Despite reading countless books, taking breastfeeding classes, joining groups on social media, and having a ton of breastfeeding friends, I was totally not prepared. Honestly, breastfeeding my baby for the first time was not easy and or natural. There's definitely a learning curve, and things definitely didn't always go as planned. To make matters worse, I thought it was going to be so different. In fact, there were a ton of things I thought I had to feel when breastfeeding my baby for the first time.
The breastfeeding advocacy movement makes breastfeeding sound like a magical, wonderful experience, full of snuggles and endorphins. If you're the type to believe every single picture on the internet, breastfeeding almost always involves beautiful, thin women in fields of flowers, with perfect hair and makeup. Like most things in motherhood, reality rarely looks anything like stock images.
For me, breastfeeding was painful the first time, and I didn't feel the rush of happy love hormones or let down that everyone talked about. Breastfeeding my baby in the hospital meant being topless in front of nosy nurses and hands-on lactation consultants, piercing nipple pain, uterine contractions, and worrying that my baby was nursing all of the time and not sleeping.
Fast forward through weeks of breast milk supply issues, supplementing formula with a supplemental nursing system, pumping all day long, and postpartum depression, and I can safely say that breastfeeding my daughter was not a beautiful experience. At. all. Fortunately, now that I've had other babies and way different breastfeeding experiences, I can tell you that it doesn't suck all of the time (pun intended), but it definitely isn't magical all of the time, either.
I was so overwhelmed with emotion and so damn excited to meet my daughter. She was so small and beautiful. I wanted to try breastfeeding right away, and in that moment, I felt more scared and nervous than happy.
For me there was nothing natural about breastfeeding. I tried to prop her up with a nursing pillow and guide her to have a latch that was perfect. I wasn't sure if she was getting anything or if I was doing things right, and everyone was looking at me. Awkward.
I expected to feel happy hormones coursing through my body. I did, but I also felt painful uterine contractions and blood pouring out of my vagina. I was being stitched up at the time, and while it was so amazing to be holding my daughter in my arms, it was so weird at the same time.
I have no words to describe her first latch. Like a tiny cobra striking. Ouch.
Nursing my babies for the first time was very emotional. I desperately wanted to breastfeed my daughter, and I felt like I was doing the right thing. With my younger babies, I was a lot more realistic about breastfeeding and way less stressed. It was still pretty emotional, to be sure, but not in the way I had assumed.
You would think with all of the classes I attended and books and websites I read about breastfeeding, I would be confident. Nope. I was scared out of my mind.
With my first, I believed that breast was best, and I wanted the best for my baby. I now know that fed is best, and that formula, breast milk, or a combination of both can be awesome ways to feed your babies. I am pretty darn proud of feeding my babies in whatever way I choose to, and that doesn't always include exclusively breastfeeding.
My Milk Let Down
I seriously thought I would feel a let down when breastfeeding my baby for the first time. Now, I know that not all lactating people experience a let down sensation and most don't until their milk comes in.
I knew before my babies were born that I had my partners' support to breastfeed our babies, and now that my son needs special formula, I have support in feeding him formula, too. Amazing.
Like I Knew What I Was Doing
Yeah, well, I didn't know what I was doing. Luckily, I had support from professionals to help me figure things out, and now, I feel like a breastfeeding (and formula-feeding) pro.