Google+ Authentic Parenting: Why You CAN Breastfeed

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why You CAN Breastfeed

Written by Dohiyi Mama

In the short time I have been a breastfeeding mother, I have heard countless reasons and excuses why other mothers were unable to breastfeed. I knew two other young women who were pregnant at the same time as myself, both of which planned to nurse as well. The babies are 4 months, 3 1/2 months and 2 1/2 months respectively, and only one of them is being breastfed- mine. When her baby was six weeks old, I asked the mother of the oldest baby if she was nursing as planned. She shook her head and informed me that her milk had dried up after a month. A month or so later, I asked the second mother (hers is the youngest) if she was breastfeeding. She replied that "after a week of misery" she had given up and that her milk never fully came in. Apparently, only my boobs 'knew' how to function.

After hearing these stories, I started asking around in my circle of family and friends who had successfully breastfed. Both grandmothers on my side insisted that their milk was 'no good.' An aunt told me she had tried with my cousin but the baby had wanted to nurse constantly and she just couldn't handle it. My paternal grandmother said that she tried to nurse, but her doctor told her that her milk was insufficient. My maternal grandmother even said she was nursing with no problems with one of her daughters, but since the daughter wanted to nurse every two hours, her milk must have been inadequate, so she fed her evaporated milk and Karo syrup instead! And under a doctor's direction! You can imagine how horrified I was.

Before my daughter was born, I was rather nonchalant and un-intimidated by the idea of breastfeeding. Why should I be? My mom nursed four babies and lots of her friends did too. It was normal in my world. My midwife encouraged me to read about it and attend a local 
La Leche League meeting, but I never did. I blame this carefree attitude for the troubles I had with breastfeeding.

I was up for two days straight before my little girl was born, and unbelievably tired. My dear daughter latched on like a pro soon after birth, and I thought that was it! Yes! We had done it! No worries.

Not so.

My daughter turned out to be one of those babies that never sleeps. Even now, at three and a half months, we're lucky if we get a nap in, and sleeping at night uninterrupted? Forget it. (Not that I think she should, but this baby seriously just won't sleep.) This doesn't have much to do with breastfeeding, but I believe that my being exhausted played a crucial part.

After a week of no sleep and hardly any food because I was too tired to eat, I got a fever. My immediate reaction was panic. What if my husband had brought something home from work and now my four pound 
newborn babygot sick? My temperature peaked at 102.7 degrees Fahrenheit for one day, and then subsided. I was relieved, but called my midwife just in case. She explained to me that usually when new mothers have a temperature, it is either a breast infection or uterine infection, and since she knew there was no afterbirth left in me, it was not a uterine infection. My breasts were a little sore, but I thought it was just the engorgement. She told me the fever would probably come back later that evening, and to get in the shower and express milk, and to rotate my nursing positions to make sure I was emptying all the milk ducts.
By that night, my fever came roaring back and peaked at 104.3 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn't know how high it was, but I knew I was cold, so I decided to take a bath to get warmer. Thankfully, for some unknown reason, there was only a tiny bit of hot water. I got out, freezing, and bundled myself up. I called my mother bawling hysterically that there was no hot water, I was so cold, and my head and breasts hurt horribly. I then took my temperature and saw how high it was. My husband was working overnight at the time, so my parents came over immediately. We decided I would go live with them for a while so I could be taken care of. My mom started packing up baby stuff, so I decided to help. I remember walking to my daughter's room and getting socks for the baby when I started stumbling around like Otis from the Andy Griffith Show. I started thinking "oh boy I better go sit down," and right as I was heading out the door, I fell. I immediately tried to get up, but my body snatched me right back down on the floor. My dad was freaking out and helped me to the bed. My fever was getting higher, so my parents made me get in a freezing cold bath. It didn't help at all. I was too tired to even chew food at this point, and then my daughter woke up and was completely inconsolable. I was nauseous, dizzy, weak- the whole nine yards. I stayed home, but I can honestly say that night, having to wake up and nurse and comfort the baby instead of just lying there, was agony.

I stayed at my parents' house for two weeks, and the evil mastitis flared up twice more. I was absolutely sure that I was never going to be the same again, that I was never going to want to do anything but sleep ever again. My nipples were raw, cracked and bleeding. We started having trouble with our latch. My breasts were so completely sore and swollen and hot and engorged. My daughter was so small that all these nursing positions I was advised to try were difficult and met with much frustration from both myself and my daughter.

However, we made it. FF never even came to mind as an option. By the time my baby girl was six weeks old, the worst was behind us. She was thriving, and nearly doubled in weight during that time. It was at this age that we learned that she had a tongue-tie, just something that made our breastfeeding experience even more difficult.

My point to all this is that you CAN breastfeed, even when the odds are stacked against you. My baby girl and I overcame:
1. Her 
low birth weight, which made her unable to drink all the milk I was producing, and hard for us to nurse any way but lying down.
2. Exhaustion!
3. A tongue-tie.
4. Extremely sore and cracked nipples due to the poor latch, due to the tongue-tie.
Mastitis, with all the flu-like symptoms, for over two weeks.

Things I wish I'd known:
1. That mastitis exists.
2. That you get it from only nursing in one position and therefore not allowing all milk ducts to be emptied.
3. To push the nipple towards the roof of the baby's mouth to get them latched on.
4. That newborns are going to want to nurse pretty much all the time- had I known this, there would have been much less crying.

Things I'd like new moms planning to breastfeed to know:
1. Forget the breast pump. You're not supposed to pump until your milk supply is established (10-12 weeks of nursing), or else you will probably dry up your milk. (I think this happened to mom #1). Babies, once full, switch to non-nutritive sucking which signals your breasts to produce more, whereas pumps empty your boobs and that's it.
2. Forget going out, forget 'freedom'. You're tied to the baby for a long time, especially when they are a newborn. They want YOU, and they want to suck, and they NEED this. They're not getting spoiled. Yes, they are using you as a pacifier, and that's okay. You're mama, you are their pacifier.
3. Let them nurse when they want to and forget about schedules. It's not gonna work and you're just going to cause yourself a hell of a lot of misery.
4. Nurse in different positions. ALWAYS.
5. BE TOUGH! It's gonna hurt, but this too shall pass!

That's my story. My baby girl is 3 and a half months old, and we currently have no problems with nursing. With all that said and done, I think that the saddest thing is how so many moms are just misinformed and uneducated on breastfeeding, and that's why so many give up. I don't think they realize how much a huge commitment it is, and once they do realize it, they're in so much pain with the sore nipples and the exhaustion that they think it isn't worth it. It's up to us nursing veterans to spread the word! New mamas and mamas to be, you CAN do it! Stick it out! Just get through the pain and the sleepless nights. I promise you'll never regret it. I know I don't. :)

dohiyi mama

Dohiyi mama is a 19 year old stay at home mother to a baby girl. She is of Cherokee decent and actively practices attachment parenting techniques with her husband in the deep south of the United States.



  1. Wow, dohiyi mama, you really stuck it out! Thank you for being such an inspiration. I think maybe it would help, as you say, if new mamas knew there could be initial problems so that they wouldn't give up right away. The reward is so worth it.

  2. I think that people do the best that they can. I breastfed for a week and a day, by then my nipples were literally off and completely raw (trust me, now doctor, midwife or even the breastfeeding specialist had ever seen anything like this damage, very few people understand what I am talking about, but everyone think they do). I went to see a physio in order to have them lasered and help with repair and she told me to stop breastfeeding immediately for fear of infection and permanent damage. We did. It was terrible, but for while everyone relaxed, and that was its own medication in a way. Then I read about re-latching and decided to give it another go with the help of the breastfeeding specialist. We had to work the milk back in first so I used a breast pump. Immediately my nipples broke out in blisters again, so we had to take it slow and go back to laser treatment (this put immense strain on our 'routine', mainly because there wasn't one and we had to make appointments and such) . At 7 weeks and 1 day we relatched. It was tough, but we did it. She was breastfed until 3 and half months when I had to go back to work.

    Unfortunately stress is not the best for breastfeeding and eventually we opted for bottle in the day and breast at night and in the morning, but she eventually made her own switch to bottle.

    People differ. We all have our own stories I am sure and we all do the best we can with the information that we have at any given time.

    As my one friend said to me when I started crying about the failure of breastfeeding (bearing in mind that myself, my husband, my mother and almost all of my cousins and my friend's family were ALL bottle fed): Formula doesn't kill people, but stress does.

  3. Thank you for this! We were blessed to have no problems breastfeeding, but in that first month it's hard work, and your nipples get sore. But formula was NEVER an option.

  4. As a breastfeeding peer supporter and breastfeeding mother myself, I agree that lots of mothers give up because they believe they 'can't'... but sometimes I think it takes a certain kind of determination of character and ability to go with the flow in some respects, to be able to get past obstacles and persist with breastfeeding. When formula is such a ready and 'easy' option in our society, it's no wonder mothers often don't persist. I think mother to mother support is so important in this regard - perhaps every pregnant woman should have a 'buddy' breastfeeding mother to show her it can be done and provide morale-boosting and support. I too didn't think about BF much when pregnant and assumed it'd all go well naturally - I was one of the lucky ones and it did, my baby was a natural - but my health visitor was astounded to see me 'still breastfeeding' at 6 weeks b/c of the frequency my baby fed (normal for a newborn!) b/c she found most women had given up by 3 weeks when their babies fed that much.

  5. I love reading success stories of breastfeeding mothers; especially those who had to overcome obstacles. Congratulations on sticking with it! I know how painful mastitis can be, I had it once with my son. The only thing that helped was to have him nurse as much as possible to relieve me of my milk. Luckily he loved being with me all day.
    I will say though, a pump does help keep your milk if you cannot nurse. At three weeks old my son had to have surgery to save his life and I was unable to feed him for 3 days! I kept up my eating regimine and pumped to keep the milk coming. But I do agree that actually feeding the baby is better than just pumping all the time.
    I do have two more things to add to the list of new breastfeeding mothers out there. Most people don't have a clue how important it is to drink TONS of water to keep the quantity of milk coming and for quality milk they need to eat plenty of quality high calorie food.
    I say this all from personal experience. I am the first in a long line of women in my family to actually nurse instead of formula feed. Although, I am very grateful to my in-laws who gave me great support since they all breastfeed. My son is now 23 months old and he nursed until 17 months when he weaned himself.

  6. I am so proud of you, mama! The way you are able to talk about your triumph over mastitis (although I know it was very painful!) with such humor ("the evil mastitis" ... the English Lit dork in me LOVES that personification) and speak your mind about breastfeeding barriers with such candor was a delight to read! Keep up the awesome work, as a mommy and a lactivist! Our ideas and support of breastfeeding are important, and your mommy's milk will make your baby girl grow up so well, in warmth, security, health, and love!

  7. I agree to a point. I think that far to many mothers give up too quickly, but I have known others that tried very hard and for a month+ to try and their child was not gaining weight. Those same mothers tried again to do it the second child and one did succeed and one did not.

    I was fortunate and my first born was a natural for the most part. I did have some latching problems and had the cracked, bleeding nipples and some serious engorgement. With my second child not so much engorgement and very little sore nipples.

    I have always said to anyone that every breast-feeding mother considers bottle feeding within the first week. It is hard work. It requires a lot of time and commitment. But ultimately it is a choice between the mother and the baby.

    I do feel that more doctors and nurses should explain more about breast-feeding. Had I not had my mother, who nurses all three of her children, to ask questions of I may have thought I was doing something wrong. I would not have known that my daughter nursing every hour it seemed like was normal. I would have thought that I did not have enough milk and she was starving. It was because I had her support that I succeeded.

  8. I heard many times too with my friends that they are not breastfeeding because they have no milk anymore. Would that be a reason? I'm hearing same excuses. As for me I would give the best milk and that is breast milk.

  9. Breast Feeding Pro Mom

    A dip in milk supply can indeed occur, due to numerous reasons. Very often, this is curable with just some dietary or alternations in lifestyle. SO most often the 'no more milk' reason is actually a case of misinformation. That combined with the fact that a lot of breastfeeding mothers seeking information bump into (mostly) well-meaning professionals and family members who tell them that they tried their best and that a bottle won't hurt. WHich it will, and it may well be the deathstroke for whatever remained of the breastfeeding relationship.

  10. While I am happy that you were able to overcome your breastfeeding obstacles, this article makes me feel like more of an outsider here than I do among my friends and family who think I'm a crunchy hippie. I was in the hospital for a week after the c-section of my baby which was immediately followed by emergency colon surgery. The first 3 days I was separated from my son. I was not able to eat anything. Despite pumping, no milk ever came in. The hospital lactation consultant told me that it was likely due to both the physical trauma and emotional stress I was going through.
    So, believe it or not, there really are women who CAN'T breastfeed. Sure, my circumstances are rare, but I'm glad I had some non crunchy friends around to tell me it was ok to feed him formula, because if everyone would have had spouted off this type of opinion, I probably would have killed myself. Seriously. I was feeling so guilty, and it truly was completely out of my control. I did everything I could, and continued trying to pump at home, but no milk ever came.

  11. Waiting to pump until 10 weeks? No thanks! If you want your baby to take a bottle it is better to introduce it early on (I was told in the first month). Besides, if your family will watch the baby a date with your husband is a BEAUTIFUL thing.

    1. I agree with this. I was pumping in the hospital & right away. My milk came in full blast immediately (the lactation consultant said that she gets a case like me about once a YEAR) I had serious over-supply and needed to pump to prevent Mastitis. It all depends on the mama though!

  12. Lisa, and anyone else who was offended, my sincerest apologies. I know my opinions and statements often come off as abrasive, so I feel the need to say that my abrasiveness is not directed towards those brave ladies who tried so hard and wanted so desperately to breastfeed but could not. My tone is rather directed towards those who can't get past being engorged, and seem to be just looking for an excuse, however lame or unfounded, to not breastfeed. I'm sorry you were unable to breastfeed and very sorry for your traumatic experience. :( I would never judge or condemn you for formula feeding.

    One point I forgot to mention was how the birth of the child can effect your breastfeeding relationship... Fortunately I had a wonderful home birth and got the skin-to-skin contact and was never seperated from my baby. I definitely think this was a huge point in my favor.

    I hope you accept my apology and realize that it was never my intention to make you feel guilty or upset.
    dohiyi mama


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