I am still blown away at how intelligent our species is. A baby comes out of the womb, lies on a mother's chest, and slowly finds her way to the breast and attempts to nurse. Unfortunately, as the first 24 hours went on, the latch wasn't perfect, I didn't know how it was feeling to me (the pain) was wrong, and needless to say, I ended up with some gnarly blood blisters that I never want to experience again! But the nurses and lactation specialist helped, and I was able to successfully feed my baby, using a breast shield.
As the hours of the first days went on, I became very engorged. OUCH! So the nurses brought me in a breast pump to relieve some of the pressure. (Side note-if they had not shown me how to use the breast pump in the hospital I probably would have never figured it out and given up at home trying to use my own pump)
My suggestions to moms who are breastfeeding the first time, get these items:
Ameda cool gel pads (they heal within hours of use)
A breast pump (so you can start building a stockpile if you plan to return to work after maternity leave)
Button up tops or nursing cami's (easy access is so much better than trying to lift and fold a shirt)
Something else I learned on the way thanks to my mommy's group (Found them by using the what to expect forum), was that breast milk comes out as fore milk (very white in color, sometimes clear/white) and hind milk (creamy pearl in color). Hind milk has more proteins. But when the baby first starts feeding, fore milk comes out first (maybe 1-2 ounces), and then hind milk comes out. If you are not allowing your child to completely empty a breast, they may not be getting enough hind milk, which can lead to excessive gas and needing to eat more often as they are not as full. Before anyone informed of this, I just thought breast milk is just breast milk, and when the right side produced a white milk while the left produced a creamy milk that something must be wrong with MY milk production.
Most of the time, you will never know how many ounces your baby is getting while breastfeeding. And their is no way to tell unless you pump and give the milk through a bottle. So don't stress about it. Our bodies are made to produce milk and your baby will let you know if you are not providing enough (though that may include crying or nursing often or other signs which I have not personally experienced). But the bottom line is, don't stress about your supply. You can try things to boost your supply, such as mothers milk or fenugreek (which is said to make your breasts smell like maple syrup but I never smelled it).
While breastfeeding, make sure you drink plenty of water. And eat plenty of food. Three meals a day. You may notice an increase in appetite. This is normal. Go ahead, eat. You need to, so you can make the milk for your baby.
I got sick with a cold/flu my first few weeks at home. And I found out the hard way that just like pregnancy, every medicine says to consult your physician prior to taking anything while breastfeeding. And the physician I consulted said: Keep breastfeeding-your baby will get the antibodies from your body fighting the cold/flu, which will hopefully keep them from getting sick, and that I could take Zicam and Emergent-C. Both are just large doses of Vitamin C with some Zinc. Great remedy, huh? Fortunately, I have not been that sick since so I have not had to look into other medicines. But I have been told about and looked at kellysmom.com It is a great resource for a number of mommy related questions. The site does provide a list of medicines that are "safe" while breastfeeding.
Now on to WHY Breastfeeding was so hard. First, the latching is not always perfect. And then during those early months, you have to get up EVERY time the baby gets up to feed her. She's hungry and you have the milk. We tried a bottle with pumped milk at 6 weeks old, my daughter had one bottle, and 4 hours later she would not latch. She had complete nipple confusion (you can tell by the way the baby suckles-with a bottle she just suckles and the milk comes out, while breastfeeding, she gulps it down because she has to actually suck for it to come out). I cried and cried, and my poor girl was starving but after trying and trying over several hours, I finally got her to latch back on. But no bottles for 6 more weeks after that disaster. As I mentioned before, I had to use a nipple shield. Do you know how annoying it was to clean that thing after EVERY feeding and make sure it was right next to the bed for the next feeding, along with the boppy? After a few weeks, I weaned her off the nipple shield. Which, by the way, is not easy! But, the way I did it was to utilize it to get the milk flowing, and then I would take it off and make her nurse without it the remainder of the time. Eventually, I could get her to latch without starting with the nipple shield. The nipple shield is great for sore nipples, so if you ever need a break from the suckling, use that baby a few feedings and you'll feel like new!
My advice to new mom's, utilize the lactation specialist during your hospital stay! And even after, they are available and there is Le Leche League (which I have heard wonderful things about). If you WANT to breastfeed, give it all you've got. And you know what, if it doesn't work out for you. Don't sweat it. You are not a bad mom!!! And there is just as much support out there for you too!