While I was pregnant with my first child, I knew how important breastfeeding can be for Mama and baby, so I did things to prepare. I took a breastfeeding course offered by the licensed lactation consultants at our local hospital. I also read a lot about breastfeeding, including the challenges. I sought out a small group of women who would support me in my journey, especially my sister who had successfully breastfed three children by that point. Finally, I made sure my husband learned about breastfeeding and how to support me in my journey. Fortunately, his Mom breastfed him and his siblings, so he was comfortable with the idea.
With my first baby, she latched right away, which was a relief. We were able to do skin-to-skin immediately, even though she was a few weeks premature. Unfortunately, because she was premature, her suck was weak, and she wasn't transfering enough milk. I ended up triple feeding (breastfeeding, pumping, then feeding her a bottle) at every feeding for a month.
It was exhausting, but I persevered. I wish someone had told me then about putting pump parts in the fridge (which allows you to wash them less frequently). It would have given me back some sleep, especially at 2am!
Triple feeding was one of the hardest things I had to do as part of my breastfeeding journey. Thankfully, it only took about a month for her to get stronger and be able to just nurse. Unfortunately, I stopped offering a bottle, and she never took one again! That was fine, except that I never got to leave her for more than 3 hours for the first year of her life! We nursed until 13 months, then slowly weaned until around 14 months.
Our local hospital is a "baby friendly" hospital. That means that, in addition to having licensed lactation consultants, they also have breastfeeding friendly policies like rooming in. Additionally, they offer a lactation support group once a week. That was a lifeline to me for the first few months with my first, a time to socialize with other moms when I was otherwise homebound to keep my preemie safe.
Above: One of the last times nursing my baby girl. My husband snuck upstairs and took some photos of us together. I'll treasure these forever.
My son (my second child) was a champ! He nursed from the get go, and did great! It's probably what most women picture when they think of their breastfeeding journey. I think it helped being a second time Mom. I knew what to do, so all we had to do was learn each other's habits. He also (eventually) took a bottle, as I went back to school when he was 5 months old.
We nursed in the mornings and evenings, and I pumped during the day. Pumping sucks (pun intended). Trying to find a clean, quiet, unobtrusive place to pump while on campus was always a challenge. Fortunately, one of the secretaries in our department had also pumped at work, so she helped me find a spot every time I needed one. I've pumped all over campus...lactation rooms, offices, bathrooms (when desperate), and even in my car! We nursed until 13 months, and again tapered down until about 14 months.
When I reflect on my experience with my daughter, I wish I'd known you can put your pump parts in the fridge and wash less frequently! I also wish I'd known about hands free pumping bras from the get go. I held on to those suckers for several days before realizing that was a thing! (Now I recommend it to all Moms!) As for breastfeeding, I wish I'd been more confident to do it in public at first.
Our first trip away from home with my daughter was to Savannah when she was about 6 weeks old. We were sitting outside on a sweltering day, and I was trying to nurse under a cover. I was hot, she was hot, the cover was getting in the way...it was frustrating. All of a sudden, this woman walked past wearing pasties, a gstring, a veil and a garter belt. The woman was off to get married wearing next to NOTHING! And walking down the street dressed like that. I looked at my husband and said, "if she can walk down the street mostly naked, I can breastfeed without a cover!" I ripped that cover off, and never looked back. All this to say, just like fed is best, covering or not covering is a matter of personal preference. But by all means, if you don't want to melt under a nursing cover, don't!
One of the biggest advantages to nursing versus other ways of feeding a baby is that you can travel without a bunch of gear. My babies have nursed all over the world, including various US cities, Europe, Africa, and South America. I've never had an issue with nursing in public, and in fact, find most places outside of the US to be especially welcoming to breastfeeding in public!
Noemi - Mom of 2 - Alabama, USA
You can follow her adventures with her family on Instagram