Breastfeeding: Episode One

All moms have some sort of experience with lactation, and there are a lot of moms out there; however, I feel like breastfeeding is something no one talks about. Before Ava was born, I was clueless about breastfeeding. Then she arrived, and it consumed my time and thoughts for an entire year.

There’s so much to say about lactation, so I’ll be writing more about it in the months to come, but let’s start at the beginning, since that’s where I am with baby Sri. I hope I can help some new mamas, soon-to-be-mamas and even dads – having an amazingly supportive husband has been key to my success with breastfeeding. Let’s go!

First, the baby does not just hop on the boob and start eating happily. There’s a lot of crying, guiding and even some forcing the tiny human on there. Sri’s on his ninth day of life as I’m writing this, and he’s gotten way better, but it’s still not perfect. He needs help finding where he’s going, getting a good latch and staying on. It’s even harder when he’s super hangry.

Getting a good latch is not easy. There are different holds that are better for different situations (e.g. cross cradle, football) that can facilitate a better latch. Do not hesitate to use a lactation consultant and do it early – like within the first 24 hours. I needed an LC to help me with Sri even after nursing Ava for a year. Invest in your partner to help you. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has told me, “I don’t like that latch, take him off and retry,” or “Perfect practice every time, babe.” I get lazy, and my cheerleader does not give up on me.

Nipple trauma – Ouch! It is way worse with a bad latch but can also happen with a good one. I had terrible trauma with Ava. It was painful to the point I actually considered giving up nursing all together. I stuck it out and it went away within the first month never to return again. Lanolin was my best friend. I gave a friend advice to start using Lanolin two weeks before delivery and it helped her. I started a few days before Sri was born since he was earlier than expected, and it was a lot better this time around. I’m not sure if it was the lanolin or if my latch was just better.

Cramping and bleeding while nursing. Another ouch! Oxytocin release causes uterine contractions to help expel blood and shrink the uterus postpartum. It really hurts, y’all – this improved for me on post-op day five.

So much poop! Both of my kids have been huge poopers. Sri needs a diaper change before he eats and then poops again every time he eats. Literally every time.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! It is important to keep yourself well hydrated while breastfeeding and it is easy to get behind on fluids. Drinking with a straw makes a big difference. I carry one of these with me everywhere (and did so even during pregnancy).

Pressure to breastfeed. No one talks to you about nursing, then you become a mom, and everyone asks you, “How long are you going to breastfeed?” and “How long did you nurse your first one?” I don’t really mind these questions myself, but I can imagine them being really stressful for some moms. Breastfeeding is awesome for your kid – there have been many studies testing multiple variables (e.g. metabolism, immunity, SIDS, IQ), so I get it. However, I think having a super stressed, depressed mom who feels inadequate is worse than anything. Mom guilt is real, never-ending and I encourage everyone to look at the entire picture when making their nursing (and all) decisions.

Let me know if you have any other questions about breastfeeding – I’ll try to incorporate them into episode 2!

In the meanwhile check out my friend and fellow endocrinologist, Vidhya Illuri’s, recipe for vegan, gluten-free lactation cookies on her amazing food blog, Doctor’s Pantry!