Unfortunately, I’ve never wanted large breasts. I was an A cup before I got pregnant, and a C cup at the end of pregnancy when I started shopping for nursing bras, and naturally I’ve only gotten bigger. Matt kind of likes it, but they hurt so badly that he doesn’t get to do anything with them anyway.
I know several people that have been unable to breastfeed for various reasons. So I told myself I wouldn’t let it get me down if I couldn’t nurse, but honestly, in spite of that, I expected nursing to be easy. I mean, women have been doing it as long as there have been people, right? And females have been doing it for as long as there have been mammals. So how could it be THAT hard?
Apparently I can’t just stick him next to a nipple and expect him to go to town. A few days after giving birth, my arms were so sore from trying to hold him in place that I couldn’t tell which arm I’d got my tetanus shot (gotta get the Tdap to keep Ender safe from whooping cough).
While we were in the hospital it was 50/50 whether we would have to wake him up to eat, and when he did, he’d fall asleep as soon as his lips touched my boob. One of the lactation consultants finally told me to try “irritating” him when he stopped eating, and that let him get better meals.
These days, he’s nursing like a pro and I’ve more or less figured out the positioning issues. I’ve been very lucky that nursing has not been difficult for me, but as it turns out, “not hard” is not the same thing as “easy.”
The first, worst problem has more or less resolved itself now, or maybe I’m just used to it and better at controlling it. Milk. EVERYWHERE. The first few days back from the hospital, I didn’t bother to wear a shirt, because I had to change every fifteen minutes.
Nothing could contain the milk.
It wasn’t just leaking, I was, at times, literally spraying milk in haphazard directions. Disposable nursing pads are pretty much useless and the reusable cloth ones are only marginally better. I really can’t fully express how much milk there was, how everywhere it was, and how inhuman that made me feel. Fortunately, as I said, this seems to be somewhat under control now, though I still end up changing clothes far more frequently than I would have pre-milk.
Sleeping is a challenge because the bras are too restricting, and even the nursing camis are tighter than I’m used to, making me feel like I can’t breathe. Those were still my best option until I managed to get a sleeping bra.
Whatever I wear to sleep in, I have to tuck a towel inside to keep from leaking all over the sheets, leaving me with a warm, puffy chest that combined with my unusually sized boobs, still convinces me that I’ve managed to fall asleep holding Ender every time I wake up. This morning I heard him fussing and actually starting cooing to my boobs before I realized he was in his bassinet.
Clothing in general is a problem. Maternity clothes are pretty easy to come by. There is the standby Motherhood store which can be found in most malls. I’d always heard that maternity clothes were horribly overpriced, but I found that so long as I avoided the “designer” label (A Pea in the Pod) the prices there were pretty reasonable. Target, Kohls, Macys and Pennys also all have maternity sections with more limited selection but decent prices.
Nursing clothes are an entirely different matter.
Pennys has a few nursing bras, but otherwise zilch in terms of nursing clothing. Motherhood has 2 foot wide section dedicated to nursing bras and camis. All other stores: nothing.
Mind you, most of these stores have nursing clothes… but only online, so if you want to try something on, you’re out of luck. Not that I have a whole lot of time to go shopping with a new baby. Even then, the selection online is pretty limited, and for some reason, MUCH more expensive than maternity clothes.
The lack of selection, and the higher prices, are probably both because there is less demand for nursing clothes. Nearly everyone I talked to said they either just kept wearing maternity tops (very stretchy so allowed access) or just looked for non-nursing stretchy tops that allowed them to pull one side up while leaving the other boob covered. I didn’t feel this was an option for me, because after going out and buying 5 nursing bras, I found that I couldn’t figure out how to NURSE in a nursing bra. So I needed something designed to give a little support, and allow a place for nursing pads. Which left me searching for nursing clothes, and stuck with crappy selection and pricing. I should be set for now, at least until it gets colder. Theoretically, by then I’ll have figured out how to handle nursing in normal clothes.
When my milk first came in, I thought I had oversupply, the nursing “problem” that every mother would probably love to have. My boobs hurt so bad that before the end of Ender’s first week Matt and I broke the rules about bottle feeding. To avoid nipple confusion, you aren’t supposed to introduce a bottle until four weeks or so, but we had Matt feed Ender right before bed while I pumped to reduce the pressure, allowing me to sleep.
Everything I read said the best way to up supply is to “feed on demand” rather than trying to get the baby to feed on a schedule, even a seemingly demanding schedule of every three hours. So… demand is what I’m trying.
Only, Ender doesn’t feed “every hour” as women online complain about their babies that feed “constantly.” Ender literally feeds constantly. I nurse him, put him down, he cries, wakes up and starts rooting again, wanting to eat. There are times of the day where I am doing nothing but nurse, for hours at a time.
Now if he were only sucking halfheartedly, I’d say it’s just comfort nursing, and try to get him to take a pacifier. But Ender seems to actually be eating each time he demands to nurse. I now have no concept of what sort of supply I have, because when he’s in a nursing mood, my boobs never seem to get much above empty, and when he’s napping, they’re full to the brim, painful, and I’m liable to end up shooting milk again. I’ll spare you a detailed description of Ender’s diaper contents, but I do think he’s getting enough. It’s still frustrating when I’m stuck feeding him in his apparently insatiable periods, and a little worrying that I’ve been unable to build up stored milk for when we go out.
I do realize I’m having a pretty easy time with nursing, it’s just not quite the magical mommy mystery that le leche promised me.
I don’t so much resent waking up as I dread trying to get Ender back to sleep in the night, and when Matt has him with a bottle, I’m simultaneously relieved that I can stay in bed, and jealous that I’m not the one cuddling with Ender. I still find it very cool (and sort of weird) that I’m making food for my baby, but it depresses me that whenever I’m holding him while he’s awake, he’s fussing to be fed. In fact we have recently confirmed that Ender pretty much only goes to sleep at night for Matt… not because he’s doing anything different (we think) but because without fail, Ender smells the milk on me and starts demanding more, even if he’s just fed for a half hour. The fantabulous thing about this is it means we can probably get a good night’s sleep two out of seven days a week, on the nights Matt is free to help me.
I’ve been told by friends with kids that it gets easier, and I’ll admit that the various frustrations of nursing have not yet pushed me to consider formula, which seems like it would be even more of a hassle, not to mention unnecessary expense.
Like most parts of new parenthood, nursing seems totally under my control on the days when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and completely overwhelming on the zombie days. Every day it seems a little easier and a little more normal. Of course, the sleeping situation is only going downhill, so in terms of overwhelming vs. manageable, I seem to have reached a state of equilibrium. I guess that’s just a part of parenting too.