I Definitely Cried Over [my] Milk
It’s a crazy concept to think that as women our bodies have the potential to produce something that will nourish another human being (forget the fact that we just grew this human being inside us).
BUT before I get into my personal breastfeeding experience, I want to share my feelings on feeding your baby. I believe that fed is best. That means if you are unable to breastfeed, formula should absolutely be a guilt-free option available for you. Because let's break it down to the basics…a happy fed baby is more important than a hungry one who only gets the boob. Which will make for a happier you and a much happier period of transition into motherhood. I understand that it is always easier said than done, and as mothers and women in general we put way too much pressure on ourselves to show up the textbook way and beyond.
Taj is now 10.5 months old and is breastfeeding and also taking pumped breast milk in a bottle. Only recently can say I love breastfeeding. It’s the greatest gift and most challenging and exhausting thing I have ever taken on in my life (after labour…and ummmm maybe pregnancy!). Textbook response right! ;) Well if you had asked me how I felt 6 weeks postpartum this is what I would have said “WTF”. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, my friends would share their horror stories of pain and bleeding, cracked nipples, latching, etc and I would give them the token sympathetic look. But let me tell you how much it actually sucks when you do your best and it still doesn’t work out the way you had hoped or expected.
My milk came in 12hrs after Taj was born. I remember the nurse on the night shift came in and was really excited “your milk has come in!!!”. I had no idea if this was good or bad…I wasn’t prepared. I thought the baby needs colostrum? The liquid gold I kept hearing about that I was suppose to producing for like 4 days right?! Was this baby going to miss out? I actually had to ask “is that a good thing”. The nurse assured me it was AMAZING. But what she didn’t tell me is that if that milk doesn’t start being expressed, your breast’s will become engorged, hard, painful, and this tiny newborn, with his tiny mouth will have an even harder time learning how to latch.
We spent two nights in the hospital and got sent home with a manual pump. At discharge we were told our follow up appointment with a lactation consultant was in 10 days. As you can guess, 10 days was a little too late!
My mom showed up our first night home, I was in pain, had no freakin idea what to do with this new baby and new boobs! As per my mom’s advice we did a 9pm Target run and to grab their last in-stock breast pump. We opened it up, was totally overwhelmed with the pieces and decided I should just try and push through the night…it didn’t go well. I am not sure if Taj ate anything, I really can’t remember it! But I do remember the next morning in the midst of my tears Michael googling “lactation consultant Bay Area”. We found someone who could come that same day and she saved me!!!!!
Her name was Farrell and she helped me breath. I am actually getting teary now remembering back to our first session, we were trying a few things, I wasn’t getting it right away, and I started to cry, she looked me dead in the eyes and took a deep breath. One of those slow intentional yogic breaths. The ones that are deep, that move your diaphragm low, that relax your body all the way down to your toes. Her breath cued my breath…I too started to breath. It sounds cheesy but seriously, without words she told me ‘hang on a little longer…you’ve got this’.
I had two sessions with Ferrell and her support over 2 weeks. They weren’t easy, and she reminded me that just as I was learning to feed Taj, he was also learning how to eat. Our first session she taught me how to use the breast pump, how to care for cracked nipples (cream linked), we were using a nipple shield until Taj could learn how to latch a little better and also give my nipples a break (they were very raw). Taj’s required specific positioning that was different than any textbook position I had seen. In our second week Taj graduated from the shield (see how fast it changes), but every time Taj fed it felt like a fire ball was nesting in my armpit. My toes would curl and I would feel like I was going to throw up…nerve pain. Taj’s latch had changed. And then honestly, after a few days it stopped. Taj grew again and found a new way to latch!
I tell my friends this now who are struggling, that it will constantly change for better and for worse. This week can be a dream and then the baby will grow and his/her latch will change and the next week you can start feeling the most intense discomfort. But then it will change again.
By week 6 we had the hang of it. I understood how and when to pump. I felt comfortable nursing Taj in public and not worry about a huge cover (oh god I remember trying to fumble with those lame drapes in the first couple weeks!!!!). Taj was growing beautifully. Life was finding some degree of normalcy/routine (a little).
If you ever thought about working with a lactation consultant the answer is YES. I will shameless plug Ferrell even though I haven’t talked to her since I worked with her 10 months ago but in my eyes she is one of my heroes. Someone who held space for me and supported me. She didn’t just tell me it was going to be ok or to suck it up. She helped me troubleshoot. And with my analytical brain that was exactly what I needed. I wish it was more accessible so that all people can have access to this kind of care when they need it most (ie. first 12 hours home with baby when you are losing your mind), being new to America I am not sure if there are any insurance plans that cover private lactation consultants SO if you have a friend who is pregnant, honestly go in with some friends and get her a session with a lactation consultant. She will be grateful for it!
Bottles! You can see in the picture above Michael feeding Taj. Michael would have loved to ALWAYS feed Taj but I was a little possessive of my pumped milk. If I was home sleeping and I found out Michael gave Taj a bottle I would FLIP. This happened a couple times and it’s because pumping is hard! It takes energy to produce the milk, pump the milk at the right time, and forget the clean up! EUGH I am still dealing with it. I would let Michael feed Taj on special occassions or I left the house only! LOL. Taj got his first bottle at 11 days. Michael took me to the movies to get me out of the house. My mom was watching Taj and the movie ran longer than expected. Taj was hungry and she used to judgement to give him a bottle. I came home DEVASTATED. What if he never latches on to my breast again because selfish me wanted to go see a movie with my husband. Well 1. he was fine and right back to breast and 2. Going to that movie and spending solo time with my husband was exactly what I should have done and what we needed. I am so glad I had Taj learning to use a bottle early on so that I had the opportunity to work out of the house, take breaks, go out on date nights with my husband and even a few trips solo.
What I think I most want to share is that breastfeeding wasn’t easy for me and its very likely that it wasn’t or wont be for you too and that’s ok. Expect your nipples bleed. You may develop nerve pain. You can develop mastitis (infection). You lose the freedom to just get up and go without thinking about timing, pumping, feeding. You’ll learn that if you don’t pump while out the whole world will know it from a soaked shirt. But the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your child are countless. Its free, its always warm, you don’t have to wash bottles, you are guaranteed your baby is getting what they need all from you, your antibodies get passed down to the baby reducing their chances of getting sick, the oxytocin that is released while breastfeeding will support you in your postpartum healing and you will burn a ton of calories!!! If you have the opportunity to breastfeed I 100% support you in going for it knowing the journey will be a wild one. I breastfeed Taj exclusively until he was 6.5 months which is when I introduced foods to him. I see my journey of breastfeeding Taj coming to an end. My hope is to breastfeed until about a 1.5 years but can see a transition happening and realize that it might come to an end sooner than later, I am still pumping and freezing milk incase I decide to to stop nursing, I think having a stash of milk in the fridge makes me feel safer :). It’s emotional, I feel like I will be losing something that I feel like connects us but am often reminded that as he moves into a new phase of life we will find new moments of connection.
Here are a few things that really helped me on my breastfeeding journey. The products are all linked here for easy access under “All Things Breastfeeding” and descriptions below:
A bad ass breastfeeding pillow. Half the trouble is positioning these babies! I didn’t buy one before Taj was born because I was told by a few friends (they were better at this than me I guess) that you can just use pillows. No, please just get this one. Its AWESOME and really really works and not expensive. I am so passionate about this pillow they should reach out to me and have me be an ambassador! It clips on you so 1. it wont move when the baby is on it 2. supports your back 3. has a water bottle holder which I could also tuck the nipple cream in.
Lactation teas (Pink Stork and Traditional Medicinal were my favorite for taste and effectiveness)
Supplements (MotherLove was like magic. I still take it when traveling or feeling low energy and feel like I need a boost)
Lactation goodies that I would make (I’ll post recipes, but I would often just add a tablespoon of brewers yeast to muffins or cookies). I ate lots of oatmeal and high fat foods like nuts.
A good manual pump!!! I only figured this out when Taj was like 4 months old, but the Medela Manual is freakin awesome and only $30.00 so if you can’t afford a fancy electric pump or want something easy for travel and don’t want to pay for an expensive travel one this is awesome. I took it to Bali and East Africa instead of an electric one.
Nipple butter to sooth nipples and also use when pumping.
Tommee Tippee closer to nature bottles worked well for Taj. He got his first bottle of breast milk at 11 days and easily went back and forth. (do not get the Tommee Tippee warmer or their special bags, the warmer doesn’t work and the bags aren’t worth the money) and take up more rooms than they need in the freezer.
Haakaa is something I discovered also a little later than I wished just by following other mom bloggers. You use it on the breast you are not feeding on to catch the let down. I would catch 1-2 oz sometimes which can be a lot! I linked one that has a lid because I had knocked mine over and cried over the split milk.
A good pumping bra! I didn’t get one (I have no idea why I freakin waited so long) until Taj was about 6 months and honestly I just got the $30 Medela one that some people gave bad reviews to but it works great for me.
Ferrell Topham, Lactation Consultant
Some great nursing shirts and bras you feel comfortable in! It’s one industry I feel like is lacking. Everything is so billowy and shapeless so I loved wearing nursing camisoles, I would wear them under t-shirts or button up shirts, had a shelf bra. It was great! I found some awesome nursing camisoles at Target. I found some more fashionable nursing clothes on Asos.com. But my favorite “look’ was my flannel button up over a nursing camisole. I would just button up the top buttons when nursing so I felt discrete but comfortable. Here are my favorite nursing tops that I wore often: Asymmetric Nursing Top, Nursing T-Shirt, Nursing camisole, Nursing Dress, Nursing Bathing suite,