Same with pregnancy, before I had Naomi, I naively imagined breastfeeding to be a natural and effortless thing to do - just shove the mother's nipple into the baby's mouth and the baby would quietly drink until he/she experiences milk coma - All mothers can do it. Happy ending. After all, breastfeeding posters make it look so easy, don't they?
Prior to Naomi's arrival, my husband and I shopped nearly all the breastfeeding necessities we found in the market. Electric breast pump, half dozen of breast milk storage bottles, nursing bras, 2 large boxes of nursing pads (because I thought that I would be blessed with over abundant milk supply and leaking all the time), silicon nipple shields, nursing pillow and don't know what else... and I almost asked my husband to buy a mini fridge to store my breast milk too.
I struggled immensely in breastfeeding Naomi. Breastfeeding then was nothing but stressful, painful and overwhelmingly laborious to me. Turned out, my body failed to produce much milk either. My baby still required formula milk after I direct latched her for a while and I produced very little milk even after pumping my breasts for 45 minutes. Naomi ended up taking formula milk way more than my breast milk and I gave up my part-time breastfeeding journey with Naomi after 3.5 months. I felt sorry for my baby girl but that was the best I could do.
Throwback to 2012: Newborn Naomi.
My first breastfeeding experience indeed wasn't filled with rainbows and butterflies. You can go ahead and ROFL now because the two boxes of breast pads I proudly bought in 2012 were pretty much untouched and silently sit somewhere in my cabinet at the moment. Thank God I didn't buy the mini fridge - that would have been the biggest joke of the century.
Moving on, when I was expecting Dylan, I told my husband that I would give extra heart in breastfeeding the baby. Unexpectedly, my second pregnancy took a twist and I didn't even have to start any breastfeeding journey with my second baby as planned because there was no newborn to bring home to begin with.
Given my previous experience in breastfeeding Naomi, I set a more realistic goal in breastfeeding Brennan before his arrival. I promised to myself that I would try harder in breastfeeding him yet not feel so guilty if I could not or have to mix his feeds with some formula. I didn't purchase various breastfeeding products prior his birth except new set of dual electric breast pumps and nursing bras.
Then Baby #3 arrived. As projected, initiating breastfeeding journey was an absolute pain and difficult but I was more determined this time around and didn't give up easily. The first few days and weeks of direct latching my son were colored with engorged and lumpy breasts, cracked, sore and blistered nipples, crampy stomach and what not... I often yelped, bit my lip, or squeezed my bed sheet or other random things around me e.g. my husband's arm but not the baby I was holding. Breastfeeding was quite an ordeal and there was a short period of time when I dreaded every session because I already knew the stabbing pain coming from direct latching my newborn. As a result, sometimes I resorted to my breast pumps or formula milk to reprieve me.
For practical reason, I seldom use my newly bought breast pumps because of the hassles involved in washing and sterilizing their parts plus storing the breast milk. Also, I do take fenugreek supplements that my parents bought, drink lots of liquid and not starve myself when hungry pangs hit me as to maintain my milk supply.
As I write this post, I have been breastfeeding my son for about 7 weeks now (still early I know but hopefully this will go strong for at least 6 months). I am quite there in exclusively breastfeeding him. My son doesn't really fancy drinking from bottle so he naturally consumes very little formula milk, like less than 2oz daily, if we offer him with any. These days though, I don't have to give him any formula milk anymore even at night because getting him to drink from bottle creates drama and seemingly I am capable in providing him with enough breast milk.
Keep calm and be patient.
All I can say is that breastfeeding has its up and downs but it gets better each day. I think direct latching Brennan became significantly less painful after about a month.
On a side note, after I become a mother, I came across two types of breastfeeding trolls as follows.
1. Freaky breastfeeding advocates
This category usually consists of mothers who successfully breastfeed their children perhaps until toddlerhood. However, they take their breastfeeding seriousness to the extreme level and kind of look down at those fellow mommies who are sadly unable to exclusively or even breastfeed their babies at all. They assume that those women who can't breastfeed their babies are unaware of the goodness of breast milk and highly likely going straight to hell for not breastfeeding their babies - as if formula milk is poisonous.
2. Demoralizers - if there is such word really.
This group of people is typically a generation older than us and doesn't exactly have faith in breast milk possibly because they never breastfed their kids successfully in their younger days. They always think that breast milk is not filling for babies and the baby will never gain enough weight by solely surviving on breast milk. These ladies tend to comment that a mother's breast milk is not enough and she needs to top the baby's feed up with formula. Every time the baby cries after a breastfeeding session, they snap "Your milk is not enough.".
I find that people who do this to breastfeeding mothers discourage their breastfeeding efforts and can make any breastfeeding Mom's faith and confidence crumble considerably with their insensitive choice of words.
July 2016: Post-natal check up with the Gynae who delivered my three babies.
My conclusion is breastfeeding is without doubt challenging, requires commitment and not for the faint of heart. However, there are ways to make the journey easier and more successful. My strategies to breastfeed Baby #3 more successfully are: (1) Get the full support from my husband and so far he is (2) Not afraid or shy in asking help from lactation consultants such as the nurses from the hospital where I delivered my baby or government clinic's staff/nurses who do post-natal home visits (3) Share challenges with and acquire some useful breastfeeding tips from trusted friends or relatives in the same boat (4) Be patient and persevere for good things do take time (5) Try to relax or have peaceful thoughts when breastfeeding - basically don't stress out.
One more thing, a good nursing butter helps tremendously too. And once you decide to fully breastfeed your baby, I guess it's time to invest on a nursing cover or poncho as well. I bought mine sometime after I got more confidence and determination in breastfeeding Brennan longer.