I’m going to share my breastfeeding journey with you so far because I tried to be as prepared as possible when I was pregnant for this. But there are just some things you can’t prepare for. Breastfeeding is harder than you think it will be. I’ll share my mistakes and the things that made the difference in what I thought my breastfeeding journey would be compared to what it actually is.
To start with, I thought that carrying the baby and being physically attached was over when the baby was born. Okay sure, she’ll feed on my boobs. I’ll carry her around with me a lot.
I honestly had no idea that she’d be so physically attached for hours out of every day after she was born. That I would long for time away from my baby to feel like a single individual still. And my goal is to last until her second birthday (at a minimum).
PERSPECTIVE: Understand something about me as I narrate this post. I’m the type of gal who likes her independence from people. I’m an Aquarius and I spend much time with other humans. I’m the opposite of a recluse and am extroverted. But I also, need my space to be a happy human. That being said… Let’s dive into my Breastfeeding Journey with my baby girl, CJ. I’ve been breastfeeding from the time she was born, until now (she is currently 3 months old).
Breastfeeding My Infant
From the time she was first laid on my chest, our umbilical cord still attached, I was in love. Within 5 minutes she easily latched onto my breast and my worries of breastfeeding subsided in that instant. I knew that she could do this, and so could I. That this was the way it was going to be.
They told me to expect one bowel movement and two wet diapers. And that they would encourage me to feed every two hours, starting from the minute a feed started. Okay! There is a class the following morning they encouraged us to attend. Great!
CJ was born at 11:41 pm so we had a little more than 30 hours in the hospital after a 9-hour labor (& after 48 hours of early labor). I prepared myself for a long first night. Obviously, my husband was also tired but we had a good number of family members to see too. [Gosh guys, I was so happy to pass around the baby to my family members and see their joy! She did so well, and I knew then that I was right. I had one social little butterfly on my hands.]
Anyways, we had a good night.
CJ latched very well and the pain was tolerable (after labor anything is fn* tolerable). Everything was okay with me as long as she was as healthy as she appeared to be. I could see and hear her swallow, so I felt encouraged to be in this breastfeeding journey with her.
By the time we left that class and prepared to leave the following day, we had changed 7 dirty diapers. To say the least, we were feeding champions. And I was walking out of there with no stitches and only three micro tears. I looked like I was running out of the hospital compared to the other moms who had just given birth!
STORY TIME|| Leaving the hospital is the most joyous feelings I’ve ever known. The freedom, the excitement. There is this overwhelming change within that happens when you become a woman who survives the experience of Childbirth. It’s completely life-changing. I’m a whole new woman now…
The First Week Home || Breastfeeding A Newborn
I tracked everything to do with CJ on an app. Diaper changes (wet and dirty), breastfeeding time (right and left), sleep, awake and alert modes. I could track everything on the app called Baby Daybook. (it’s awesome!)
So here’s the first thing I didn’t know about breastfeeding. It would take nearly 3 hours a day to feed her, at 20 minutes sessions on each breast between 13-16 times a day. For the first month. Ouch! Literally on the physical scale of ouch. And the time spent.
This is why there is maternity leave? This is why I’m a stay at home mom…
*Screenshots Coming Soon*
Ladies, it feels like all day.
The second thing I didn’t know about breastfeeding is how easy it is to fall into a habit of a bad latch. You care so much not to disrupt your baby, but a bad latch is not worth the pain. You’ll understand why and how it affected me soon. Although we started off well, it was still difficult to practice as she’s learning too. Straight up, breastfeeding is painful at first. And it’s really all on your baby, and their memories are just beginning to form their first paths, ever.Breastfeeding is the first thing your baby will learn by practicing. Click To Tweet
CJ and I worked really hard to have a really good latched the first week and we were doing so well. Within a week she was latching great and stayed attached for the duration of a feeding.
But even so, it is seriously painful. I only dealt with serious engorgement once during the first week and I was producing great in the morning and began to struggle at night. The nipple tissue is soft and unused to the friction and suckling.
💥 I recommend rubbing a towel across your nipples while pregnant after showers. This was a tip that would have helped a lot beginning at week 30 or so. Stroke up and down the nipple ten times at varied pressures. Some have said that this does no good at all, where some swear by it. With as much pain as there is the first few weeks, I would have done this trick for sure.
After a long day of feeding her and holding her so much, I felt like my body pittered out… And by then, my nipples hurt. They took a long time to toughen up, even with a good latch. There’s a huge adjustment and I’ve never been one to like nipple play. As well as my arms and back, from holding her up to feed. Even with pillows and help from my husband to stay comfortable. I hurt.
After two weeks I was crying at her night time feeds. My husband was feeling useless. 😓 I know he’d feed her for me if he could. And I was so craving some much-needed space. I was in an emotional state of feeling like I’m losing myself to the baby.
GETTING TO KNOW ME || I’m Lee, a fairly calm and confident type who goes with the flow. I tend o be extremely empathic and understanding. It takes a lot to get me to a state of being upset. I have an extremely loving and supportive husband. He and I have been together for 9 years, arrived for three. And we decided together to have this child.
So one night, as I sat there crying with an empty breast and a hungry newborn, we decided to try a bottle of formula, 2 ounces. I knew she may not take to it and that I was at risk of ruining our latch we worked so hard for.
But guys. CJ is such a champion. She slowly finished the two ounces and slept like a true winner. Full and satisfied. And so did I…
2 Months of My Breastfeeding Journey
And I’m Still Supplementing With Formula
I didn’t know then that this would become something I began to rely on. It became part of her routine, getting a small night time bottle before bed.
At first, I was super hard on myself and began pumping and collecting the milk I leaked everywhere in the morning with breast shells. I figured I collected enough extra in the morning to feed her if I needed to when I was “empty” during the day.
Here’s where I admit my first fault, I was uneducated about breastfeeding. I was trying to learn along the way and do the best I could. But I know now, that I was doing it wrong.
As I asked for help from my mom, friends and Facebook groups they all seemed to encourage the same things over and over.
- Power pumping
- Pumping period
- Mothers Milk Tea
- Lactation cookies
- Boobie smoothies
To be honest I gave power pumping and other variations throughout the first and second months. As well as the rest listed above.
But I still wasn’t producing enough to get through the day without supplementing formula, 2 ounces at a time, once or twice a day.
The first two months were a struggle for me. I struggled to have enough time with my husband. Struggled to find a routine for us all with the new baby (and my body back). And I struggled to produce enough milk to breastfeed throughout the day! Ah!
Finally Feeling Confident || 3 Months of Breastfeeding & Bottle Training
When the three-month mark came around, I had finally come to a few conclusions.
- I hated pumping and lacked the time. I’d rather be spending time with my baby.
- I was not an over producer and that’s okay.
- I accept that I under produce milk.
- My baby was a good little eater. Breast or bottle, she was happy. So I’m happy.
- She’s super healthy and I know she’s getting enough to eat from me and the formula. It fills any gap for her that I can’t.
- Within a few months, she’ll be able to eat real food and continue getting milk from me. And that is exciting! And will be here sooner than I think. Time just flies by.
With that said, I did find some things that worked for me during this breastfeeding journey too!
- I eat oatmeal almost every day now. And I love it. It does help!
- I drink no more than one cup of coffee a day.
- Babies enjoy a routine. Figuring out a regular schedule was well worth the effort I put into making a routine for us to follow. For nap times, eating, music, play, and socialization with other people.
- Instead of pumping, I let her hang out on me for however long she wants. Whether she’s eating or not for an extra 10 minutes. I let her completely drain the milk ducts.
- I also let her snooze on the boob for the extra suckling (and cuddling) before her long afternoon nap and in the middle of the night.
I have finally stopped beating myself over supplementing.
My daughter is so close to four months old right now. And it took me this long to do the research. To figure out what works for us. To accept that I have a happy and healthy child, and that’s more than I could ever ask for.
One of the main reasons we wanted to breastfeed is to save money. And honest we have six free sample formula containers we went through and I just bought my first formula last week. So we’ve still managed to save a ton of money!
These days a majority of her feeding comes from me! We supplement 2-3 times a day, usually only 3 ounces at a time. That’s pretty good still considering on average a baby 3-4 months old should get around 30 ounces in a day! And I’m so happy about that. I’m happy to feed her all I got.I have finally stopped beating myself over supplementing. My baby is healthy and so am I! Click To Tweet
But there are also some benefits to being a milk “under producer”. Let’s discuss them.
The Benefits of Underproducing Breasts. Seriously 😎
- I don’t leak everywhere all the time now. So I can go braless! I’ve been a hippy like that for about 5 years now, so I’m super happy that I can go without a bra. My boobs aren’t sagging and still have much bounce and perk to them. And my nipples get air so they never crack or bleed. There’s some awesome new science that says that bras do not actually help support your breasts (+) but hinder the skin from being elastic and perky. That breasts that go braless are actually perkier and have a healthier natural bounce than those who wear a bra 24/7.
- Since I’ve chosen to supplement and not have a crazy pumping regulation I’m not in danger of blood clots and blockages that pumping can cause. I can and will pump during the times I’m not around the baby while she should be feeding (if being babysat by someone). But I’m not having to take an hour or more out of my days when I can be handling my child instead.
- And finally, she feeds from a bottle like a pro. We use the 🛒 Avent Bottles and Nipples because they are affordable and shaped and designed to mimic the breast. They have because they have served us so well in our breastfeeding journey so far. 💥 I’d recommend them to anyone who is also breastfeeding and supplementing with milk or formula.
- Within a month others began to offer to feed her the bottle for me. I am so happy she gets to have this with other people too, especially Daddy. The other people like my sister and mom, too who will most likely be doing a serious amount of babysitting for me! Let the friendships and bonding begin. Because I know I’m not the only important person to my child. And now she can begin to know that too by sharing this special part of life, eating, with other people. If feel strongly that IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD.
Now on to probably the most important part of this whole post…
What I Wish I Knew Then, That I Know Now
There are a few things that I think would have made the difference to me and CJ and our breastfeeding journey had I known at the beginning. Are you having trouble producing like I was? Please keep reading.
- How to establish the best latch and stick to it
- When to switch sides and how often.
- The difference between foremilk and hindmilk.
- The importance of feeding on demand and leaving them to suckle, even when you feel empty.
- What to eat and drink to establish good production in the first month of breastfeeding.
- How to properly care for your nipples.
- When to start pumping for optimal production results.
- How your breasts change in the first two months of breastfeeding.
This is a lot to cover so I’m just going to jump into these topics and see what we can learn today. I encourage you though, to do more research. Much of what I learned is from Pinterest articles from other mom blogs and breastfeeding Facebook Groups.
Feeding the Baby
Learn how to establish a good latch because this is seriously important to your sanity, and will save you a lot of pain. You know you have a good latch if it doesn’t hurt and the baby has the whole entire nipple inside of their mouth. You really have to work on stuffing the whole nipple in there for them the first few weeks. You have to get used to unlatching if it isn’t right. Even if it pisses the baby off. Seriously, get it right and work on it constantly. Baby will thank you for it the entirety of your breastfeeding journey I promise you.
This is something I was doing wrong. Straight up. I’d feed her on one side until it was totally dry and then call it good. I’d wait for another feed and give her that side until it was gone. Hoping that my other side would fill up enough by the next feed.
I was trying to save what I had for later instead of feeding her until she was full.
You must start your journey by offering one side until its completely empty. Then always offer the other side. By doing this you ensure that your baby is getting plenty of foremilk, the really liquidy stuff that eases their thirst. And after a letdown or two, the hindmilk is suckled out. And that’s the really good stuff. The sticky and thick “liquid gold” that contains much of the fats and nutrients you’re baby needs (especially to sleep well). But it takes time and effort to suckle out. So even when your let down has stopped and they continue to suckle, know that they are still taking in that hindmilk!
Finally, there will come the time when it really is empty and you can’t even hand express any more out. Time to burp the kid and switch sides. Letting them eat as much as you can.
I was worried about not having enough for later. In turn, I was not emptying each breast so much body was trained to under produce milk…
Seriously. That’s what happened. In the early months I was not emptying both sides at each feed and so my body didn’t think it needed to produce enough throughout the day. And as soon as I began the nightly bottle routine for bedtime, again my body thought it need not produce after 6 pm.
Morning VS. Evening Breast Feeding.
As adults, we’ve all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The same is true for your baby!
In the middle of the night, she wakes up for a quick little, super tired snack and goes back down until morning. And by 7 am, she’s hungry. She tries to eat a lot but never goes through one whole breast.
Second Breakfast Time?
As part of our routine she plays or talks or bounces through her first hour of being awake before its meal time. She always finishes both sides completely. And this is always when I have the most milk of the entire day. After all, I’ve had nearly 12 hours to produce milk!
What I wish I knew about evening feeds early on in my Breastfeeding Journey was that throughout the day the hindmilk left behind throughout the day gets stuck in your milk ducts. It becomes so thick that your baby gets more hindmilk at night than during the day. And that your body is meant to produce this thicker milk more throughout the day as you eat.
Saving the best for last, your baby’s dinner may not be as much in volume as in the morning (lots of foremilk). As dinner time is a lot more hindmilk that takes more time to suckle out little bit by little bit.
Hindmilk is what helps babies sleep better and longer. And they feel much fuller as if they are eating meat and potatoes (calories and fats) versus some milk and cereal (hydrating nutrients and enzymes).
If I had understood this, then I do t think I would have thought I was empty when I really was not! I just wasn’t “as full” as in the morning. Because the consistency of foremilk and hindmilk is like the difference of milk versus yogurt or sour cream.
If I think back to my first few weeks when I’d feel empty but could still hand express some milk out. Worried that my baby couldn’t suck it out herself. The reality was, she could and she would if I had the patience.
The was my problem though. Patience after a long day, adjusting to having a newborn and not being fully educated about breastfeeding like this post describes so thoroughly. Now I know.
Let Them Suckle.
With that said, I’m not one to do this. I can’t stand pumping and to set the baby down to do so, multiple times a day. To fix my problems, I’d have to regularly pump every two hours or so for weeks. And MAYBE fix my problems with production. I am choosing not to. Supplementing formula is what works for me. It’s quick, it’s healthy, it allows her to create better bonds with other humans.
So what do I do instead of pump?
I let her suckle on me. She’s always had a bad habit of falling asleep on me. Something I tried to “fix” about her at first, but now rely on. When I was going through all the effort to try to fix my production issues, dreaming about Exclusively Breastfeeding, I tried many things.
What I noticed was that, if I let her hang out on the boob, I had better production. Whether it was on-demand because she was still hungry or because she wanted cuddles. Or fell asleep after a large letdown. I let her stay attached for an extra 10-15 minutes.
Now that she’s older, she spends time just flirting with me and the nipple. She’ll un-attach and relatch every few seconds in between big old smiles. It’s the cutest thing and we greatly enjoy each other during this play.
And it really helps my production. Just as much as pumping for 10 minutes after every feed (which is highly recommended by everyone I was asking).
And, I know she’s getting every bit of hindmilk she can possibly get. I can’t express anything by the time she’s truly done eating. So I know, she got it all!
Supply & Demand
I don’t regret giving myself some relief from the pain when we began supplementing. I really don’t. It hurt so bad and I needed a break. Keyword there is I. I needed a break.
But I should have pumped during the times I gave her a bottle. It would have kept up my supply and I would have been able to feed my baby my milk exclusively if I had kept up on it.
Instead, I chose to take a break completely during g those times and chose not to pump at these times. My choice, my bad. But if you’re trying to do this right, then I suggest any new mom pump after the first feed in the morning (when you produce the most) and at night after the bays in bed. This ensures your body understands that your baby needs milk at night too.
Your body makes milk faster when you’re empty. And not as fast when you have milk left! This is what killed me. Not switching because my body was trained to not produce quickly, even though I needed to. That’s why you pump. To stimulate production like your baby does and drain your ducts so that they produce more, quickly.
Pumping is not just for building a milk stash. For those who have problems producing milk, pumping helps to tell your body you need more milk. Completely draining your breast and them pumping for an extra 10 minutes after feeds did help my milk production. I’ve just chosen to not bother and continue to supplement.
What to eat.
The most important thing I noticed that affected my supply on a daily basis honestly was not what I ate. It was how much I ate.
Once again, there’s so much you don’t realize will change, or not change. Like, I thought once the baby was out of me, that my appetite would subside again and go back to normal. But no. I feel that I actually have MORE OF AN APPETITE SINCE BABY WAS BORN. OMG. Do I still have to eat for two? Yes, yes you do.
I eat a lot of oatmeal every week. I go through so much oatmeal, maple syrup and brown sugar that I’m afraid to think about how many pounds I’ve gone through the last three months.
Other than that I eat what I normally would before I was pregnant. I just eat more of it. I have two servings. And I still accept whatever food people offer me. And I’m never shy about when I’m hungry.
I’ve had days where I failed to eat enough. And guess who noticed most? My baby did the next day when I failed to produce enough milk… What can I say? I have made some mistakes and learned from them. Here I am sharing them with you. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes.
What to drink.
Kind of like food it’s not what you drink, it’s how much. I have found that more than one cup of coffee a day dehydrates me. It takes me all day to finish a cup. And whether I have left past 3 pm (when my husband gets home, let’s be honest), I toss out.
I also read that you should drink an excessive amount of water while breastfeeding. For a while there I became obsessed with drinking enough water. This much by this time, this much by that time. And felt so bad about it if I forgot to finish the bottle of water before my time limit. Granted, being hydrated is important to production. But drinking an excessive amount can actually do more harm than good.
What ended this obsession of tracking my water intake was when my pregnant friend came home from a nutritionist meeting after being told she was drinking too much water and thus had too much fluid. This surprised me so much that I went back to drinking a more regular amount of water every day. What is recommended for the average woman my age? 2.5 liters! And I found that it actually helped my production more that week by drinking enough water without drinking too much water.
I also widened my selection back out to include juices again like I had when I was pregnant. And I felt so much happier to not be drinking JUST water and JUST coffee.
I’m still staying away from soda as I’ve had an addiction to Pepsi in the past. So I limit myself on soda unless I’m at a social event or restaurant in which it is served as a beverage. But I never bring it home with me and is never going to be a habit again.
Caring for Yourself
Taking care of your Breasts and Nipples.
It’s a thing, they need some love. I now take time to massage my breasts multiple times a day. And while breastfeeding, I’ve found that it’s beneficial to hold and lightly compress my breast to help drain it completely to get all the hindmilk drained well from my breast.
The minute after your done with a feed and your nipple hurts, use an organic nipple care such as Earth Mama Nipple Butter or Motherlove Nipple Cream. And if you want to go truly all natural coconut oil works great mixed with a little bit of your milk expressed. But personally, I found that the nipple butter works better for me!
How your breasts change during pregnancy and beyond.
At the very beginning, I admitted there were so many things I didn’t know about breastfeeding. Probably the number one thing I wish I knew was how much they will continue to change after pregnancy.
During the first 2 days, they are just producing colostrum. The milk that your brand new baby needs the first 24-36 hours. Then your milk comes in and most women experience engorgement.
I thought engorgement was something that came and went throughout your journey but it turns out most engorgement happens when your milk supply comes in that first week.
Your body seems to produce the most milk possible during engorgement. And then your body does the math on how much baby actually uses to establish your supply for the duration of your breastfeeding journey. (Reread the section Switching Sides above.) Make sure you start your journey at these times by offering each breast at every opportunity. Beginning to pump within the first week to drain your breasts completely will help you become a better milk producer.
After your body figures out how much milk your baby needs, or rather what it Doesn’t Need… Then they go back to normal, to almost what they were before pregnancy.
My breasts now are squishy again, they feel like my boobs. They just have this super power of producing food for my baby. When I’m full and ready to feed, sure they’re a little heavy. When they are empty after a feed, they sure do deflate a little sure. But overall, I am surprised that I get my boobs back! They don’t stay weird and lumpy and heavy and strange for very long before returning to normal.
… Or maybe you just get used to them and their uses after a few months. Either way, I feel normal again.
It took a minute to adjust to having a newborn and breastfeeding. I hope I’ve been able to keep you entertained and maybe you even learned something about breastfeeding. Whether your a new mom and doing all research right now about How To Breastfeed! Or your worried because you think your not producing enough. Maybe your reading this because your breastfeeding journey with your first child was a struggle or you had to quit early.
Keep going. Don’t give up when it gets hard or painful. I didn’t have any issues with my baby’s latch or any other problems other than what’s mentioned in this post. But it was still, SO difficult at times. I just encourage you to keep practicing. Don’t beat yourself up too bad. Continue to learn and educate yourself. And don’t forget to ask for help and guidance if you need it. There is a lot of help out there to support your Breastfeeding Journey!
(+) I Fucking Love Science || http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/no-bra-day-special-are-bras-bad-you
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If you learned something about breastfeeding please share this journey.
What is something you underestimated about your breastfeeding journey? Comment below