10 Things I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding Before my C-Section

Baby Buckshot falls asleep best after nursing.
Despite being an avid reader and researcher, breastfeeding defied my sense of logic. Nothing could have truly prepared me for the actual act of nursing.

But in the interest of helping others, here are 10 things I wish I knew about breastfeeding before Baby Buckshot came along.

1. When having a C-Section, count on the milk coming in more slowly. In natural births, the milk supply comes in faster, so I am told.  In C-Sections, the body takes a bit more time to register the baby is born and that it needs to start producing milk.  I am assuming it is because of the anesthesia slowing the body's natural reaction. This is a big deal and I feel like it was undersold in all the reading I did.  I know people say that all a baby needs for the first two days is colostrum.  Tell that to a mom whose baby is crying his eyes out on the second day of birth from hunger.  Yes, we supplemented with formula because I didn't want my child's first days to be filled with the feelings of hunger.  Yes, we are now exclusively breastfeeding (EBF).

2. Demand a hospital grade pump immediately. A lactation consultant came in to see me on the first day and was very... casual, shall I say, about my lack of milk. It wasn't until the second day, when my milk hadn't come in and baby was having a hard time latching, that another lactation consultant arranged for me to get a pump so I could start pumping to get a jump start on my milk supply.And pump every 2 hours, even if baby is sleeping, not just to replace every bottle being supplemented.

3. Only take the ibuprofen. I was in a lot of pain post surgery and was consistently told to take pain medication if I needed it because it would help my healing.  But I wasn't told that the painkillers I was being given pass through the breastmilk.  Everyone said the ibuprofen is safe, which is relatively is, but no one said a word before giving me things things like Norco along with my ibuprofen.  When these things pass through the breast-milk, the make the baby groggy which slows baby's ability to learn how to properly latch and nurse which in turn keep breastfeeding painful for a longer period of time. Not to mention all the other damage that could have been done. Luckily, I looked it up quickly and stopped taking the painkillers very early on.

4. Go on a nursing vacation immediately. When you're in pain from breastfeeding, spending 24 hours in bed doing nothing but breastfeeding sounds like the worst idea ever.  But the sooner mommy does this, the sooner she reaches the breastfeeding promise land where baby knows how to latch, the milk supply meets baby's needs and the pain starts going away. Just stay in bed all day topless with baby only in a diaper, do constant skin to skin and try repeatedly to nurse in any way possible. Of course, there needs to be someone there who bring mommy food, lots of fluids and changes diapers and such.  Mommy's only job is to eat, drink, feed and sleep when baby sleeps.  At the end of the day for me, something clicked.  BB was latched and I knew I could keep breastfeeding.

5. Try every nursing position but start with the My Brest Friend. The most counter intuitive part of breastfeeding for me was the various positions.  The Football Hold was the LAST position I thought would work.  It turned out to be the first position that would work consistently for me when sitting on the couch.  But the My Brest Friend was the to being able to breastfeed on any bed, chair or couch.  It placed baby in the right position at the right height allowing me to adjust BB's latch with ease instead of trying to fumble around fixing my positioning while BB's latch was causing nipple trauma.

6. Powerpump for quantity and volume. When I ended up with supply issues because I supplemented with formula and then didn't pump early or often enough while supplementing, I was told to pump for every bottle BB was given. This was bad advice for me because I pumped very little in comparison to how much formula BB could take in at one time. What I didn't know is that it's not enough to pump for the bottle, in order to effectively pump, the mother has to simulate what baby would do if the milk runs out.  Babies keep nursing or they demand to be nursed very quickly after an earlier nursing session in order to increase the mommy's milk supply.  Hence the power-pump.  Ten minutes of pumping followed by ten minutes off then ten minutes back on for an hour signals to the body that more milk needs to be made. Simply pumping for 15-20 minutes is not sufficient if the volume of breastmilk removed doesn't equal the amount consumed in the bottle at the very least.

7. Do not supplement at night. I thought I was going to juke out the lack of sleep during the newborn stage by supplementing formula at night.  The hard to digest proteins keep baby full longer meaning a longer stretch of sleep right?  Except those middle of the night feedings are what drain the breast at the height of milk production keeping milk supply up.  Until I dropped the night supplementation, I wasn't able to close the gap between the amount I pumped and the amount BB drank everyday. This was a contributing factor to my low supply.

I sadly, before I knew, gave the "supplement a bottle of formula at night to help baby sleep longer" spiel to other moms in my birth club and though their babies started sleeping through the night, they eventually ended up with supply issues or dried up completely.  For that I will forever feel like an @$$.  I am so sorry other mommies.

8. Exclusively pumping doesn't work for many mothers. Like many women, I thought, after the extreme nipple pain and other breastfeeding complications that exclusive pumping is the way to go. Though pumping is very efficient for some women, for most of us, since the pump doesn't completely drain the breast, our milk supply will suffer.  Plus, the lack of skin to skin and hormonal rush from being near baby doesn't exist when pumping so it's not enjoyable and harder to stick with.  There was just no way I was going to get up in the middle of the night every night to pump if baby was still sleeping (from being formula full).  It defeated the purpose.  And also depleted my milk supply.

9. Bedsharing is fantastic when done safely. I was against bedsharing before BB came along despite my mother's insistence that bedsharing is best for mommy and baby. (She told me that it would make BB feel abandoned if I put him in a crib in another room by himself.) Later I researched it and countries that have an almost 100% bedsharing culture have no incidence of SIDS.  I spoke with a few nurses and they said that bedsharing, if done safely, can reduce incidence of SIDS because the baby's breath ends up in sync with the mother. 

When we switched to EBF and I realized how important the night nursing would be when I went back to work and had to pump during the day, we started bedsharing so I could dream feed during the night nursing sessions.  It worked seamlessly. Everyone got to sleep, my milk supply is in complete sync with his demand (I actually pump exactly what he drinks while I'm away from him, give or take an oz) and it feels so natural. And there's no better feeling than waking up with BB snuggled next to me. I should have done it much sooner.

Of course, we safely bedshare and I always have his Snuza clipped to him at night.

10. I will never regret breastfeeding.  There are days now that I am so thankful I stuck with breastfeeding after wanting to quit time and time again in the beginning. There were so many reasons I could have quit, from slow supply from the c-section, low supply from the supplementing, having mastitis twice, going back to work and my body not being very good with the pump. 

And don't get me wrong.  I don't think there's anything wrong with formula.  I was a Full Formula baby.

But the experience I have nursing Baby Buckshot now is amazing. It's hard to describe the feeling I get when he looks into my eyes while he's nursing, or the experience of calming him down when no one else can by simply holding him close and feeding him from my body.

I wouldn't have believed anyone if they told me in the early weeks that one day I'll miss breastfeeding my child but I know now that I'll be sad when BB is fully weaned and I'll miss it dearly.

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