This piece may be more appreciated by breastfeeding mothers of multiple children. Over the last 12 months, I have gone back into lactation mode for the 4th time. And let me tell you, it is different with each child. I have come to the conclusion that, though hand-me-downs are great when it comes to cribs, clothes and school uniforms… Hand-me-down nipples are just the worst. Don’t get me wrong, they still function –- allowing an infant to latch on to the supply of their source of nourishment –- but somehow it feels as though it gets harder every time. From the cracks and sores to that excruciating first minute of latching on the first few weeks of life, to the constant bouts of mastitis, all this coupled with significant hours void of sleep.
People oftentimes ask me to give them tips on how to produce more milk because I always seem to have an abundant supply. So much so, that this time around I have been able to feed 5 other babies! Unfortunately, there is no way for me to ensure an increase in your supply. What I can offer are words of encouragement for all new mothers out there who are suffering through the pain and fatigue that comes with breastfeeding. Whether you are someone who oftentimes feels like a cow (like me), or one who is struggling to produce an ounce, we are all in this together.
1. Breastfeeding can hurt.
Let’s get this one fact out there, when your baby first latches, the feeling is indescribable. But as the hours go by and he/she learns to suck, your nipples can get pretty irritated. So much so that the areola becomes so raw and oftentimes cracks and forms blisters. Though, I didn’t see the physical manifestations when I fed my first child, by the third and fourth time around, I did. And I was in pain. More pain than my delivery. And all I could do was power through it.
2. Breastfeeding requires patience.
Whether you are struggling with a slow flow of milk, or having to wake up every few hours to avoid getting overly engorged, a new mother has to have an incredible amount of patience to continue nursing. Asides from being exhausted from everything else a baby requires from you physically, breastfeeding will drain any remaining energy you have left.
3. Mastitis is no laughing matter.
By definition, mastisis is a painful inflammation of your breast tissue. It's most common during the first month of breastfeeding, but you can develop it any time – including after you wean off your child. The inflamed area may be red, swollen, unusually warm, painful, or hard to the touch. Symptoms can come on gradually or suddenly, and the condition usually affects only one breast at a time. (source: www.babycenter.com) If it happens to you, I suggest you start with a warm compress then gently massage the inflamed area (yes, this freaking hurts) in an outward motion while your baby is suckling or you are pumping – whichever works better for you. After, you may put a cold compress to ease the pain. Many of my mommy friends found comfort in lactation specialists, who did the massage for them and gave them tips on how to avoid getting it again. But if you have a really bad case, feel free to go to the E.R. – there are some cases that need medical attention and medication.
4. Every mom is different.
A hefty malunggay in take in the form of pills and food may have worked for me, but I know of mothers that saw no difference. Some moms say pumping at a steady schedule helped get their ducts going, while others suggested to only pump one to two times a day. I know of moms who could not pump out milk but fed directly without a problem… I also know of those that had the opposite experience. There are moms who lose massive amounts of weight while feeding, while others can’t seem to shed a pound until they completely stop. The point is, it is best to not compare yourself with other nursing mothers. What I love about motherhood is that it activates your natural instincts, so if you listen to your body, do what feels right, and works for you… you will find your groove.
5. Don’t breastfeed if it is making you unhappy.
In an airplane, those traveling with children are told to tend to themselves first before helping their little ones in case of an emergency. The same rules apply when it comes to new mothers. Though I believe that breastfeeding is best for babies, and I have really experienced the benefits, it is not for everyone, and that is okay. As difficult as this time is, you also want to enjoy your baby. A happy mom is the best mom there is.
I am writing this piece knowing that tonight is my last full night of breastfeeding (what will most likely be my last) baby as she turns one tomorrow. It is bitter sweet. Though it has been a challenging few months (44 to be exact, counting her sisters before her), I loved this special bond that only I had with my baby. I loved caressing her soft cheek as she quietly fed from me. I loved watching her sleepy eyes fall as she laid in the comfort of my arms. I loved knowing that I was her sole source of nourishment in the first few months of life.
And though I know tonight my tears will fall to her little face as I try to clutch on to this memory for the rest of my life, it will be with a sense of pride, and a grateful heart to have been given this beautiful chance to breastfeed my babies.