Are you, like me, tired of pins, posts, and websites with titles like: THE TRUTH about cleaning with baking soda… THE TRUTH about childbirth…. THE TRUTH about financial planning for your children? Let’s be real. We are women (hear us roar!), and we are so unique in so many ways. Pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing are no different. This is only MY truth about breastfeeding, and some things I learned that may be helpful to other mammas out there.
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I will begin by giving a full disclaimer: I am VERY lucky, as I have had a very uncomplicated, and easy breastfeeding journey, especially for it being my first time. My son latched within an hour of being born, and he lactation consultants were even surprised by how much of a pro he was from the get-go. He was truly an image from a lactation brochure or something – he nursed beautifully and perfectly for several months. So, I will not pretend that I can relate to every struggling breastfeeding mother’s story, but I can relate to being a mommy and wanting what is best for my son. My accumulated list of tips include the following:
Take a class
While trying to get my breastpump through insurance, I just could not wrap my brain around how it would work. I mean, I got it….You hold the pump up, you turn it on, and breast milk comes out, right? But that couldn’t be it. There had to be more. What if I didn’t know how to put it together? Do you just turn it on and it runs? How long? In the final weeks before Owen was born, the breast pump was the scariest and most anxiety-producing thing about his arrival, so I decided to take a free class on breastfeeding through our hospital.
The attendees were truly a sitcom of characters: the Single Mom who is makin’ this work, gosh darn it, the Regular Mom in work clothing, the Au-Naturale Hippie mom who was already half-naked, ready to stimulate her nipples right then and there, the Overly Excited Daddy-to-Be who would use a pump on himself if he could, and the Immature Daddy-to-Be giggling at every image of a nipple in the pamphlets. I’ll let you decide which of those dad categories my husband would have fallen into… if he had gone to the class! All-in-all, it was an amusing and informative hour with everyone, and one of the most valuable classes I’ve been to about child-rearing.
I took every pamphlet and read every detail. I also watched all the video content that was offered on the hospital website, and I felt SO much more prepared. I felt silly needing to learn about this very natural thing, but let me tell you – nature doesn’t always make these things easy to understand! Find yourself a LaLeche League, or check your hospital for a free class. It made a world of difference!
Pump as soon as you can
Now that I had figured out everything about the breastpumping and feeding, I felt way more comfortable knowing what to expect. I also knew I was going to be home for four months, return to work part time for a month, and then go back full-time. So I managed to put off even ordering my pump until my babe was 3 months old. This is truly my only regret in my breastfeeding experience. I wish I would have had my pump in the first few days that my milk came in. I was SO engorged because I needed help draining my breasts entirely until our feeding routine was more established.
*Momma Camping note: hand-expression, hot showers, and even the Haakaa can provide relief to engorged breasts. Please consult a Lactation Consultant to learn how to pump while your supply is regulating.
Also, by the time I started back at work full-time, my freezer stash was quickly depleting because I was not producing as much during the work day, and O was starting to drink more. If I had pumped and frozen milk earlier, I would have both been more comfortable early on and when I went back to work, knowing he would still have that freezer stash.
Use cotton nursing pads
I had registered for “Ultra soft” disposable nursing pads. I received about 6 boxes of 100 each at different showers and as gifts, and I was so proud that I was prepared. I had a dozen in the night stand next to the glider in O’s room, an organized pile in his diaper bag, and once we settled at home, I put a handful in the “breastfeeding basket” that I kept next to the couch. My additional boxes were neatly organized in the closet, ready to refill all the mini-stashes when they ran low. Within the first month, I realized that these disposable pads were:
Each of them had a wrapper, two little paper sticky things, and then the whole thing would be thrown away after just an hour or so!
I could never get them to unfold and stick in my nursing bras the right way, especially one-handed after cleaning up a breastfeeding session, and
I know they were called “ultra soft,” but they did not agree with my nipples. At. All. As if nursing all day every day isn’t enough to irritate that sensitive skin, those “ultra-soft” pads have a polymer in them to absorb leaking milk.
You can’t go without breast pads because those girls are gonna leak. It’s just a fact, and quite frankly a blessing (see #2 above!). I highly recommend using reusable/washable cotton breast pads. Register for or buy several sets. They are worth every penny, and easy to throw in the wash with all those messy baby clothes. Plus, you’ll be reducing plastic trash too! If you choose to use disposable, for the love of your nipples, be sure they are all-natural, all-cotton.
You might be interested in the article: Breastfeeding Essentials
Use Nipple Butter
While I was very lucky with breastfeeding in general, my nipples were so weird during pregnancy. I was very uncomfortable very early on, and actually started using Nipple Butter around the time that I was five months pregnant. I highly recommend Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter, which was recommended to me. You don’t have to wipe it off before baby nurses, it is 100% organic and all-natural.
You might be interested in the article: The Best Gifts For Breastfeeding Moms
This phrase applies to so many aspects of breastfeeding. First of all, the Boppy was NOT the most comfortable nursing set-up for me (go ahead, GASP!). I loved the pillow for holding Owen and playing with him, but for nursing, he was just too big for it really. So, I had to adjust to using other pillows in the house. No big deal.
But, when it came to nursing in public, or even with family around, I was not very comfortable at all and it felt like a really big deal. So, I practiced at home using a blanket until I was comfortable to go out in public. When my family was over, I just went upstairs and made them wait – and it was A-OK! My comfort and Owen’s comfort had to trump all others’ in order to make sure that he was able to get what he needed to eat. By the time Owen was six months old, I was proudly nursing anywhere I needed to. My favorite place was on the beach – what a truly free-ing experience!
Go with the Flow
Trust me, this is far easier said than done! I loved breastfeeding andeverything about it. Again, I had a very easy journey. But, when Owen got to be about six months old, he was too busy to nurse. He wanted to sit up, often times nursing while sitting straight up and down and darting his eyes around the room, pointing and waving his arms wildly. Eventually, the days and nights turned into me pumping more often, using more bottles, and breastfeeding significantly less often.
In hindsight, I spent way too much time being sad about breastfeeding ending, and too little time going with the flow and focusing on making sure he got the best nutrition, whether it was from me pumping breast milk or using formula. There was a very specific day that I remember sitting in the kitchen floor, feeding him a bottle, and throwing the pump on at the same time. He was so darn busy that getting him to eat at all was a fight, and I needed to relieve the pressure in my breasts that hadn’t been managed by him nursing. Once I was able to relinquish some of my sadness and get a grip on our new reality of feeding together, I was able to embrace this new and often times comedic stage of breastfeeding.
Ask for help
I was very lucky that the general mechanics of breastfeeding went smoothly for us. Still, when I returned to work, my supply dropped, and Owen’s appetite increased. I contacted my hospital lactation consultant for some help. I was so nervous that she was going to tell me something like, “Oh well, you’ve really missed your chance. Do your best, but that’s all you can do.” Instead, she met me with kind words of encouragement and understanding. She sent me to a lactation supplement and drink supplement that would help my supply, and it really did! If I hadn’t have called her, I would have probably added a second thing to my regret list about breastfeeding.
You might like the article: 5 Ways To Help New Moms
Re-Lactation is REAL
Ironically, when I started staying home part-time, my supply dropped even more. I’m talking, ½ ounce a day that I could pump. The days were so busy and full that finding time to sit down and pump was nearly impossible. Owen began eating more solids, and becoming – shockingly – even MORE BUSY! He still refused the breast, even at nap and bedtime. Referring to my sadness in #6, I kind of gave up hope that he would be getting any more breast milk from me.
I reached out to a friend who was previously a lactation consultant, and she sent me this amazing infographic on re-lactation. I committed to making it happen, and I cannot believe it, but it worked. The house was a little messier, and some things just didn’t get done for a few days, because I had to pump during naptimes, but I was able to get back to 2-3 bottles per day of breast milk. I also took my pump in the car with a mini-cooler and pumped anytime I was driving, which increased all of my output as well.
All-in-all, we are now almost 11 months into our breastfeeding experience. At this time, I am not going to meet my “personal goal” of exclusively breastfeeding until 1 year – and that is OKAY. Owen has had formula supplemented since he was 7 months old. Some days I pump, some days I don’t. Some days I offer the breast, just to see if maybe he changed his mind. Some days he gets breast milk, and some days he doesn’t. He is happy and growing, and loved more than words can say. He loves breast milk, formula, and all kinds of foods. I will forever cherish the months that I was able to breastfeed, but I also know that I will cherish these new and exciting months as well. In the end, a fed baby and a loved baby is a happy baby.
Meet Our Guest Blogger
Leah is a first-time mom of an 11 month old who splits time between working in the special education field and staying home with her son. She lives in Central PA wit her husband, son, and three cats.
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