My First Breastfeeding Experience
You should have asked me last year just so that you could have seen my facial expression. The empty stare, the sporadic blinking, and the wrinkle between my eyebrows curved into the shape of a question mark.
My opinion on breastfeeding?
I’ve imagined myself as many thing, ‘being a mommy’ was never one of them. I’d never even attempted to picture how someone would be potentially taking over my breasts and my overly sensitive nipples. I thought I was an exception – but it turns a lot of girls despise being touched there (so, no boys, we aren’t fans).
Bottom line: I cringed from the thought of having my nipples sucked. Now fast-forward a year and a half – and here I am spending most of my days allowing (no, not my husband) my baby to do precisely that.
I often catch myself starting at Sofia-Malou while she eats. The moment she come into contact with my skin her face immediately softens up, her eyes begin to sparkle and lively wander until she gets too tired from eating and falls asleep. It’s only now that I get that breastfeeding is more than satisfying her physical needs – it also satisfies her need for closeness and affection. The babies spend 9 months in the belly and all of a sudden they are out, incapable of taking care of themselves and completely dependent on their caretaker. Imagine how terrifying this actually is.
Without any doubt the way I’ve chosen to take care of Sofia is influenced to a great extent by the Danish (and quite progressive) way. From the moment my pregnancy became ‘real’ – meaning I began noticing Sofia kicking and moving around – I knew that I was gonna do the best I could do for her. The selfish side of me was suppressed by the one that was waiting with excitement for the arrival of my little one.
I try to live as healthy as possible – exercise a lot, eat lean, clean, and mostly organic, so it was only logical that I gave her the same. It wouldn’t have made sense to feed her with something that I wouldn’t have consumed myself (unless I had no other choice, of course).
My negative attitude towards the formula feeding is rooted in my childhood. All I could remember was my inability to breathe, due to the strong asthma attacks I had, and itchy body fully covered with rash. Turning back the clock – it turns out my mom couldn’t breastfeed me. She had to undergo a few surgeries, because of delivery complications, which resulted in her breasts being unable to produce milk.
Is that the reason why I was allergic towards tons of things including grass, cats, different types of food and dust or why I was stuck in my bad for weeks due to the constantly reoccurring broncho pneumonia? While I can’t be sure, after doing my research I’ve discovered that the artificial feeding does make it much more likely for a baby to develop allergies, asthma, and get ill more often. Recalling my childhood and how miserable I felt every time I got allergic reaction or had 40 degrees fever, I just wouldn’t take the potential risk with Sofia if my milk production were going well.
From the moment Sofia was born we haven’t been away from each other for more than 30 minutes. Yep, breastfeeding requires a lot of dedication. The way I see it, breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice. Unless you express, there is no one else who can take care of your baby if you’re not around. When I leave the flat, I take Sofia-Malou with me so that I can breastfeed. Right now Sofia-Malou can’t distinguish between ‘herself’ and ‘the world’, but she can feel the warmth and smell of the people who have been around her the most. I do believe that at such an early age a baby needs much more than being physically fed every few hours. She seeks the comfort of feeling safe and sound and breastfeeding gives her precisely that. And, of course, it was tough, especially during the first few weeks when I was so sleep deprived that I was almost quitting on breastfeeding at night. But then there it was… the blissful happiness on Sofia-Malou’s face and for a second it would all make sense again.
/If you’re using the bottle you can still give your baby the affection it needs by snuggling and keeping them close while they eat. Try skin-to-skin technique, letting them lie on the top of you without clothes every time you get the chance/
Minutes after she was born, the nurses placed her on my breast so they could test her ‘sucking’ reflex. I was advised by the nurses to keep letting her practice ’sucking’, which would also get my milk production going. We slept in one room since the moment she was born and any checks she had to undergo happened in the room. Every time she was hungry I placed her on my breast so that she could ‘inform’ my body how much milk she needs. It’s amazing how the body works. The more she ate – the more milk I began to produce. For the same reason I never gave her the bottle and the let the nature do its wonders instead. Just think about it, how did babies survived 150 years ago when they didn’t have the option to take the bottle? Anyway, up until now I haven’t expressed milk. I did have an infection twice, but rather than pumping out the milk I let Sofia empty my breast and for a day it all went away. There was no need for medicine or going for the formula milk.
The thing I trusted the most (in order to decide whether breastfeeding was for us) was the scale and the fact that Sofia seemed happy and content. I postponed this article so that I can back it up with numbers. For 6 weeks and a half she’s gained 1kg 400 gr. I’ve never force-fed her or followed a strict routine. With time she has established her own and I’ve adjusted to it. The only thing I’ve done is to wake her up if she falls asleep just after a few minutes on my breast. Why? Because she remains hungry and the moment I place her to sleep she would wake up and seek more food.
It’s sad that in some countries there are still health-care professionals that advise the moms to express milk to see how much milk they produce?! Every mom could get worried if she saw that there wasn’t ‘enough’ milk in the bottle (what does enough mean?!) and add artificial milk to their babies diet. Funnily, Sofia was always gaining weight as scheduled, despite that in the beginning my breasts were producing less milk than now. I remember that she gained 500 gr for a week, which proved that no matter the ml. she was having per feeding, she was getting enough calories in total to grow and be healthy.
What about my overly sensitive nipples?
Right at the beginning it hurt a lot and I was shedding a tear almost every time I was nursing. I was in so much pain, because my nipples weren’t perky enough and Sofia couldn’t properly suck. During the first few days I was using a ‘fake’ plastic nipple (more about my ‘breastfeeding essentials’ on Sunday) that made it easier for Sofia to eat and for my nipples to become perkier. If you plan on breastfeeding it might be a good idea to prepare your nipples for the occasion (many people roughen them up prior to giving birth, but I just couldn’t do it myself). Anyway, I was also getting small contractions every time I was breastfeeding (think strong period pains). I had no clue back than that breastfeeding sends signals to the body that the baby is no longer in the belly, which makes the uterus shrink quicklier to a smaller size. Also, for the ones of you who want to lose the extra weight gained during the pregnancy – breastfeeding will help you. I’ve been eating more than I did during the last months of my pregnancy and losing weight simultaneously (I fir my skinny jeans), because a lot of the calories and vitamins go for the baby (an article about my breastfeeding diet – coming up soon).
To finish off , if you’re aiming to breastfeed, make sure that your baby stays with you in the hospital. Keep letting her practice eating and unless you really can’t produce milk, forbid the nurses to give your baby the bottle. In Denmark there is no other option, but in many other countries the babies are still placed to sleep in another room and formula fed when away from them mommy. Beware that it’s much easier for the baby to eat from a bottle than the breast and if they get used to that, why bother ‘working hard’ when they can get their food in an easier way?
If you want to know more about my first breastfeeding experience – make sure to send me your questions in the comments below 🙂