The nurses had to show me a couple different positions to nurse her, and I would try to stick my breast in her mouth several times, only to have Ellie keep sticking her tongue out. I decided to try again later, but was already feeling frustrated that I wasn't able to feed my baby and that we didn't have that instant bond with breastfeeding. Israel and I kept her in our room at first that night, but after not getting any sleep the previous two nights we put her in the nursery for a few hours. That first night, the nurses brought her in every two hours to try and nurse. I would spend about twenty minutes just trying to get her to latch on or find a good comfy position (but with just having a C-section this was pretty difficult).
After an hour of trying to nurse, Ellie would only nurse for about five minutes or less on each side. So the nurses would put her back in the nursery, and I would try and get some sleep. As soon as I had fallen asleep, they would bring her back in and we would try again. I think I only got three hours of sleep those first five days (not even exaggerating). They brought in a nipple shield by the second night to see if Ellie would latch on better that way. My milk came in on the third night in the hospital and I started feeling very engorged. By the time we left the hospital, I was still in a lot of pain physically from the surgery and also from breastfeeding. Ellie has a pretty tiny mouth and that made for a very tight latch, which in the beginning was incredibly painful. By the second week of breastfeeding, I had cracked and bleeding nipples and could finally see why mothers often give up on breastfeeding.
I used a strong nipple cream that they had prescribed for me and all sorts of cooling gel pads to relieve the pain. For the first two months of Ellie's life, I continued to use the nipple shield but breastfeeding still hurt a whole lot. I figured out after finally seeing a lactation consultant that she wasn't latched on that well with the shield, and so I tried again without it, and Ellie did great. Those first couple of months are always the hardest, with trying to find your rhythm with your baby and the almost hour-long nursing sessions. After the first two months though, Ellie started to nurse for less time and then I could go every three hours instead of two to nurse her. I think it was around five or six months when she started nursing for ten minutes at a time, and that was awesome.
We introduced a bottle of pumped breast milk after a few weeks, and Ellie would do okay with it at first but I didn't do it often enough, and soon Ellie really didn't know what to do with a bottle. She would just kind of chew on the nipple or even start giggling when I would try and give it to her. That's really the only thing that's made it a little inconvenient is just making sure I nurse her before I go somewhere if I have to go without her, or being home in time for the next nursing session. So for the most part, I haven't been away from my baby for more than a three hours at a time. But I think breastfeeding is way easier than having to deal with bottles, cleaning and warming them up all day.
I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have been the primary source of nutrition for Ellie for a year. I know that many women have difficulties with nursing and it often doesn't work out. Ellie has never been much of a cuddler and is so squirmy and on the move (even more so now that she's walking!), so I've really enjoyed our special nursing time together. It was often the only way to soothe her when she woke up frequently at night. I have so many memories from just nursing her in the dark in her room in my rocking chair with my eyes half closed. So, so many middle of the night nursing sessions. Although when I was going through that time, I didn't know how we would sleep again, I'm so glad that we had that time together. It's often the only time that Ellie will be still for a few minutes and we can just snuggle.
About a month ago, after I had eliminated the night nursing sessions, I started eliminating the daytime sessions, really just the late afternoon session. I replaced that one with giving Ellie a snack, which most of the time is yogurt. Today I'm starting to eliminate the noon nursing session, so now Ellie will only be nursing in the morning and before she goes to bed. I will gradually cut those out, one session per week until Ellie is finally weaned.
For almost two years, my body has not been my own and I'm constantly paying close attention to what I put into my body, knowing that Ellie will get it through the breast milk, too. I always wanted to make the commitment to breastfeed my baby for a year, and I remember thinking that first difficult night in the hospital that a year seemed sooooooo far away! My baby will be one this Wednesday, and I can't even believe how fast this year has gone.
Even though I had always wanted to breastfeed, and never even considered formula as an option, I wasn't all that excited about it when I was pregnant. I think one of the most surprising things about having a baby I've learned is how much I would love breastfeeding! It's been such a special time with my daughter (especially with how active she is!), and I wouldn't give back any second of it, even those first horrible two months.
The process of weaning Ellie is bittersweet. On the one hand, I'm sooo ready to be done and for my body to be my own again, but I know I'm going to miss our time together. I'll just have to find ways to capture her and make her cuddle with me. ;)