I never had any doubt that I would breastfeed, and I was fairly determined that BG and I would be successful with it one way or another, even if it meant countless hours at La.Leche.League meetings or with lactation consultants handling my breasts. I grew up with a breastfeeding advocate for a mom, and I remember when I was little watching her and her friends making onesies that said, “Breastfed is Bestfed” to sell at the local fair. I never had to wonder whether I would breast or formula feed. I always just knew I would breastfeed, and I knew I’d make it work. I am lucky, though, to have been brought up knowing that while this is a learned art, it is something I would be able to do.
Before BG was born, I spent a good amount of time telling myself that this was going to be a challenge. I engaged in a lot of positive self-talk, encouraging my future self to stick with it, to seek out help as I needed it, to be patient with myself and the baby, and I’m so glad I did.
The first few days as a breastfeeding mom are hard. My first encounter with my son at my breast involved someone else holding my breast, massaging the collostrum out of it, while I held him. It was urgent because we needed to bring up his blood sugars, and it wasn’t that first intimate feeding I had hoped for. I’m honestly surprised that I was not upset by this. My wife was, but I somehow took it in stride. For the next couple of days, BG would fall asleep while feeding all the time, and I was so worried he wasn’t eating enough, especially because of his initial low blood sugars, but he and I started to get the hang of things. My nipples were cracked and sore and occasionally bleeding, but damnit, we were going to do this somehow. He had the pinchiest of latches, and because of the enormity of my breasts, I couldn’t see well enough where the latch was going wrong.
We had a home health nurse come visit us the day after we came home, and while she was overall rather surly and unpleasant, she did help us figure out our problem: he was tucking his bottom lip. My wife now had a job. She became the official lip flipper, and within a couple of days, all was well. It’s a good thing too because this was when my milk came in and my breasts swelled to a size I had never seen–and they hurt, oh they hurt.
Since then, however, our breastfeeding relationship has been wonderful, and I’m so happy to have stuck with it through those hard first days. I’m still learning how to gracefully nurse in public. So far, I’ve done it in a restaurant, in the lobby of a hospital, at an outdoor restaurant, in a waiting room, in the car, and in a park. I have a scarf I carry in the diaper bag for attempts at being discreet, but BG isn’t crazy about having his head covered up. This is when I really wish had smaller breasts because hiding them would be so much easier. It takes quite a bit of effort to cover up these big girls.
I love this process, but it has its downfalls. If BG sleeps too long and then nurses on one breast, the other will soak my entire shirt. I have woken up to find not only my shirt but our sheets soaked. The leaking is diminishing, but that let-down reflex is something else! As a large-breasted woman, I also miss wearing bras that provide me some shape. I’m not willing to go the underwire route because I’m afraid of plugged ducts (I seem to be tending toward them already), and I can’t spend gobs of money, so I’m stuck with either nursing tanks or these cheap things that have either a uni-boob effect or a no-bra effect. It’s really not lovely at all. Still, it’s worth it. I just have to remind myself that happy, healthy breasts are far preferable to a perky, well-defined bustline.
I honestly don’t know how long this breastfeeding relationship with BG will last. I hope to breastfeed him for at least a year. I imagine we’ll play it by ear after that. For now, I’m just happy to be able to do this, and I feel so lucky that we haven’t had the struggles that so many women have.