I remember laying in the hospital bed, feeling the strong tug of my daughter's suck for the first time and I thought it would always be that easy. The nurses had helped maneuver her into position and helped me wrap my arms around her, amidst the IV lines and blood pressure cuff. It was bliss. It was the second time that day I fell in love with my little girl.
But then the moment was over and the next time it was harder.
I had a C-section and tried to practice the football hold that's supposed to be so easy for post-surgical mothers. We stacked pillows around me. I cursed my fumbling arms and held back the tears as I watched the nurses manhandle my sweet baby, pushing her little mouth onto my breast. Because of her weight loss, we had to supplement with formula and I pumped what colostrum I could get.
Every two hours, I repeated this charade, until I could visibly see the frustration in my nurse's eyes that first day when once again I asked her for help positioning my baby. To say I was overwhelmed with breastfeeding was putting it lightly. I wanted this so bad and thought I had adequately prepared for it. But holding a doll to your chest in childbirth class is vastly different than the wriggling infant that is frantically trying to latch while you sit there wishing you had an extra arm or two. I was told she was "doing fine" and that I probably didn't need to see a lactation consultant.
But, I wanted to cry, I don't know how I'm going do this by myself when I go home!
Maybe it took a few tries. But my breastfeeding relationship with my baby changed from dread to feelings of confidence.
Alone in the room, my husband would try to help fluff the pillows around me as I tried (in vain) the positions I learned about. After several frustrating minutes, I would give up and plop her over my breast so she could face-plant and execute a near-perfect latch on her own. It worked most of the time.
I was greeted by my night nurse that second night and immediately developed a liking to her. My husband and I found ourselves pouring our hearts out to this women about our struggles to get the hang of breastfeeding. I told her my daughter seemed to do best when I basically gave up and let her eagerly face-plant herself on my nipple and proceeded to demonstrate.
"Then why don't you continue to do that?" she asked me.
I then started protesting about a bad latch and football holds and she interrupted me.
"She knows what to do. She has a strong suck. Babies have been doing this for millennia. Just let her do what she wants to do."
It seemed way too easy. But after reassuring me that my baby had a little mouth and that her latch was fine as long as she displayed the "duck lips," I ditched the awkward positions and let my baby lead.
It completely changed my outlook on breastfeeding. I positioned her how I felt most comfortable (the cradle hold, as it turned out) and let her face-plant happily, gently fixing her lips and relatching if I felt a lot of pain. Maybe it took a few tries. But my breastfeeding relationship with my baby changed from dread to feelings of confidence.
I continue to work with the lactation nurses, even four months later. I plowed on with pumping issues, clogged ducts and concerns here and there. I'm so appreciative of that nurse's advice. It's continued into other aspects of baby care, as well.
For the most part, I let my daughter lead, and don't focus on schedules, routines or sleep training. I feed her when she wants it, and bring her into bed with me in the early morning hours. She's thriving, and I'm surviving in the best way I know how.