When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. It was important to me, something I knew would be difficult, but I could handle it… right? The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has found that breastfeeding leads to lower risk of diabetes, SIDS, obesity, asthma, and other chronic diseases. It builds stronger immune systems and has shown to lower risks of ovarian cancer. Those are just some of the benefits, the list goes on. So yes, I naturally wanted to at least try!
My first daughter Emilia came out looking for food. She was a big healthy baby and latched immediately! Unfortunately for her, nothing came out. The nurses encouraged as much feeding and pumping as possible to stimulate my milk supply. I was a new mom recovering from a C-section, all while entertaining too many visitors so learning to breastfeed a starving screaming child was discouraging. After 3 nights of Emi getting kicked out of the nursery (yes- she was kicked out for screaming and waking up the other babies), I “caved in” and gave her formula.
I had this preconceived notion that formula was a bad idea; I’m not really sure why. But I promise you I will never forget that one nurse who told me it was “okay”. That it would NOT affect my ability to breastfeed. That night, Emi slept.
Fast forward 6 or 7 days, my milk finally came in. Now, anyone who knows me, knows I was not graced with a large chest. But let me tell you, once my milk came in, it was IN! And it was painful. I looked like I had two basketballs sitting on my chest. I thought “now I can feed my child.”. Well, when you are engorged like that there are many things that can happen (again, not prepared for it) and I had no clue about a “let down”. The first time Emi nursed after my milk came in, it basically made her choke. For those who do not know what I am talking about, imagine going to take a sip of beer, but then it comes out like a shotgun- yeah that’s what it’s like. After that disaster I made an appointment with a lactation consultant. Let me tell you ladies, they are amazing! I learned SO much in just an hour session.
I was successfully able to breastfeed Emi until she was roughly 7 months old and had enough in the freezer to get us to 9.5 months. But that journey did not come without its battles. I went back to work at roughly 4 months postpartum. I was traveling every other month for 3-5 days at a time. I, like many other moms, ordered a pump through my insurance. At the time I did not think about a battery operated one vs a power cord (there was no such thing as hands free, like the willow in 2017) I had the Medela. It worked great, but not when I needed it to. It had to be plugged into an outlet. In Airports, I would have to find a bathroom with a plug in it. Not easy to find! Before meetings, I would go to a Starbucks or coffee shop to pump hoping they had a bathroom outlet. The accessibility for nursing/pumping moms was nonexistent. I once was on a 6-hour flight to Seattle for a meeting, could not pump on the flight, and could not find an outlet in the airport bathroom. Any momma 6 months PP with a baby eating 6+ oz at a time will tell you, 6+ hours without pumping is NOT fun. It was hard and really made my experience as a full-time working mom very difficult.
I remember the day I stopped nursing Emi, I kind of just, gave up. I wasn’t producing enough. I was too busy at work and traveling that my supply drastically diminished. I knew that every drop/ ounce counts, but I was discouraged and uninformed as to how to get it back. I used to think to myself why didn’t you put in more effort, why didn’t you pump more, ask for advice, anything? Why didn’t you try? It took a good year for me to come to terms with the fact that it was okay. I breastfed for 7 months. That was enough, that was successful!
Now when it was time for round two, I was ready! I set a goal for one year. When I delivered Evie in May 2020, she was a tiny little thing, and showed little interest to breastfeed at first. After a few hours I was able to get her to latch. Unlike her sister, I had to try and keep her awake to eat. She seemed to have a harder time. Now remember, May 2020 was prime time COVID. There were less nurses in and out, and only one lactation specialist working every other day. I felt more confident about breastfeeding this time around, but still wanted some reassurance. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet with the lactation consultant within the 48 hours I was there. I am not exaggerating when I tell you less than 45 minutes before we were discharged, I looked at my husband and said I think something is wrong. This hurts more than it should. I’m bleeding on both sides. So, I lifted her little lip and there it was, a lip tie. (Lip-ties happen when the piece of tissue behind the upper lip is too short and tight, limiting the upper lip’s movement.) I called the nurse in to see what she thought, and I was right. Little miss Evie was tongue and lip tied. Ladies, if it hurts ask for a nurse or lactation consultant for advice! Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal.
We went home, made an appointment with the ENT and had her tongue clipped at just 4 days old. From there, we worked on her latch, making sure there was no air and she was eating the proper amount. She was weight checked every 3-5 days for the first few weeks. Due to more than a 10% loss from her birth weight. I pumped often to keep up my supply and to measure the amount Evie was getting for at least one feeding a day.
For a while, things were going well! My supply was great, I was pumping a lot in fear that I would “dry up” like I had before, and I was accumulating quite the freezer stash. If anyone has ever watched that extreme couponing show and has seen the joy they get when showing off their stockpiles, well, that’s how I feel. The garage freezer is a shrine full of milk (some we may never get to use). The baby was eating and sleeping like a champ until around 3 months when that ALL changed. Evie became really uncomfortable. She would scream at night and would whine all day. I FEARED colic. The pediatrician ruled out an ear infection, virus, and teething. The next guess was allergies. We had confirmed that she was allergic to dairy and most likely soy. The choice I had was to cut dairy and soy out of my diet or give her formula. But as I previously mentioned, I wanted to commit to this for a year, so I was in this for the long hall. I knew this was going to be a challenge, but I was committed. So here goes nothing, we are now dairy free, gluten free, soy free. Within a week we saw a drastic change and she was back to her happy self.
Now, I am 9 months into my second breastfeeding journey, where we are still gluten, dairy, and soy free! I am beginning to struggle with my supply. I will continue to do my best to reach that goal. But I also know I have to work to get there. Breastfeeding was not second nature, it is hard. And if that means power pumping, increasing water intake, and lactation supplements then so be it.
Do any Mama’s out there have advice or can recommend something that’s really helped?