The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their life. Breast milk is supposed to reduce the exposure of foreign allergens, as it contains antibodies and nutrients to prevent illnesses. It is also expected to reduce the chances of diarrhea and/or constipation, and be much gentler on a baby’s digestive system.
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My journey to breastfeeding was a very bumpy and emotional one.
In 2014, I gave birth to my first child. Prior to his birth I attended prenatal classes offered by York Region Public Health, I read the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and I spoke to many friends that had breastfed their baby. I felt like I had all the information needed to successfully breastfeed, and that it would be a piece of cake!
Well, fast-forward to the moment my son was born, and I struggled from the first feed. I didn’t know if he was drinking, I didn’t know if my colostrum had come in, I didn’t know if I was holding him properly – I just didn’t know. I had new mom angst, and all through that first 24 hours I kept asking the nurses to check if I was doing it right. They all reassured me I was doing fine, and occasionally adjusted my breast or the baby, but said not to worry, all was well.
However, all was not well. My baby screamed. I mean screamed(!) the entire night at the hospital. In hindsight, now I know my baby was screaming because he was hungry. But at the time, I didn’t know. I kept putting him to my breast, hoping that would help. But being the new mom that I was, I wasn’t latching him properly, and my nipples was starting to get really sore and chaffed!
By the time we got home, my nipples were red and stinging with pain. By day 3, I couldn’t bare to bring my baby to my breast. Every time he sucked, I was in excruciating pain! By now my nipples had cuts in all sorts of places, scabs were forming, and I was in So. Much. Pain.
I walked into my nearby Urgent Care Clinic and cried in pain at the doctor’s office. The doctor was quite concerned about my mental state, given that I had just given birth and was sobbing in the doctor’s office. I reassured him that my mental state was fine, and that I was just in a lot of pain. He did a quick breast exam and prescribed me a topical antibiotic for the cuts and sent me on my way.
By Day 4, my baby had his first check-up with the Paediatrician. She was not happy! My baby had lost too much weight and she was afraid he wasn’t getting enough milk from me. She told me that I needed to supplement him with formula and gave me a sample pack of Ready-Feed Formula. She also suggested that I visit a Lactation Clinic offered by Public Health.
We drove home, and I was devastated. As a new mom, I wanted the best for my child. All the literature points to how good breastmilk was for babies, and here I am not able to provide that for my child. I am well aware of the slogan, “Fed is best”, but I really wanted to be able to exclusively breastfeed my baby.
So, I made an appointment at the York Region Public Health Breastfeeding Clinic to go in the very next day – Day 5. The lactation nurse said that my baby had continued to lose weight from the day before, and that I needed to be serious about supplementing him with formula. I told her my concerns about nipple confusion (when baby prefers the nipple of a bottle over my breast). She said I can work on building up my milk supply, but at the same time I need to supplement regardless – my baby needs nourishment.
I left the clinic deflated. I felt like a bad mom. I felt like my baby was losing weight all because of me. I cried many tears. I worked hard to get my milk up, all while supplementing my baby with formula, and he was finally starting to gain weight. I think that week, we went to the lactation clinic three times. By the third visit, the lactation nurse suggested seeing a Speech and Language Pathologist that specialized in breastfeeding. It was honestly, a godsend.
By Day 6, Glynnis Dubois, the Speech and Language Pathologist was at my doorstep (at the time she did house visits). To this day I sing her praises. She felt around my baby’s mouth to see how he was sucking. She determined that he was sucking to soothe, and not sucking to drink – there is a big difference. And she corrected his suck, and then had me latch him. And like magic, he was drinking – FINALLY! She gave me suggestions on how I can build up my milk supply, and taught me how to bottle feed him without stretching his stomach too much (I’ll explain more on this in Part II of my breastfeeding journey).
By Week 6, my baby was exclusively breastfed!
If you’ve read to this point, thank you for being here. As you can see, my journey to breastfeeding was not an easy one – far from it. And the point of the blog post is NOT to suggest that breastfeeding is THE best, nor am I here to make one feel that if you work really hard at it, you’ll someday exclusively breastfeed.
The point of this blog is to share MY journey. That is all. One may read this and have feelings of hope. One may read this and feel that they are not alone.
In Part 2 of my breastfeeding journey I will share what worked for me in building up my breastmilk supply.
Thanks for reading!