Despite the fact that I write a breastfeeding blog, love breastfeeding and I am huge breastfeeding advocate I actually got off to a rough start breastfeeding my first baby.
Breastfeeding is not always easy, it does not always come naturally and if you are anything like me you may unknowingly make things even harder on yourself.
Here is my list of breastfeeding mistakes I made after my first baby was born; my breastfeeding screw ups if you will.
I prepared but I didn't really prepare
While I did take a breastfeeding class at the recommendation of my OB, I did not think much about breastfeeding, I didn't buy many supplies (I did get a few) but the thing I really did not do was think about how breastfeeding was going to fit into my life and what it meant for my baby at all. I wanted to do it because it was recommended and that is as far as my preparation went. Now I was a first time mom so I am sure some of that is normal, but I know there are a lot of women out there who are much more prepared than I was.
What I should have done
Line up a support system. I wish I had known where to turn right away for help. I wish I had read more about breastfeeding, and I wish I knew where I could find a lactation consultant or La Leche League group before I was already crying along with my baby.
My first mistake after birth
I did not put my baby skin to skin right away. Once she was here we were so excited but she was promptly bundled up and passed around.
What I should have done
Skin to skin immediately. There is nothing like it. I know now because I did get to experience it with my second baby.
My second mistake after birth
I did not breastfeed right away. I know it's nuts. Here I write a breastfeeding blog but I did not nurse my new first born baby right away. Since she was swaddled and we did not have skin to skin I thought she was fine. The nurse actually told me she could wait a few hours to eat. My husband recalled from the class we took that she should nurse soon. He said something a few times about it but I put it off. I ate something and went to my recovery room without ever breastfeeding.
What I should have done
Breastfed immediately, along with skin to skin. I ended up attempting to nurse her hours later and it did not go well. I did get help from the hospital lactation consultant, but she was not latching well.
I sent my baby to the nursery
When my daughter was born most hospitals were not breastfeeding and baby friendly. It's getting better, and many hospitals in the U.S. are working to establish baby friendly status. My second birth experience at the same hospital less than two years later was incredibly different.
But... I sent my baby to the nursery so I could sleep. I know... UGH. How could I? Well I really wish I did not, but it was encouraged back then (I sound like I am writing about 50's!) and it was touted during my hospital tour as a nice way for mom to have a break after childbirth.
Yes, childbirth is hard and we are exhausted but I slept much better with my second baby right next to me. So sending my first to the nursery feels wrong in hindsight.
My baby ended up in the NICU
While she was in the nursery she suffered a choking incident that sent her to the NICU. I don't know why she choked. She had swallowed a little amniotic fluid on her way out and that was probably the cause. I don't know because I was not there. I do not know what would have happened if she had been in my room with me. Would she have choked, would I have known what to do? Maybe it's good she was with nurses, so I hesitate to call sending her to the nursery a mistake, but it's not something I would ever do again.
Once she was in the NICU all of my wishes regarding breastfeeding and pacifiers were ignored. When I arrived to see her she had a pacifier and they had been giving her formula. She continued to get formula for her entire NICU stay. I tried to breastfeed but she would not latch. I did get hooked up with a breast pump and started pumping after every feeding attempt, but looking back I think my efforts were half hearted. Especially when it came to nursing. It just wasn't working and it felt like work. I was more concerned with when she could come home and making sure she was eating something.. so formula it was. The best thing I did was continue to pump though. The lactation consultant convinced me to pump to bring in my milk supply, and sent me home with a hospital grade pump.
And then things got better
But not before a few more mistakes along the way. My baby got to come home. I left the hospital feeling a little sad and like I had missed out on some normal bonding. I came home with tons of formula but still determined to breastfeed. The first night home my husband gave her formula so I could try to sleep a little. That was another mistake, I know now that supplementing will only decrease milk supply so it's really not smart unless medically needed (and my milk had not even come in yet, delayed due the NICU stay).
Then one day I was pumping, I did pump after every feeding still, and the milk started flowing.. oh happiness. My baby started latching better (I was using a nipple shield too), she started breastfeeding, we never gave her formula again and I eventually ditched the pump. So I made it! We went on to have a really great breastfeeding relationship well into her second year.
But yes, I made several mistakes along the way. I would do it all differently now, and I did get a chance to the second time around. But that is part of parenting right? We learn as we go, we are not perfect, and once we figure something out it really feels wonderful.