I had two pivotal moments in my breastfeeding relationship with my son. The first was in the hospital, where some inexperienced and over zealous nurses pushed, squeezed and prodded my breasts, positioning and constantly re-positioning my new baby while repeatedly asking, “How does that feel?” (Hint: not great). They gave me exercises to do and regimes to follow and I felt like I was missing something. It wasn't clear if either of us were doing it right, but I was sure this wasn’t how it was supposed to feel when breastfeeding for the first time.
A few days later, I was feeling desperate, my breasts hurt, my baby didn’t seem to be getting any milk (we were supplementing with formula) and my ability to continue breastfeeding seemed to be slipping away. So I went to see a lactation consultant and had my first “real” experience breastfeeding my sweet baby. She sat me down on a rocking chair in a dimly lit room, had both me and my son undress, laid him on my tummy, and we watched him crawl up to my breast, where she quickly popped on a nipple shield and he latched on, nursing immediately.
It was like no other feeling I have experienced; an immediate release of tension that was both emotional and relaxing; a true bonding moment, as we looked into each other's eyes and he hungrily drank while stroking my skin with his tiny free hand. It was magical and my mom (who had come for moral support) and I both had a good cry. It was such a relief to see my son latched on properly.
If one mother and one baby can have such drastically opposing breastfeeding experiences in just a few days time, I can only imagine how diverse the first-time breastfeeding experiences are of women who, you know, aren't me. So, I asked a group of moms to share their recollections of breastfeeding for the first time, and these are their responses: