Breastfeeding is great!—until I couldn’t

When I was pregnant with my first son, I worried about a lot of things. Would he be healthy? Would we ever sleep again? How long would it take to get back to my pre-baby body? I had the nursery ready, the baby clothes washed, and the car seat installed. Everything on my to-do list was checked off long before his arrival. The one thing I didn’t worry about and plan for: breastfeeding. 

As a pediatrician, I counsel new moms about breastfeeding all the time, offering tips and advice to make nursing a little easier. But all the medical knowledge in the world could not have prepared me for the difficulties I encountered. To be honest, it never even entered my mind that breastfeeding would be a problem. I just thought I knew enough to figure things out—how hard could it be? Women have been figuring it out for thousands of years after all!

I found myself in tears in my hospital bed only hours after my son was born, frustrated that I couldn’t get him to latch, scared that he wasn’t getting enough milk, feeling completely alone as my husband slept peacefully on the pull-out couch next to me. My night nurse was nowhere to be found, and her meager attempts to help earlier in the night were to no avail. I knew how to tell other moms to do it…why was I such a failure at this breastfeeding thing?

Life got no easier when I was discharged home. By day 4, my milk supply was in but my little guy just wasn’t getting the hang of it. And for some reason, that to-do list didn’t include buying a breast pump (I know-I told you I thought it would be easy!), so I was engorged, hormonal, and miserable.

Until I met Jackie, the head of the newborn mom’s support group at a local church. Jackie, who took one look at my teary eyes and screaming baby and saw a scared new mom, not a doctor who was supposed to know it all. Jackie, who made no assumptions I should automatically know how to breastfeed just because I am a pediatrician. She calmed my screaming baby with just a few whispers, helped me figure out the whole latching/positioning technique, and most importantly, restored my faith that I could really handle this mom thing.

So my advice as you are preparing to welcome your little one into the world? Find a lactation consultant as soon as you deliver (if not before!)…she will be your life-saver in those first few difficult weeks, your cheerleader when you just want to give up, and your shoulder to cry on when you feel like the world’s biggest failure. Oh yes, and buy a breast pump before you deliver.

About Dr. Kristie Rivers, Bundoo Pediatrician

Dr. Kristie Rivers is an Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a children’s hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She cares for hospitalized children and also teaches pediatric residents and medical students.

Comments

  1. Yes! I couldn’t agree more about the pump, including reading the instructions, charging the battery (if there is one), and sterilizing one set of pump parts and a bottle – all before baby comes. So stressful to be doing it when you are engorged and desperate!

    Reply
    1. Reading the instructions is a great tip. The pump looked so sci-fi and intimidating until I figured it out!

      Reply
      1. Not something you want to be figuring out in the immediate postpartum haze!

        Reply

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