First, breastfeeding was a choice that I made for my family but its not the right choice for everyone. I fully support families that choose to formula feed as there is a lot of great nutrition in formula that isn't found in breastmilk. Secondly, I am a full-time working momma (hence the name of my blog;)) that is unable to nurse with the exception of Addie's first feed in the morning so Addie generally is bottle fed my breast milk which means I pump ALOT! And lastly, these experiences are my own and I know everyone is different....so again, please trust me when I say, this is what worked for us, but I get that it's not best for everyone's situation. I'll give you the long story and try to summarize at the end with a couple key take-aways that I've learned (feel free to skip to the bottom if you just want the short story:))
The hype and our choice:
So, here we go - I figured I'd start at the beginning. Before Addie was born, the hubs and I signed up for all of the Parenting classes that were offered through the hospital we would be delivering at. There was a separate class just for breastfeeding, which we attended, but literally from the outset we were told time and time again "breast is best." The instructor told us 2 years was what we should shoot for and well, we won't be making it that far in my house - right now I'm just hoping to make it to 9 months. We took it all in, and made the decision we would start with breastfeeding and take it as far as we could.
|Addie just a few minutes old|
Our first try:
My dear Addie arrived and after they had cleaned her up she was handed to me and I was told this - "You have about an hour before we need to take her up to the nursery for about 2 hours to check her over - you should try to get her to latch on but your family is waiting outside to meet her so whenever you are ready for us to let them in, just let us know." Whoa - the pressure was on - I wanted so badly to introduce her to my family but I had heard so much about getting the babes to latch on ASAP. What's a girl to do? So, we tried...and not long enough before giving up- she didn't want to latch. I was stressed about the timeline and my family not getting to see her before she went up to the nursery. So, we stopped trying to get her to latch, invited the family in and figured we'd give it another go once she got back from the nursery.
Fast forward through that first day - I was struggling to get her to latch. She would open wide, I would offer my breast and she wouldn't latch - I was frustrated and confused, the videos made this all look so easy. Was I already failing as a mom??? Enter Margo, the lactation consultant, she showed me how to basically force Addie to take my breast (by shoving in as much as possible) as soon as she opened her mouth and it worked!! Hooray - it was a small victory. Margo stressed to me making sure she had the perfect latch but I'll be honest, I was just happy to get her to latch. We also tried different holds - the football hold was suggested at first but that just wasn't comfortable for me so we went with the cradle hold and thats what we are still using!
The day after:
On to the second day - Oh boy, I was paying the consequences of Addie not latching correctly. I soon realized that my nipples had started to crack and were even bleeding a little. It was extremely painful when Addie would latch on and so, when Margo came back to check on me I showed her my mangled nipples. She offered me some breast shields (for those of you that are prego - take all of the free stuff you can get in the hospital!!!) that I could put in my nursing camis (which oh by the way, made me look like I had small round cones in my cami - hey Madonna, I have the nursing momma twist on your cones) to allow more air to get to them. She also gave me a couple sample tubes of the Medela nipple cream (which really helped). And, by the way, that ended up being all I needed for nipple cream. I returned the tube I had bought at the store and kept my free samples!
The first few weeks and leaking:
After we got home from the hospital, we tried to get into a routine but Addie was a snacker. She preferred to eat for only about 5 minutes a side about every 2 hours. Talk about attached; I felt like a milk machine but I kept going. Trust me when I tell you, there were days and nights (she would nurse 2-3 times a night) where I wished we were formula feeding because I was so exhausted and stressed. The books said she should be eating about 10-15 minutes per side at each feeding and we were nowhere close to that. You wouldn't even believe my elation when we went for Addie's first weight check and she was back to her birth weight and even a little bit over. Hallelujah - the quick feeds were getting the job done!! The hubs and I tried to go about life as normal as we could - I swore by my hooter hider. It's perfect when you're out and about and also great when you have family over and don't want to leave the room to feed. I also use it now in the office to cover myself when I'm pumping (I have my own office with a door that shuts but people around my parts tend to knock and open the door at the same time so its always good to be covered:)) During the first 6 weeks, my milk supply was off the charts - when I wasn't feeding I was leaking - it was so crazy. I used the reusable breast pads at first but they just weren't cutting it. I had much better luck with the disposable nursing pads but they still didn't do the trick for more than a couple of hours. I can't even tell you the number of mornings I woke up and my shirt was soaked, not to mention the sheets and sometimes the mattress pad. And its true, a crying baby will get your breasts going like waterworks - a hot shower also seemed to do it to me too! It was a humbling experience - I felt like a total mess. I had the embarrassing experience of leaking through my shirt while out in public so I learned to always keep an extra shirt and hoodie with me at all times. And seriously, engorgement is a real thing!! When Addie first started sleeping more than 3 hours at a stretch I would wake up and my breast were SO full, I had to pump them down a little just so Addie could nurse. I'm not lying when I tell you that my nipples were virtually flat my breasts were so full! By week 3, the hubs and I decided we wanted to introduce a bottle as thats what she would be eating from when I went back to work at 6 weeks so I started pumping too. This really helped me mentally because I felt more secure when we were out and about because I could bring a bottle with us and not have to worry about finding a place (often times our car) to nurse. We always kept a boppy and hooter hider in the car!! Although honestly, I wasn't that thrilled with the boppy and really only found it useful when we were out and about. We found that a firm density pillow worked best to support Addie when she was nursing and I actually still use the pillow now in the mornings when she nurses. Addie did wonderfully and still does going back and forth between the bottle and the breast!
Pumping and work:
After returning to work, I really struggled (and still do) to maintain a consistent pumping schedule and I noticed my milk supply starting to drop off a bit. This was absolutely heartbreaking for me. Breastfeeding is such an emotional thing - milk supply can change my mood quicker than anything. The stress of not getting enough further dwindled my supply (in my opinion) and we were forced on several occasions to feed Addie a bottle of formula. It was so hard at first, I know there are some great nutrients in formula that aren't in breastmilk but I still felt like a failure because I wasn't making enough to meet Addie's needs. I cried, I screamed, I got REAL cranky, and then I got over it. I'm ok with it all now - if she needs a bottle of formula here and there to supplement what I'm not making, its ok (we are currently supplementing about a bottle or two a week of formula)! She doesn't seem to show a preference to either and goes back and forth between the two as if she doesn't even know the difference. I do what I can and now that we have started her on solids, she is taking in a little less liquid during the day so I'm hoping my milk supply will again start to exceed her demand. I currently estimate that I spend about an hour and a half of my day attached to a pump. I have a Medela Pump In Style pump thats been great and I usually only pump one side at a time so I can multi-task (respond to e-mails, review paperwork, and yes, even catch up on some blog reading) while pumping. My schedule goes something like this:
7am - Feed Addie on one side and then pump the other
3-4 pm - Pump both sides
11pm - Pump both sides
To store my milk, I use the reusable bottles that came with the Medela pump and also bought a box of the Medela tubes that are 2.5 ounces each to store additional milk in. We do quite a bit of bottle washing around our house and breastmilk is full of fat so you have to take special care when washing to make sure you don't leave behind a film on the bottles from your milk. As I sit here today, I'm so glad we choose to breastfeed, and definitely plan to do the same as we grow our family. I have no idea how much longer we'll be able to go or if Addie will herself decide that she no longer wants to nurse or drink this milk. As my mom always said, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I sometimes find it hard to believe that we made it this far. Sadly, my breasts are not the same - all of the perk is gone. I've heard from friends that once you stop breastfeeding the perk doesn't come back and the sag stays (I guess thats why people get mommy makeovers which generally include boob jobs). But I wouldn't change any of it for anything - all in all, its been a wonderful experience. Who knew our bodies could make such great stuff??!!
So I promised a short story and here it is:
1. Take your time at first and do your best to get right. If you don't get the right latch, you'll pay the price.
2. Get a hooter hider - they are a must - if you don't want to have to excuse yourself every time you need to nurse.
3. Take full advantage of the lactation consultant and La Leche league in your area. They are the experts and can be very helpful if you are having any issues at all!
4. Unless you have a hands free pump, pump one side at a time so you don't feel completely tied down!
5. Always keep an extra set of breast pads on you - you never know when the sound of someone else's crying baby or your own might lead to a little surprise.
6. Stick with it - even when you want to give up. It gets easier - I promise.
So, I think I covered most everything but I'm sure I missed some things. Feel free to e-mail me, if you have any questions or want to share a laugh!!