember being ever so close to doing the forbidden – buying formula milk powder.
Now don’t be so quick to judge me as yet. What’s so wrong with milk powder, you ask? Hear me out. Since being a medical student, a chapter of our obstetric and pediatric textbook dedicates itself to the benefits of breastmilk over formula milk. As medical practitioners, we had to be advocates and supporters for breastfeeding and were expected to convert as many new mothers to breastfeeding – as it is after all, the best form of nutrition for babies. So when you’ve got years of such teachings ingrained in your head, just the thought of feeding your baby with formula milk felt like you were following the dark side. It almost felt like a sin. Yes. Seriously it felt like it.
But I knew I had to persevere on. “Don’t worry, this phase will pass. It will get better with time,” other breastfeeding-master mommies tell me. At that point, it really felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Everyday was a day of pain and endless feeds.
Gradually, breastfeeding did become second nature. Chloe got better at latching on. My wounds started healing and I got better at guiding her to latch. Together, we became a good team. Fast forward to today, we are still going at it – but each stage of breastfeeding presents with its own set of problems. Now it’s her distractions and her short feed times. Now it’s my doubt whether is my supply gradually diminishing since starting her on solids and my ability to pump at my new job. Nevertheless, I count every successful day of nursing a real blessing. Sure, she still cries a few times at night for her feeds, but I would never ever trade these requests for the world.
So here’s my word or two to new mommies who are thinking of breastfeeding. You’re bound to face problems. Period. It will come. Expect it. Don’t roll your eyes and think it will never happen like I did. I think it’s easier to cope with the problems when you’re mentally expecting it to happen. Seek help and support from other mothers. Ask questions. Hang on through the pain and fatigue.
Because it is really so worth it.
Chloe’s cute little face during the difficult days