I have been lucky to have a fairly easy time breastfeeding my babies. After my first baby was born in the hospital (with an epidural), he was not very interested in nursing until a few hours after his birth. I tried within 30-45 minutes of his birth, but he was really sleepy. Once he nursed, though, he did amazing. A lactation consultant helped me nurse him the day after his evening birth, and her help really solidified his latch. She helped me understand what a good latch was. I was lucky to never get too sore or cracked. My engorgement was even tolerable, only lasting maybe an evening. My son was a slow nurser. He would nurse for about 45 minutes total, and would often fall asleep at the breast...so peaceful. Around 6 weeks postpartum, I decided to go on a birth control pill. Within days of doing this, I began to lose my milk. I was frantic about this and stopped the birth control and have not gone back on it since (for many more reasons). Luckily, I regained my milk supply and nursed my first until he was 15 1/2 months old, only weaning because I was pregnant and the pregnancy hormones made me extremely sore. I wanted to continue nursing so badly, but I couldn't push through it, so reluctantly, we weaned. The hardest part of nursing my first came when he was about 8 or 9 months old. I became really cracked and sore, due to his teething. I spoke with a WIC lactation consultant, who advised me to get some Soothie gel pads (a friend also recommended these) and within a couple of days, I felt better! I had tried Lanolin, but that wasn't doing anything. Once we got past that, I realized...this is why women quit. It was horrible! I am so glad I persisted and made it through that time because we were able to spend over a year nursing and it was a beautiful relationship.
My second baby's breastfeeding story started out very much like my first. She was born at home without medication, but was also not extremely interested in nursing right away, though I tried. I think she finally decided to nurse about an hour or two after she was born and she latched right on! Then, she nursed for over an hour! She has been much different in the way she nurses, however. I don't know if it is my approach to breastfeeding this time around, using it for comfort and food, or if it is her personality, but she loves to nurse for comfort and often. I try to let her nurse whenever she wants. When my milk came in, I was engorged beyond belief. It was incredibly painful. I had so much milk that when I pumped, I got 4 ounces in about one minute...from one side. My engorgement lasted about a week and was honestly, very, very painful. I could hardly move. I'd sit in the bathtub and try to release the pressure, sleep with bags of peas covering my chest and my arms resting on pillows to support my gigantic chest. I couldn't get enough of nursing at that stage. I think I nursed every few minutes because I needed that release...and yet, I seemed to never be empty! While I was so engorged, one of my breasts got a clogged milk duct. It was extremely painful...extremely. I am glad it did not turn into mastitis. It cleared up after a few days of using heat packs, massage, and feeding in different positions (laying on top of the baby, supporting myself with my arms, seemed to help release that particular duct very well). It came back in the same location a few weeks later, but luckily cleared up shortly after. Eventually, my milk supply did regulate which was a welcome change. At the beginning, when my milk would let down, my little baby would choke and cough because it was so powerful. Luckily, she would latch right back on and continue eating. She only had to nurse for about 5 minutes on one side at the beginning, due to my over abundance of milk. Little by little, as my supply regulated, she nursed longer on one side and then eventually nursed (and continues to nurse) on both sides. I have so enjoyed nursing this baby and hope to continue nursing for as long as she needs.
I think one of the most beautiful things about nursing is looking down and realizing that I am their nourishment. I am their comforter, their pacifier. I am the one who carried them, grew them, helped to create them and birth them. And now, I am the one helping them to grow outside the womb. Helping them to learn to trust and to love. It is a role I take very seriously and a responsibility I cherish greatly.
I really enjoyed hearing everyone's experiences. I am so impressed by the desire you had to breastfeed and that you persisted, despite the challenges you faced. It is my hope that we can all be examples to the women around us. That we can show them that breastfeeding is beautiful, it is normal, it is the best for our babies. But we can also help them to understand that it isn't always easy, it can be painful, and that it doesn't always feel natural in the beginning. There may be hurdles to jump, but if you can persist, it will give your baby so much more than just optimal nourishment...it will give you both a beautiful relationship, a special bond of trust, and a satisfaction in knowing that there is nobody or nothing else in this world that is helping your baby grow...it is all you! What a privilege and honor, we as women, have!