*This post is not meant to provide medical advice or be a substitute for a medical professional or lactation consultant. These are simply things I have learned after my own breastfeeding experiences.
Breastfeeding. it's supposed to be the most natural thing in the world. I mean our bodies were perfectly created to grow a baby, deliver it safely into the world, and then continue to nourish it with every single thing it needs. However, for one reason or another, breastfeeding doesn't necessarily come naturally. At least not to everyone.
I've written before about my struggles with nursing Caleb, especially at the beginning. I knew from the start of this pregnancy that there were a few things I didn't do correctly the first time around that I needed to correct from day 1 with Chloe. In the post I linked above, I mention how I was determined to make it work, and was able to make it work because of that determination, and in spite of having people doubt me. One of the things I did differently this time was have an in-home consultation with a lactation consultant. She told me, "Breastfeeding is 90% motivation, and only 10% skill." If you truly want to breastfeed, and you are willing to put in the work at first, then you can and you will.
I'm not going to cover everything about breastfeeding in one post - that's impossible. There's so much to know. But I will tell you the most important things to remember in the first few weeks.
Breastfeeding is 90% motivation, and only 10% skill.
So there you have my biggest tips for the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. Experienced mommas, what else would you add? Leave your tips in the comments!
P.S. I get that breastfeeding is not for everyone. This post is not meant to shame those moms who choose to feed their babies formula or expressed milk. A fed baby is a healthy baby. Do what you have to do, ladies! This post is only to tell you that if you truly want to breastfeed, you can!
Okay, I'm going to come out and say it. I'm not thin. I'm actually on the heavier side. And you know what? At this point in my life, I don't care.
I have never been extraordinarily thin. Not in my entire life. Even in elementary/middle school - I was never overweight, but I always felt like I was just a little bit bigger than the other girls. I danced ballet most of my childhood, and I always felt like I was the biggest girl in class. Call it what you will, but I have always been self-conscious. My parents are both on the thin side, not because it is naturally occurring but because they have always been extra careful with what they eat.
Being a parent is hard. Being a new parent is even harder. You're subject to everyone's advice, opinions, and words of wisdom. You're confused. You're exhausted. You're trying to figure out feedings and get whatever sleep you can while there is this tiny, fragile human constantly crying and needing you. You don't leave the house for days at a time, your body doesn't feel like your own. It is hard. And one day, you think you can't do it anymore.
For me, that day came about 2 weeks after Caleb was born. My hormones were still going nuts, we were still feeding about every 2.5 hours, and there was this constant noise all around me. I was so overwhelmed. Everyone around me had nothing but the best of intentions, but it was making me crazy, because I couldn't just BE. Honestly, as helpful as it was having people come over and bring us food, I almost would have preferred a couple days where we could just adjust to life with this new tiny creature in our lives. We came home from the hospital to my parents cooking for us in our kitchen and having organized things for us (our kitchen cabinets were being installed while I was in labor so everything was out of place). My parents are do-ers. Big time. But as soon as I walked in the door, the questions started. "Where do you want this? What do you want to do with that? How are you going to display these?" I really appreciate everything they did for us and everything they continue to do, but that day, all I wanted was to snuggle my baby boy and lie down on my couch with my husband.
The next evening, we had about 10 or 12 people in our house. Eddie had gone back to work that morning. With 12 people in my house, and everyone wanting to hold the baby, I was completely frazzled. Then my milk came in. More on that another time, but if you've had a baby, you know what this feels like and you know it is not fun.
Anyway, I managed to truck through it. The following week was a blur, with constant visitors and people with the best of possible intentions wanting to help. Eventually I was honest with my mom and let her know that everything didn't need to be perfect and that what I really needed was rest. That made a huge difference and I truly wish I would have said something sooner. Everyone was excited to help, and I know that deep within my heart they were doing what they thought I wanted done. But at the end of the day, you need to be honest and direct and just tell people exactly what you need. My needs always have been, and always will be, very different from my mom's, my dad's, and even my husband's. So when I gave them an expectation, it made it a lot easier for them than just letting them try to read my mind (which we know never goes over well).
I also stopped feeling bad when people were over and would just excuse myself whenever I needed to feed him or just have a minute to breathe.
However, a few times, I would leave to nurse Caleb, and people would follow. I started to shut the door, and people would knock and come in anyway. I was struggling with nursing and I was overwhelmed and felt awkward. I wanted to be able to sit there and look at my baby or close my eyes without having to worry that someone was looking at my nipple (I eventually got over that). The anxiety would make me tense up and to this day, I don't understand how people didn't sense my discomfort. I finally told Eddie, "When I leave to nurse Caleb, if anyone gets up to follow me, you need to be the bad guy. I'm overwhelmed here and I can't get comfortable if someone is in the room with me." So he started doing that and it helped. So much.
But the following week it happened again. And the next day I lost it. A few small things had happened during the birth that I wasn't really happy with, and it honestly hadn't been what I had imagined it to be in my head. Two weeks later it all hit me like a ton of bricks and I fell apart. I spent a straight 2 hours crying, and being weepy the entire rest of the day. I would cry for any little thing. When Eddie called me, I said "I don't know what's wrong with me." I talked to a friend and she assured me that what I was feeling was very normal.
Looking back, I think any sane person would have broken down. I was at the most vulnerable point in my life, and I had zero privacy, my every move was being questioned, and I was tired. But once I broke down, and I shared my frustrations with a couple of people, things started to improve. And from then on, I became a lot more sure of myself when it came to Caleb.
So I needed that - I needed to let go of all the emotion that I had bottled up inside. I needed a good cry. And I should never have been surprised by that, because I am the kind of person who, every once in a while, needs a good cry.
It's hard to be honest with those around you. But you know what? It's even harder to try and be tough and keep everything bottled up inside. So if you're there, if you're at the point of breaking down? Let it out momma. I promise, you'll be all the better for it.
This post is so super duper long overdue. I kept putting it off because I have so much to say about this. But the more time passes, the more I realize that I don't need to say all that much. I just need to tell my story.
When I pictured having a baby, I always pictured myself nursing my child. I couldn't imagine anything else - my baby's face, what the nursery looked like, anything - but the one thing that I always saw was myself nursing a little bundle. So I set my mind on it. I took a "Breastfeeding 101" class at the hospital, I read up on as many things as I could, and I mentally prepared myself for sore nipples and leaky boobs. A couple hours after giving birth, I latched him on (he needed to go to the nursery immediately after birth so I couldn't nurse right away). Everything seemed fine, he seemed content. Fast forward a week to his one week appointment... all good, he was back up to his birth weight, feeding well, no problem! Fast forward a little more, to his one month appointment, and well, still at birth weight.
I was crushed. I was starving my child. (I wasn't really, and it certainly wasn't on purpose.)
So after being told I needed to supplement, I said okay, I'll do what I need to to get his weight back up but I will nurse him until we are both good and ready to stop - and I'm only supplementing until I absolutely have to.
It took weeks. It wasn't easy. Making milk was my full time job. I read everything I could about increasing production. I spent my extra moments baking lactation cookies, power pumping, and guzzling water like it was nobody's business. Eventually, there came a point where I didn't have to supplement any more. The day he finished nursing and rejected a bottle, I cried. I must have looked insane. But I was so happy. My hard work was paying off. For the next few months I stressed a lot over milk. I ended up going back to work when he was 3 months old and had to pump. I could only just get enough for him most days. But as a teacher, I knew I only had two months to go and then I would be able to continue nursing him through the summer. So I pushed through and I made it - pumping during every break at work, and nursing as much as I could as soon as I walked through the door in the afternoon.
I made it. And a year later, I'm still making it. Granted, I only nurse twice a day now, but after June, I didn't have to supplement once. He stayed exclusively on breast milk until 6 months, at which point we started introducing solids (very slowly).
So how did I do it? There are a few key things I did that really helped me.
Like I said, my body never responded well to the pump, but pumping definitely kept my supply going.
Kellymom.com was my greatest resource, and I got so much help from going there.
If nursing is what you really want to do, don't let anyone tell you you can't do it! A lot of women are told they don't produce enough, but then are not given the tools to help them make what they need! If I could do it, you certainly can, too. And if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask!
Breastfeeding has come fairly easily to me, but milk has not flowed in abundance, unfortunately. One of the things I have found to work are these lactation cookies, so I decided I would share the recipe. You can tweak them in any number of ways to your liking. The important ingredients are the oatmeal, flaxseed meal, and brewer's yeast (I ordered mine from Amazon but I'm pretty sure Whole Foods has this). I personally like them loaded with chocolate chips, so that's what I usually add, but you could add raisins, almonds, peanut butter, etc. They are actually much tastier than I thought they would be, and my husband has even enjoyed these as well.
Hope you enjoy as much as I have!
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies
2 tbsp Flaxseed meal (no substitutions)
4 tbsp water
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups thick cut oats
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp Brewer's Yeast