Breastfeeding Comes Naturally

Breastfeeding Comes Naturally? Certainly Not In My Case!

While many people assume that breastfeeding comes naturally, when I was pregnant one of my concerns was breastfeeding and I was wondering whether I would be able to breastfeed? This concern came about because my mom and older sister were unable to breastfeed.

My mom said she didn’t have milk even though she tried to breastfeed all  3 of us. She was told at the time by the nurses (and others) that it is not possible to just not have any milk, but she tried her best and it just wasn’t there. One of my concerns when I was pregnant was that I might not have any milk.

My first experience of attempting to breastfeed was immediately after my daughter was born via C-section. After a long and difficult 42 hour labour I was lying on the surgery table throwing up while they were stitching me up and I was shivering like crazy with my daughter on my chest and Marianne, my midwife, pinching my nipples trying to latch my daughter.  All in all it wasn’t the comfortable, warm, bonding experience I had pictured in my mind!

Very soon Marianne could see I was not doing very well and gave my daughter to my husband for skin to skin so they could bond, while I worked hard at shivering and throwing up.  I was then taken to recovery, which I remember nothing about and a bit later to the maternity ward.

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Breastfeeding Comes Naturally

Do You Want To Laser Your Nipples?

At some stage during my hospital stay a nurse asked me if I want to have laser treatment on my nipples, I was like “hell no”, what on earth was that anyway? It sounded very suspicious!  She warned me that I would regret that decision and told me I could change my mind and let them know. The outcome of that? I regret it of course; I should have had the laser treatment!

The hospital stay was mostly a blur, I was exhausted and I was sore. The nurses wanted to take my daughter and keep her in the nursery and bring her to me only for feeding but I wanted her with me all the time and insisted on keeping her.

I found out very quickly that breastfeeding did not come that naturally to me. I didn’t know how to hold her while feeding and my shoulders and back ached and she kicked my stitches. One thing I am very fortunate with is that my daughter knew exactly what to do, she latched beautifully. I still worried that maybe she wasn’t getting enough out but she seemed quite content afterwards and fell asleep after every feed.

I had read all the books and knew that on about the third day I should start producing milk but for some reason when on the second day  the nurses and midwife told me my milk had come in I was so shocked. It was at that moment I realised how much I doubted my body’s ability to do what it should be doing. I felt such a sense of surprise and achievement.

Was She Getting Enough Milk?

Even though I was told my milk had come in I worried that my daughter wasn’t getting enough milk. What if only a little milk was coming out and she was still hungry? How did I know she was getting anything in? I was told I should feed 20-30 minutes per side but my daughter dropped off my boob after about 5 minutes so I would then put her on the other side and again after 5 minutes flat she would unlatch and fall asleep. What did this mean? Wasn’t she hungry or maybe the milk was finished so she wasn’t bothering trying anymore? How do you measure how much milk she is getting?  The nurses told me not to worry that everything was fine, but I wanted something more concrete.

My nipples started to really hurt and breastfeeding become more strenuous as everything ached when I held her and I couldn’t relax my body. The nurses kept telling me to relax, but I couldn’t.

This baby was sucking so hard and my body was sore and tired. I told them my nipples were sore and I was told the only reason for sore nipples was an incorrect latch so they came to watch and said that the latch is fine and my nipples will toughen up with a bit of time and I will get used to it.

After 3 days we left the hospital and spent the night with my parents in Cape Town and the following day we came home to Saldanha. Coming “home” to Saldanha was scary as I had just moved there to be with my hubby when I was 6 months pregnant and I didn’t know anyone except my husband and parents in law.

Hubby was on paternity leave for another few days and at home with us so it wasn’t too scary. The day he went back to work was the scariest ever! I couldn’t drive as I was still too sore and I was in a town where I knew nobody.

My mom was over 150kms away and here I was keeping this baby alive with only my boobs. Maybe I am a little strange, but for me that was firstly quite amazing, but mostly just plain scary. We had no formula in the house so what if my boobs let me down and I was alone with a hungry baby? Yes I know my hubby was only a few minute’s drive away and I could call him for help, but it was still a very scary feeling.

The breastfeeding for the first week or so was physically draining and painful, my nipples were sore and my whole body was aching while I tried to find a position where baby and I were comfortable. I read through all the books on breastfeeding positions and tried them all over and over again and none felt right. Something always ached. I also worried about whether she was getting enough milk.

Cracked, Bleeding Nipples

By the end of the first week the breastfeeding reached as stage where I nearly gave up. My nipples were now cracked and bleeding and no cream helped. It was so painful and having my baby latch was; so painful I cried. My hubby would come to me with this crying baby and ask me why I didn’t want to feed her.

She also wanted to feed all the time!It seemed every few minutes this baby wanted to be fed! My baby had this accusing look in her eye when she looked at me, I’m sure of it. It felt like she thought I was a bad mom for not wanting to feed her when she was hungry.

I read through all the books again looking for an answer to my problem. And then I found it. I had what they call a “barracuda baby” … this type of baby is all business when it comes to feeding. They latch hard and they suck hard… no nibbling, playing, unlatching, and no messing around.

I learnt that there was nothing wrong with the latch, with a “barracuda baby” you will get cracked and bleeding nipples simply because they suck so hard. It also explained why she fed so fast!

So I had an answer,  but no solution. I had started expressing for some feeds because it was not nearly as painful to express as it was to feed her. That night I was in so much pain I sent hubby to the shop to buy formula. I was in so much pain I was scared I wouldn’t be able to feed her through the night and wanted food for her just in case.

I barely made it feeding her through that night and in the morning remembered the nurse telling me about laser treatment so I called the hospital and went in. It was nothing really, they shone this light thingy on my nipples for a few minutes and off I went thinking that was weird and doubting it would work.  Within 24 hours I could see and feel the difference. My nipples were almost already healed. It was an absolute miracle!

Don’t think it was smooth sailing from there! It was still painful to feed her and it took a very long time for us to find a position that worked for both of us. The position that did it was us both lying down on our sides facing each other. It was relaxing and comforting for us both, but we only perfected this technique when she was about 2 month old. And of course we couldn’t do this when we went out.

Going out was always an ordeal with the breastfeeding. I understand that plenty of women feel safe and confident breast feeding their babies in public, sometimes without even covering up. I have no issue with that and think nothing of others doing it, but for me and my daughter – no thank you! Feeding time is private and personal for us.

I tried feeding a few times covered with a blanket, but she kept pulling it down leaving me exposed and even when she didn’t I wasn’t comfortable with this. Since I was a new mother I didn’t know about all the amazing breastfeeding products including breastfeeding covers!

On a trip to Cape Town I had to stop driving and feed her on the side of the road which was horrible, I felt so exposed and at risk. There are high-jackers and criminals all over and me sitting with my boob hanging out feeding my daughter on the side of the road felt so wrong. There have also been occasions when I fed her in public toilets, I don’t think I need to explain how I felt about that.

By the time my daughter was 2 months old I had to start getting back into work properly and she was not sleeping so much during the day so I was struggling to get anything done. My mother in law started looking after her a few times a week which made breastfeeding even more difficult.

To express enough milk to send with her was hard enough and then while she was away from me drinking expressed milk I had to express too so that firstly I didn’t start leaking and getting sore, but also to keep my supply up. I hated expressing and found that when my daughter wasn’t there and I was stressing out about expressing, nothing would come out. I would spend most of the time attempting to express instead of working which defeated the entire point!

Topping Up With Formula

The solution I found for us was to combination feed. My husband went out and chose the best infant formula for baby 0-6 months South Africa. I stopped worrying so much and just went with the flow. If I was going to go out with her I took a bottle of formula; if she was going to my mother in law she had formula and when we were at home I breastfed her. It solved my problem … well almost.

As is often the case with combination feeding, over time I started producing less milk and my daughter also started preferring the bottle and she would sometimes refuse the breast. By the time she was 4 months old she had formula during the day and breastfed at night. By the time she was 6 months old she went on a complete boob strike and refused to breastfeed.

That was a time of very conflicting emotions. I felt relief because to be completely honest, I hated breastfeeding. I also felt a lot of guilt. So many moms say they love breastfeeding and I felt like there must be something wrong with me for not enjoying it.

There was also a huge amount of sadness, a sense of loss which conflicted with my relief. I felt like there was a new separation between me and my baby which wasn’t there before.

Maybe it was all in my mind but it felt very real.

How have you found breastfeeding? What challenges are you faced with?

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  1. Taylia lei Abrahams

    I read your story and all the time reading it i thought of how similar my exprience with my daughter was. I was a stay home mom. I suffered from cracked nipples for so long. I brestfed my daughter for a year. Unfortunately i didnt have any laser treatments so it was painful all the way.
    I find with my 2nd child it was easier bt had to return to work when he was 4months. So i had 2put him on formula. He only drinks at nite and then fall asleep. He is mix feeding fine and i have started him on solids.

    • So relieved to see someone else feeling this way. I hated breastfeeding, my little girl was also a barracuda baby, I had bleeding, cracked nipples, I had every kind of problem got mastitus 6 times, me and my baby got thrush, I was basically in pain for 4 full months of breastfeeding, HATED it and I don’t know how but I pushed through, I only started enjoying the convenience of it by 6 months and the bonding after that. My baby girl is nearly 11 months old and I honestly don’t know how but I’m still breastfeeding lol

  2. Well its so much the same with me breastfeeding is a joy except i couldnt get my little girl to latch she gets angry lol so i express and feed her and i do give her the boobs some times after shes already been fed coz she starts sucking me on my shoulder or arm than she wants boobies so cute she drinks i had the cracked nipples from expressing was sore but not that bad

  3. I really didn’t enjoy breastfeeding either of my kids. It definitely didn’t come easy, and wasn’t natural for me at all. I had all the laser, ultra sound and creams you could think of – but I wasn’t happy. Holding my daughter while giving her a bottle of formula felt right and made me a lot happier. When my son was born 3 years later I tried again, but managed to stick it out for a week and then changed to formula too. I guess the old saying: ” Happy mom = Happy baby” is definitely true as they were both more content on the formula and I was more relaxed and bonded better with them (and Dad could help – so I could get a break too).

    I honestly feel it’s your choice as a mom how you want to feed your baby.. There is no right or wrong .. as long as baby is fed, clean and loved they will thrive 😉

  4. So interesting to read about the different experiences. I also thought my little one wasn’t getting enough and my milk only came in on the third day. My nipples were flat and he got so frustrated when he had to drink. I had a hard time with breast feeding, but i cant imagine what you went through with cracked and bleeding nipples.Ever since that time I had to express my milk. He is now 4 months old and he drinks my breast milk as well as formula because my milk seems to be drying up. Hope baby and you are well.xoxo

  5. I had the same problem with both my girls. My milk supply was not enough and dried up very quickly which I was forced to give formula. With my son now it also started to happen. Luckily for me I got some good advice from the La leche league and aswell form the kaboutjie mommy’s on how to increase my milk supply. Baby is drinking so well and sleeps a bit longer at night(still wakes up every 2/3hrs for feeding) his a happy baby now and myself a very happy mom. Its so comforting to know that a lot of moms go through similar things with there babies! Loved ur story..

  6. Surely does not come naturally, I cried for 2 nights in the hospital, and weeks after, because my boy did not want to latch, and every nurse and breastfeeding consultant tried to help me , but it did not happen for us. I look up to mommies that can breast feed, that was my dream!! At least now my hubby can help me during the night with bottels 🙂

  7. I can relate to your story. But I was lucky enough to find out about nipple shields, which saved my nipples. It was also starting to crack and bleed and someone told me about these nipple shields. And it worked! My nipples was not that sore anymore! And finding the right possition for breastfeeding was also my fight. And I also found that lying on my side facing baby was THE BEST solution EVER!!!!! I am now 4 months pregnant with my baby boy and I am definitly using nipples shields again, and I am gonna breastfeed lying on my side from the begining!

  8. I had no idea there was laser treatment for sore nipples… Shall look into that next time. Thanks!
    I had a lot of trouble as well, so much so that my baby’s sugar dropped very low. He wouldn’t wake up, became blue, had to go to the incubator. I cried. This was on the second day. The third day the doc said we couldn’t go home if I didn’t get the baby’s sugar up, which meant getting milk in him. It was a no-formula hospital. So the sister suggested pumping. And I pumped and it worked! I pumped for months. Sleep 1 hour, pump 1 hour; wake baby, feed baby, put baby to sleep = 1 hour. This was my 3 hourly routine, through the day, through the night. Every few days I’d breastfeed. Then recover for a few days. Breastfeed again. The interval became shorter until we managed to successfully breastfeed every day. It took 3 months. Totally worth it. Loved the bonding. I was so jealous of the lady in the hospital next to me, happily suckling her baby, while mine could not latch or lay in the incubator. I breastfed until 13 months. We also gave him formula, since he was underweight and I did not have enough milk. And let’s face it, BF moms need a break!
    PS. The pumping did not hurt at all. I used a hand pump by madela. (The electric pump I tried felt like a bee sting).

    • Well done! That must have taken so much dedication and hard work. Next time definitely laser your nipples, worked wonders both times for me 🙂

  9. It’s only now that my twin girls are almost 9 months that I enjoy breastfeeding them. I struggled with my own doubts and insecurities more than supply issues or incorrect latches. I hope to continue to feed my girls for as long as possible.

    • Shelley I can only imagine how tough that must have been! I was terrified when I got home from the hospital with my baby and I was all alone with her. It is amazing to think how we can keep our baby not only nourished, but alive with our own bodies. It is extremely scary… and you have twins! I take my hat off to you!

  10. I have a 5 months old girl and im breastfeeding,from my experience i have no problem with it i would say i really enjoy watching her while she is busy feeding and playing with her legs,i love breastfeeding and i wouldn’t trade it for anything

  11. Can’t say it came naturally to me as I struggled and thought there was something wrong with me and that I wouldn’t connect with my child. Not the case, but I most look up to woman who are able to breastfeed as it takes a lot out of you but it’s also very satisfying for both mom me baby

  12. I was lucky I had milk before and while I was in hospital the nurse tried to help me by getting my baby to latch and explaining to me how it should feel once he has latched on some times it was good he latched other times we could not. Once we were discharged from the hospital and got home he started to cry non stop so I figured he might be hungry and put him to my breast to feed but there was nothing it was like I just dried up and I started to stress coz there was no milk in me to feed my baby and he was hungry. Luckily my husband was let off of work early to come and be with us and he rushed to the store to get formula. For 3 to 4 days I was unable to breast feed I had phoned the pediatrician and he said I must continue to try and feed him with my breast as he was anti formula I tried I. Those days but nothing then on the fifth day after my shower I saw there was milk coming out I was elated but unfortunately I was just not producing enough and then it stopped again 😞

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