Of all the things you need to do, read, and prepare for while pregnant, what is it that you should have learned ahead of time?
I became a member of a local breastfeeding support group when I was still pregnant. I skimmed some of their conversations and comments and just found those things unessential to me because I was pre-occupied with many other things.
I remember telling my husband that those mothers who profess their advocacies were too extreme to the extent that they had to publicize photos depicting mastitis, bleeding and cracked nipples and the like. To the first time pregnant mom, would I be inspired to breastfeed then? I had to let my thoughts pass out and tell myself, I wouldn't be too harsh on myself. So (don't judge me), it is the part I didn't want to learn about when I was pregnant because those photos didn't look inspiring for expecting moms like me.
Fast forward to the hour of my labor, I labored for 27 hours. The first few hours were induced; next hours were natural painful labor. I was too certain I wanted to have a normal operation. I did some breathing and physical exercises. I read articles about the benefits of normal labor, but I underwent Caeasarian operation because I dilated only up to 6cm and my baby pooped already. It would be dangerous for her. So you see there was no other choice.
I was exhausted. My body felt numb. When I held my baby, I remembered smiling. Although tired, I knew it was joy that I felt. The nurses helped the baby reach me so she could naturally suck colostrum from my breasts.The first time she latched were painful. In the hospital, it is a habit to create an adjective for newborn babies. For my baby girl, they wrote "good suck!" I knew she's going to be a little vampire.
Visitors then were overwhelming. They were anxious to see the baby. I was, too but my body couldn't. So I asked them to take more photos of her and bring them to me instead. Until the nurse knocked! She brought my baby after few hours of rest. Everyone was excited. I was excited. My mom wasn't. Maybe she knew the baby's routine and maybe she wanted me to rest first. I didn't know what was about to happen.
My sister tried to squeeze my breasts. It seemed there were no milk coming out. She told me there'd be few drops at first but those drops were what the baby needed. So the hours passed. My sister assisted me in holding the baby correctly and helping the baby latch on properly. When it was about time for my sister and her family to go home, THE TRIAL BEGAN.
We stayed at the hospital for my baby's 7-day antibiotic. It could be done at home while we could have just hired a nurse but the weather was so bad. So we decided to stay in the hospital.
I didn't know that newborns would insist to be fed every two to three hours. I didn't know it would be difficult especially that my body is still recovering. I didn't know that there must be a proper suck. I didn't know my breasts were too big for her to reach (which made her suck wrongfully because she couldn't grasp the entire areola). I didn't know it would be frustrating, aching, devastating to the point I forgot I had to eat. It was one thing I wish I had known naturally.
That was when I lost 23 lbs two weeks after giving birth. My OB told me that was a huge loss! When baby's awake, I remember being so anxious, feeling nervous of baby's feeding time.
So yes, at first months, I had cracked, wounded and bleeding nipples because we (baby and I) weren't learned yet about the art of breastfeeding. My OB suggested that I could make the wounds heal first and pump milk instead. I chose to hand express to avoid over-milk supply and mastitis. My baby then was bottle fed for two weeks with my expressed breastmilk.
While healing my sore wounds in my nipples, I kept reading articles on how to improve latching and breastfeeding. After two weeks (baby was already a month old then), I tried to sandwich hold my huge breasts filled with milk, hoping it would be less painful and easier for baby to grasp. It worked! My baby is now five months old. She was purely breastfed on day 1 onwards even when I thought I would give up since then.
Until when would I do this? I told myself I wanted to breastfeed until six months. Now, I feel like I've been wanting to breastfeed even more until my baby grows and until my body can.
I didn't regret learning breastfeeding at this point in my life. Breastfeeding is a process. Although it is natural and God-given, it is an acquired learning. Latching is a learned process between a mother and child. Breastfeeding in public also requires patience, understanding, and confidence altogether but not at once.
So to all newbie mothers like me, there is no such thing as something that should be simply acquired ahead of time. No workshop, books, or other forms of learning compensate that of a mother's intuition on what works best for her child. As for me, I choose this because I love the bond that grows between me and my daughter. Anyhow, someday when she grows to be independent, she might forget that she needed me this much.