I learned more about breastfeeding my firstborn by watching him than any book could have taught me.
My son was born in November. I didn’t have a lot of friends who had babies and my own mother was working in another country far from me when he was born. There wasn’t Internet, but there were books to guide me. Before he was born I went to my local library and took out as many books as I could about breastfeeding and birth. I thought I was prepared, but babies are not like books!
He was born healthy and strong and cried a long time. He was not easy to settle so our first breastfeeding was a couple of hours after birth. I should have known right away that I had what I would learn was called a “high-needs” baby. I had to hold and carry him a lot in the first weeks to help him be comfortable. He slept very little for a newborn, so of course I didn’t sleep much either. What was really helpful was having him sleep close to me, in the same room. Over those first few weeks I had some ordinary struggles with latching my baby, some sore nipples, engorgement and one mild case of mastitis. I never considered anything but breastfeeding, and followed my baby’s cues for feeding him. It wasn’t easy and I know I cried a few times wondering how one little baby could be so much work! Once Christmas came I was very happy I had persisted, because breastfeeding was finally comfortable. I enjoyed being able to take my baby with me everywhere.
I remember going to see my midwife when he was about 6 weeks old, so just before Christmas, and being thrilled that he had gained really well and that he weighed 13 pounds already! I didn’t know then that exclusively breastfed babies gain more quickly than artificially fed babies in the first months. All I knew, as a young mother, was how proud I was that he had grown so well on only my milk. Another thing I really enjoyed about having a small baby at Christmas time was that even though family and friends could hold and play with my baby, he had to come back to me for feeding, so we got some good connecting and bonding time. Even though now I am an IBLCE certified lactation consultant, I know that a lot of what I learned about breastfeeding came from that first connection with my first baby. It’s worth persisting through the first weeks. And though I didn’t know it with my first, there are ways to get good information and help to avoid some of the more common problems.
I would love to hear from some of you, sharing your experience with breastfeeding.