With my first I never gave a thought to how I would feed her. I planned to breastfeed but didn't really research it or do any advance planning. Despite an epidural delivery, Olivia latched on just fine. They gave me demerol right after she was born while they stitched up my episiotomy so my memory of the first few hours is a little foggy but I believe she was with me from right after birth until several hours later. I did send her to the nursery that night so I could sleep and I don't know if she was supplemented with formula at that time or not. Back then I wouldn't have known to ask them not too. But once she came back to my room the next morning she stayed with me and didn't go back to the nursery. We left the hospital exclusively breastfeeding but were never visited by a lactation counselor nor given any referals for breastfeeding support should issues come up. We were given the ubiquitous bag however.
The first few days were actually pretty easy. But it didn't take long for my daughter's poor latch to begin damaging my nipples. It's been so long ago, over 10 years, that I can't look back and diagnose her latch problems, but I wish someone back then had just asked how breastfeeding was going. Her pediatrician or someone at the wic office, or anybody. I wish the hospital, pediatrician or wic office had at least offered a handout with some basic breastfeeding support and information. By 6 weeks I was in so much pain with each feeding that I dreaded her cries for milk. Both nipples were cracked and blistered. I hate telling this part of my breastfeeding story because knowing what I now know I feel like I shouldn't have given up so soon. I always qualify my story with examples of the stress I was under. (To be fair, I was under extreme stress dealing with my child's father, an abusive alcoholic, and dealing with health issues related to my ulcerative colitis)
During her sixth week of life I started giving her formula from the bag we took home from the hospital for some feedings. Just so I wouldn't hurt. Just to give my nipples some rest. I had no idea I was sabatoging my breastfeeding relationship. I had no idea something like a lactation consultant even existed much less where to find one. I didn't know there was good latch vs. bad latch. I didn't know how easy a bad latch can be to fix. I didn't even know I could get relief just by changing the way I held her for her feeds. I didn't know how much better it gets once mama and baby learn to breastfeed comfortably.
And the one thing I wish I had know more than any other That NO ONE EVER MENTIONED was the utter infiriority of formula compared to breastmilk. If I had known the full extent of the detriment of formula feeding I might have stuck it out.
We left her father when she was three months old. Once I got my health issues under control my stress levels went way down. That would have been a great time to try relactation but once again no one ever mentioned it.
My next child was born six years later and his breastfeeding story is so different. While pregnant with Kellen I took a childbirth class from a former La Leche League leader who used to be a certified Bradley instructor. I switched to midwifery care around 28 weeks. I also did a whole lot more during my second pregnancy. I even read a few breastfeeding books beforehand. Additionally I had actually seen other mothers breastfeeding a few times. My sister breastfed her son. I saw a cousin breastfeed her daughter a few times. And perhaps most important I knew where to go for help if I got stuck.
I chose to birth Kellen without an epidural or other pain medications so neither of us was groggy during "the golden hour". We delayed giving eye drops and bathing the baby. We used a different hospital for the birth and they sent a lactation counselor to see us twice before discharge. The hospital didn't give us bag packed with formula samples. Once again we went home exclusively breastfeeding.
With my son the atmosphere at home was so much better. His daddy was so supportive of my breastfeeding. My childbirth instructor had coached my fiance on some practical ways to help me succeed. He was always ready with a snack and a glass of water and did at least twice as many diaper changes as I did. When I developed sore, cracked nipples, I knew where to go for help. I saw a local lactation consultant, attended a breastfeeding support meeting, and searched online for support and information. ( I spent a lot of time on mothering.com, kind of woo but a great source of support and info )
I was able to breastfeed my son for 2 and 1/2 years.
Later when I had the opportunity I took a course to become a certified lactation counselor myself. So by the time I had my 3rd child I felt well prepared to nurse her.
She too, took to nursing right away. We didn't take but a few days to learn to breastfeed together. I did have a few really painful days with her but by the time she came along I had enough techniques under my belt to launch a full fledged attack on the pain and the root cause. What helped me most with her was rotating her round the breast from each feeding to the next and applying breastmilk to the nipples.
She's a year old now and still nursing. I don't know how long it will last. I'm working full time and I've weaned from the pump. (although in place of pumping I come home from work for some breaks) She's actually lost weight so her pediatrician reccomended pushing more solids. Weaning is a process, not a day so we could conceivable continue to nurse for another year or two. I would love that but she's never been the boob-a-holic my son was so who knows.
If you've read this far I hope it has been an informational, supportive and encouraging post. If you have any questions or comments please let me know. I'll answer anything I can and help you find the answer to anything I can't.