Let’s talk breastfeeding! I’ve been so excited for this week’s topic, thought likely not for the reasons that many would assume. I feel passionately about being supportive of whatever choice a parent makes on how they feed their child. Something that has always horrified me is how so many women (and men!) seem to think that it is their duty to shame other parents for their choices. A parent’s decision to breastfeed, formula feed, or use donor milk has always been an issue for so many people, and everyone seems to think they have the right to weigh in on things. I couldn’t not disagree more. A parent’s choice on how they choose to feed their baby is a personal decision and one that should be respected, regardless of the choice they land on. I should also mention that for many, their decision is not a choice that they made independently; some options just may not have been possible. Whew! Now that that is out of the way…the following is my personal breastfeeding journey, along with some things that made our experience easier.
Breastfeeding is bizzare at first, since both you and your newborn are learning the hang it. Mamas-take advantage of every moment in that hospital! Use those nurses and lactation consultants! After giving birth, we were fortunate enough that Ellie was a willing nurser and that my milk came in with relative ease (at least for those two days...more on that in a minute). But I was so NERVOUS! Was I holding her correctly? Was she getting enough? Those nurses worked their magic and helped so much while we tried to figure things out. They gave suggestions for positioning and even helped manipulate both Ellie’s and my body to make things work a bit better. As hard as it can sound, really letting go and allowing the professionals to do their jobs and help in whatever way they can makes a huge difference.
My name is Sarah and I have an oversupply problem. My milk, while normal in the hospital, came in with a vengeance. My breasts became the most painful boulders and were difficult for Ellie to latch on to. They were leaking constantly, and I was uncomfortable to the point of tears. Two things I did that were helpful was calling a lactation consultant and calling one of my best friends, whose daughter was a few months older than Ellie.
My pal Alyssa and I joke that nothing is too much for our friendship after she came over that day. I was sitting in the middle of my living room topless, crying, and leaking. She showed me why my breast pump wasn’t working (those darn little phalanges!) and she also brought over her hand pump for me to try. She was also SUPPORTIVE. It’s amazing how much better I felt after she assured me that after two weeks, things would be so much better. She was such a terrific cheerleader, reminding me of how I made this choice for my family and was giving such a gift to my daughter. If you become overwhelmed or frustrated, please take advantage of built in resources of pals who have walked this path before you-they are rockstars!
Our healthcare system really does fail breastfeeding moms (most consultants are not covered by insurance unless they’re affiliated with an OB-GYN’s office) but in my experience, paying for a lactation consultant ($250 for a certified consultant to come to my home) was well worth it. Our consultant came directly to our home, confirmed that I was struggling with oversupply, checked our positioning, made adjustments as needed, and overall gave us some peace of mind. She weighted Ellie prior to and after nursing, so we had a sense of how much milk she was getting during a feeding. She also made recommendations to even out my supply and when to start pumping/bottle feeding.
Getting into the Groove
After Ellie and I got the hang of breastfeeding, things went smoothly for us. I say that with a heart full of gratitude, as I know so many women experience supply issues, latch issues, postpartum health issues, etc. That being said, I also made choices that were based on what I felt would work best for us both, not necessarily what was recommended by experts. For example, I began pumping a few days after giving birth rather than waiting 5-6 weeks. I became anxious of losing my supply, so for me, beginning to pump and store milk right away helped alleviate anxiety I had about creating a freezer stash. I also chose to pump right away as my husband Steve was eager to experience feeding our daughter as well. There are mixed reviews on introducing bottles very early on, but after getting the go-ahead from our pediatrician, we moved forward and never looked back!
I was very fortunate that I did not experience mastitis but I have watched other mama pals struggle with this and ladies, please please please do NOT wait to call your doctor if you recognize some of the symptoms. This sickness can knock you out and can really alter things for you and your babe long term, as it can hurt your supply, etc.
I had a goal of nursing Ellie for 6 months. When that time frame rolled around, I surprised myself by not feeling ready to stop breastfeeding. Then, around 8 months, my supply took a HUGE hit. Ellie and I both got sick at the same time and I was producing only 1-1.5 ozs each time I pumped, when I was used to producing 5-8 oz. I began to agonize over how much I was pumping, charting my supply, frantically trying things to boost it back up. Then Steve stepped in and asked me if the stress I was feeling over continuing to nurse was worth it, from a mental health perspective. I realized that if I was obsessing to this degree over breastfeeding, that it was likely time for us to stop. While the transition to ending this period of time was a bit sad for me, in a week, I already felt better about the decision and now, months later, it’s not something I regret.
Nipple cream, sleep bras meant for nursing, a good pump,
However you choose to feed your babe, be kind to yourself. It is a beautiful gift to be able to provide nourishment for your child (whatever the method!) and this time is so special. Please try not to beat yourself up over issues (lip ties, supply problems, baby gassiness, etc.) and instead remember that you are doing the very best job that you can do in this moment with the resources you have.