Like I posted before Ryan was born, breastfeeding was something that is very important to me. So when Ryan struggled with it at first, I was very discouraged and upset. I couldn't help but wonder if I was doing something wrong. But I am thankful I did plenty of reading up on the subject before he was born. It was because of the fact that I read many books, talked to many breastfeeding women, took a class at the hospital, and was aware of the problems that could happen, that I was able and motivated to continue to breastfeed. I understand why many women just give up, but I do believe the benefits of breastfeeding are so great that it needs to be something women don't give up on so easily. I have learned a few things... if a mom is determined to breastfeed successfully BEFORE she gives birth to her child, than she will be able to do it. But if a mom goes into it without any information and without really understanding it, they will be likely to quit if there are any problems. I really think that the mom that says "Sure I guess I will try breastfeeding" will end up stopping much sooner than the mom that says "It is very important to me to be able to exclusively breast feed!" So whats my point?? It is really a topic that a mom-to-be has to think about and research before having her baby, and once the child is born she must be prepared to run into some road blocks along the way. With a great support system (which I had) and the dedication to make it work, I believe most mothers can do it!! Low milk supply, bad sucking, can't latch, flat nipples, reflux, c-section pain, extra time in the hospital, etc etc can all be overcome!!
Ryan is now 2 1/2 weeks old, and his eating has gotten better and better each day. Getting him to start feeding is a struggle. He tends to fight against me and struggles to get a good latch. I have been using a nipple shield to help him get suction, but I am now trying to ween him away from that. I feel like he is much stronger and doesn't need that extra help anymore. He is now able to eat for longer periods of time and he is finally gaining some weight. The doctor is happy with his progress and I feel more confident with breastfeeding in general.
So here are some of my tips/suggestions for any mom who wants to breastfeed:
1. Read up on the topic before hand- I read two books that were very helpful. "The Nursing Mother's Companion" by Kathleen Huggins and "Breastfeeding Naturally" by Hannah Lothrop. Both gave me excellent information about what to expect, surviving the first few weeks, potential problems and how to deal with them. I did read them before going into labor but they also serve as a great reference point now that we are home and working on breastfeeding.
2. If you are having trouble breastfeeding the first few days in the hospital, start pumping! I recommend the "Purely Yours" by Ameda. I was unable to nurse Ryan for the first 3-4 days of his life. I started pumping almost immediately and it served 2 purposes. First, it helped build my milk supply. Even though Ryan was not eating, my body was getting the message that milk was needed. Second, it gave me the opportunity to give Ryan the breast milk (especially the colostrum that is there the first few days) by bottle. We still needed to supplement with some formula, but I felt better knowing he was at least getting some of the breast milk.
3. Ask for help from many different people. I was lucky to have lots of fabulous nurses, but they all had different advice and techniques for feeding. I was able to take a little bit from everyone and put it all together until I found something that worked for us. At one point we had different nurses coming in to check on Ryan and I every hour of the day. It was overwhelming but it helped.
4. Take a class. Most hospitals offer a breastfeeding class, and it is well worth the time to go. The class puts you in touch with other moms who want to breastfeed and many other resources that will be helpful once baby is born. I can't stress it enough, but getting as much information as possible gives you the best change to succeed.
5. DO NOT GIVE UP! If it doesn't work day one, or week one, don't give up. Of course do whatever is needed to keep your baby healthy, but don't give up on breastfeeding. The nurses kept telling me "put the baby to breast first". So I would first give him a chance to breastfeed before going to any kind of bottle. After a few days he was able to latch on, then he was able to suck for a few minutes, and eventually he got to the point that he was actually eating enough that we did not have to supplement anymore. If I gave up those first few days, I would not be experiencing the joy of breastfeeding now!
6. Last but not least, have people around who support you and won't let you just give up. Luckily my husband, my best friend, and my mom were 100% supportive and encouraging. They never even mentioned the idea of just giving Ryan formula. They actively gave me advice, researched ideas, and sat by my side while I worked to figure it all out. They were more confident than I was that I would be able to do it! So thank you to them!
Not that I am an expert, but I hope to help anyone else who might be struggling with breastfeeding!