Let me start with saying everyone’s breastfeeding experience is completely unique. Know that. Own that.
What I’m about to share is my experience. Yours shouldn’t be exactly like it because you are a different mama and you have a different baby. Dare I say a breastfeeding relationship is like a marriage – yours is yours and mine is mine and the two shouldn’t be compared.
I imagine women used to visit quite frequently about babies and breasts and the synchronization of breastfeeding. But now, many of us go along our merry way without every speaking a peep about the struggles and joys of nursing our babies. Somewhere in the midst of working away from home, technology, and a thousand other factors we have lost a community which holds a ton of mama wisdom.
Be advised I have written my story as a way to build community – not to give specific advice. If you are seeking breastfeeding help I would highly recommend connecting with your local La Leche League. Experts there await your every question :)
I always knew I would breastfeed my babies. My mom was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years and I remember watching her nurse my 2 little sisters during that time; I was 3 and 6 when they were born. She didn’t have a pump and I never saw her use a bottle. I do remember sitting next to her on the couch and “nursing” my dolls while she nursed. Breastfeeding was normal and I grew up believing it as such.
When I became pregnant I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and jumped on board with the laundry list of benefits that breastfeeding brings to mamas and babies. I had alot of faith that I would successfully breastfeed my baby since my mom had. I guess part of me hoped I was genetically predisposed to being a milk mama :)
Now I’m almost 10 months into my breastfeeding journey and this is what I’d share if you and I were sitting around a quilting table chatting about babies and breasts and the synchronization of breastfeeding …
Labor is hard work. Nursing is long work. Nursing no where compares to actual labor when it comes to intensity, but when it comes to stamina, nursing takes the cake. After your baby is born you have to devote yourself 100% to getting in synch with your little one. It takes weeks/months to get into the groove of things, but it is worth it. I PROMISE. I tried to do too much in those first weeks – you have to be ok letting the dishes and laundry pile up. Just let it go! Buy paper plates, I did :) Your #1 job is to manage eat/sleep/poop.
Troubleshoot before you have trouble. In those first few weeks, it is really emotional to hit a nursing obstacle and have no idea what is going on. Have a nursing mama friend on speed dial, connect with your local La Leche League while you’re pregnant so you have an expert to call, and read about some normal things that might happen – education is power.
For example, I got a milk blister on one of my nipples around week 4 or 5. It didn’t hurt, but I knew it shouldn’t be there. My poor sister got a boob in the face as I made her “inspect” it for me as we compared pictures on Google. I also had excess lipase in my milk (which is rare so don’t let it scare you) which made storing milk difficult. I didn’t find this out until I had over 200 ounces of frozen milk in my stash. Had a read about it beforehand, I would have known what to check for.
When I figured this out, nights got alot easier. No more lights and propping pillows. Just a quick adjustment and you’re back to sleep.
You CAN return to work full-time and continue breastfeeding. I only know two moms (personally, not including blog land) who have continued to feed their baby breastmilk while working full-time. If you’re like me and need a boost of encouragement that it can be done. I’m here. Ten months and counting.
It really is the best thing. Regardless of what Victoria’s Secret says, I’m pretty sure I’ve got these knockers for a particular reason – to feed my baby. It’s the most natural and beautiful experience and even with all the bumps along the way I wouldn’t trade what we have. Plus … we’ve saved money (although I should take out stock in nursing pads) and Jemma and I have benefited from all the health perks of breastfeeding – hooray!
Formula isn’t necessarily your 2nd option. When I returned to work I was dead set on only giving Jemma breastmilk. But, I knew from others that pumping/working and breastfeeding don’t naturally go hand in hand. Hence, I researched what our 2nd option would be. I learned that mama’s milk from the breast is the best option, mama’s pumped milk is next, another mama’s milk is third and finally, formula. In the olden days, if a mama needed to supplement a wet nurse was readily available. In these technology times Facebook offers Eats on Feets and Human Milk for Human Babies which allow mamas with extra milk to connect with mamas who need milk. I also liked the idea of making my own goat’s milk formula. Again, education is power. You never know what options are out their until you look for them.
What you pump doesn’t equal what your baby eats. Babies are experts at nursing, it’s their job and source of survival. Pumps do their best to mimic nursing, but it just isn’t the same. Hence, what you pump will usually be less than what your baby eats. Breathe a sigh of relief.
Set small goals and go from there. Nursing goals will be different for everyone, but I feel like it is really good to have them. Some of mine have been …
- Make it through the night without leaking through my bra/top/towel/sheets.
- Hit 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding before introducing solids.
- Donate my excess pumped milk to another mama/baby in need through Eats on Feets.
- And now, follow baby-led weaning until Jemma and I are mutually ready to end our nursing relationship.
Breastfeeding is an evolving relationship. Nursing a newborn is very different than nursing a 10 month old. When Jemma was a wee bit I had to sit up to nurse; I wrapped the Boppy around my waist and had 3 burp clothes at the ready – one under her chin, one over my shoulder and one just in case. I sprayed, she choked, and we did our best to not drench the couch/bed before mealtime was over. By 4 months (when I returned to work) we had a pretty good routine and the spraying was under control. Around 6 months she became the-most-distractible-baby-ever-born and now we can only nurse is a very quiet room with low lights, no interruptions and preferably a fan providing the calming white noise that says “focus on eating, focus on eating”. What will come next? Only the breastfeeding gods know …
So … now that we’ve completed an entire quilt while discussing breastfeeding, I’ve discovered that I have a little more to share. Keep your eye out for:
P.S. Thanks to Lacy for inspiring me through her post, The Honest Truth About Breastfeeding.
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