After reading through some of the stories here I feel that my story might be an encouragement to you out there struggling to breast feed the new baby.
The first three months of breastfeeding were a nightmare for my baby and me. It got only gradually better and by 7 months I finally felt we had reached a breast feeding situation we all (my baby, husband and I) could live with. My son is now 3 1/2 and still breastfeeding in the evening and morning (during the day I work and he is in care).
When he was born (at home, a very easy positive birth) I had no doubt that now we would start a successful breastfeeding relationship. Until about 3 days after the birth it had never even entered my mind that I might have problems breastfeeding.
As it turned out, the milk had not yet come in, and when it came I had too little milk, he had a poor latch and I was in constant pain every time he latched on. Not so much at the nipple but the entire breasts hurt when he sucked.
My midwife was very supportive and compentent, but at the 10th day she said that he had lost so much weight that I should supplement with the bottle, as further weightloss was not healthy for him. He had lost the amount tolerable in a newborn and then some, and no indication that showed he was gaining any.
By that time I was a real mess - I dreaded every feeding because of the pain and frustration. He cried and cried and so did I. My husband could not stand the sight of me trying to nurse with a washcloth between my teeth and involuntary tears streaming because of the pain, and the sound of the crying baby. We had nasty arguments while I had the baby in my arms. Horrid.
So after some hysterics on my part, when our son was 10 days old my husband bought organic formula and organic rubber nipple and a bottle, and fed him. He drank 10ml and fell asleep - even all these years later I remember the defeat I felt. I should have been happy for my son to get nourishment but I felt so ashamed that I could not breastfeed. That same night I the milk rushed into my breasts - I felt it coming for the first time the way it had been described to me.
Through the bottle feeding he gained all the weight he lost plus some more in a very short span. I was happy but also so very sad that it was not through breast feeding.
The next few weeks were dominated by the struggle to first breast feed and then bottle feed. As at that time the only position he accepted for bf was lying down, the struggle to have the bottle ready and at the right temperature and keep it that way during a protracted breast feeding session was so stressful. My husband travels a lot so I was alone at home most of the time. My milk supply had increased slowly but not significantly enough. The pain got better but it was still extremely painful at times.
No treatment seemed to work really efficiently. I tried the lot, anything anyone recommended I did. I ate so much fenugreek that I smelled of it (which annoyed my husband). I pumped with various types, including hospital strength Medela, but never saw a drop of my milk come out. I heard with envy from women who expressed their milk, or whose breasts dripped with it. But small encouragements did happen. one day that he drank, fell asleep and the milk still in his mouth actually dribbled out of his mouth - I took a photo! I was so delighted!!
The actual breakthrough did not come until he was about 12 o 14 weeks old. I finally decided to try what I had thought for a while might work best but was contrary to all the advice by the midwife and lactation counsellor (both professionals I regard very highly to this day) - I began to give him the bottle first, and then offered the breast. This was not only less stressful for me but also seemed to reduce his stress and anxiety at the breast and from then on it all improved slowly but surely. I still to this day have never seen my milk except this once, and on one other occasion when I heard a small infant cry and it dripped out into the bra. I could and cannot express anything with a pump or by hand but he has been bf now for 3 1/2 years.
I remember lying in my bed, with him feeding on my breast or trying to, and the anger and frustration was so bad and so intense. I felt that this was now my life, doomed to my bed room forever. But in fact it was only a short time of a few months that it was very bad. Looking back it seems so short, and I realise now that I was too focused on the negative, and on what I saw as my failure, when in fact i did my very best and so did my little one!
He began eating solids at abouth 7 months, and I was able to reduce the bottles as my milk supply increased and his latch improved, and he ate more other foods. We continued to supplement the breast by 1-2 bottles per day until he was about 14 months, but I was able to switch from bottle first to breast first. In retrospect I feel I could have stopped the bottle much much earlier, but I was too anxious to realise. Only when the pediatrician said I should was I able to.
It was a steep uphill climb to that point. It took a very supportive pediatrician who continually expressed (and expresses) her confidence in me as a mother, a very supportive and competent midwife (she continued to counsel me for many weeks after birth) and a very helpful lactaction councellor, to get us there, but we did manage. My husband eventually also came around - he saw that the benefits outweighed the difficulties, not least because of some LLL articles the lacation counsellor had given us. He is proud that our son stopped using the pacifier on his own at about 14 months, which he ascribes to bf.
A very good source of information for me was viewing videos online of good drinking and good latches - how the baby's chin moves, etc. and other advice compiled by Dr Jack Newman, at www.breastfeedinginc.ca
But most of all to learn to take my cues from my son, to observe him and allow him to learn. He had no difficulty to use the breast and the bottle both parallel, it was only that I feared he would not be able to. I learnt to put aside the comments of well-meaning persons that he would never be able to use both.
I guess what I want to say is: trust your instinct. You are the mother and you know how to do it, somewhere beneath all the anguish of trying to feed the baby, if you allow yourself to learn and give up preconcived ideas of how it will be once the baby is born. I expected everything to be perfect because after a difficult pregnancy I had such a wonderful birth experience that I could not conceive how anything should go wrong now, that I fell into a big hole when it did.
I had so much time to think while he was small and suckling, and i taught myself to think positively about my mothering skills rather then only of the difficulties. This is of course easy to write down. But I benefit from the experience now, it helps me to continue bf even when there are friends of mine who are upset by a 3 1/2 old still breast feeding. I hope to be able to continue until he is ready to stop, I am not sure if I will manage (not for any physical reasons, but it is sometimes a nuisance but that is another story) but I will try.
So, if you are reading this, be encouraged, don't give up.
Get the advice from a lactation counsellor or your midwife if you are lucky enough to have one, but also listen to yourself. My pediatrician gave me priceless advice when she said that to start with my baby's confidence in me is limitless, and to take my cues from him.