*Euphemism. Also — this post might be a bit much if you have not breastfed before; proceed at your own caution. (AKA: Dad, please stop reading here.) But one aspect of motherhood that has been deeply gratifying is bonding with other mothers who are going through the same thing — and hearing how they approached various snafus and learning that I am not alone in the wild swing of my emotions. And so I thought it might be helpful to share my experience over the past month…
*And separately, in the photo above, Hill is wearing these Roller Rabbit jammies. I always get a lot of questions when readers see him wearing them in my instastories! (Also available in a onesie/hat/blanket bundle here.) I adore this brand. Spendy, but they last! I find that they run TTS until maybe a year and then I have always needed to size up. Mini wears a size 4 currently.
Honestly, if you’d asked me what I wanted for my birthday some time last week, I probably would have said “a few hours where I am showered and not wearing nursing clothes.” I have felt like a total schlub the past few weeks; I’d forgotten how unkempt nursing makes you feel, with all of the soaking through clothes and pulling things down and up and chafing and applying ointments and pumping and — ugh. I feel constantly “undone,” even with the cutest nursing dresses!
But then I had a freak out. Micro started fussing at the breast at every feed, latching and then unlatching in fury, writhing around in what I deemed to be ravenous hunger. I was perplexed and upset — what was going on? Because I have had an undersupply**, I have had to supplement with formula at every feed and so, over the course of that day, after five minutes of having him latch, become enraged, and then push away from me in anger, I would often give him the bottle. I’d heard somewhere that if infants are very hungry, you might start them with the bottle and then switch to the breast, but even switching midway through the feed seemed to upset him. So then I tried pumping and found — to my shock — that virtually nothing was coming out. What was happening to my supply?!
Oh, magpies, how I fretted, tearfully. (I had also had a particularly exhausting prior night, up every hour or so to feed or change or soothe the baby, and I think the sleeplessness was wearing me thin.) I was suddenly terrified I’d never be able to breastfeed him again and there I’d been, blithely marching through my days complaining about feeling “unkempt” when I’d had no idea how brief my breastfeeding days would be, and how much I’d miss them once they were gone.
But let me backtrack and explain the ** above.
No one knows anything about breastfeeding.
This is my informed opinion after two babies and countless conversations with friends, doctors, and lactation consultants, all of whom will give you differing opinions and advice.
In the hospital, I felt that breastfeeding was going swimmingly. Micro latched immediately in the recovery room and fed happily for hours every day. I took a breastfeeding class and met with a lactation consultant several times just to brush up and ensure that I remained humbled in this pursuit. I did pick up some tips, but I was also slightly miffed at the lack of concern the hospital seemed to have about the fact that I’d just had a c-section. For the class, the consultant was standing at the door of a room at the end of a corridor, waiting for me to push my bassinet into the room, and I felt as though she was waving me on as if to say: “Hurry up, slowpoke,” when I was, in fact moving as quickly as I could, bent over at a 45 degree angle in pain. Then I was asked to weave in and out of chairs and told to plop a pillow into my lap, horrifyingly close to my incision — this was within maybe 30 hours of having my son, and so I’d barely walked let alone sat upright in a chair. Of course, the movement proved to be good. It is true what “they” say: moving around expedites the recovery process, but it is never what I want to hear and “they” tends to be people who have never had a c-section and therefore do not know the agony of walking for the first few times, when it feels borderline superhero-esque to do so. (Also, I had a nasty cough and it was so, so hard to get through those coughs the first few days; I remember coughing midway down the walk to that class and I thought my stitches were going to tear open. Oh!) (Also, I just felt like complaining.) (Also, I think I was entitled to said miffedness.) Anyway, I kept telling Mr. Magpie how well nursing was going and how happy I was about it.
Then, on the third day, the nurses informed me that my son had lost nearly 9% of his birth weight and that they wanted me to supplement him with formula — “just until your milk comes in.” Apparently it is cause for concern if the baby drops below 10% of his birthweight, and so I nodded serenely. “OK, if this is what needs to happen, this is what needs to happen. Fed is best.” The next day, the lactation consultant swung by to check in on me and I explained the new protocol.
“Oh. Oh no.”
My heart dropped.
“Well, it’s just — if you feed him formula, you’re basically telling your body not to produce the milk he needs, and it will be hard for your body to catch up. I wouldn’t worry about his current weight — just keep breastfeeding.”
I was in a quandary. Ultimately, I decided to follow my instincts and continued to supplement with formula at most feedings, especially if he seemed alert and hungry after finishing the nursing portion of his meal. I reasoned that I’d rather have a satisfied and growing baby than prioritize my personal preference to breastfeed him. And having a full, happy baby also meant that he would sleep longer and be calmer in general — a win/win, I estimated.
And so we supplemented at every feed.
When we took him to the pediatrician at five days of age, he’d gained back a lot of the weight he’d lost, and had even gained two ounces since leaving the hospital the day prior.
“That’s wonderful!” she intoned. I explained my goal of exclusively breastfeeding and she suggested that I “play around” with how much formula I gave him. “See if he seems satisfied with just your breastmilk; if he’s still fussy, feed him formula until your milk comes in.”
And so I tried for days to just breastfeed him and supplement when it seemed necessary. But suddenly I found myself feeding him every hour — sometimes even more frequently. I thought he was cluster feeding for comfort, but gradually it became obvious that he was just not getting enough and was extremely hungry. When I switched back to nursing and then following with formula, we eased back into a more manageable two-to-three hour cycle: he fed, I changed him and rocked him, he slept. Lather, rinse, repeat. Any time I’d drop the formula, he’d be fussing hungrily within an hour.
Well, OK. We were back to where I was with mini: a chronic undersupply. Selfishly, this discovery pleased me, as it suggested to me that I hadn’t in fact botched mini’s nursing by willfully refusing to attend breastfeeding classes prior to her birth, but that my body simply could not produce the amount of milk needed to support a growing newborn. I felt — and how outrageous is this? — a small parcel of guilt dissolve into thin air, and hadn’t even realized I’d been toting it around all this time. “Ah, that’s better,” I thought, happy not to have been totally at fault for the complexity of feeding mini.
When I took micro back to the pediatrician for his two week check-up, we saw another doctor in the practice owing to a scheduling issue. The pediatrician suggested I reintroduce pumping to help with supply — the same old song and dance that had sent me to the border of madness with mini. For those uninitiated, the idea is that pumping after feeding your child will tell your body to keep producing milk (breastfeeding is all about supply and demand), and even if nothing comes out at first, eventually the body will start producing enough to keep up. And so your day looks like this:
-7 AM: Breastfeed baby.
-7:20 AM: Pass baby off to husband to feed bottle while he is inevitably also trying to console your toddler, make breakfast, brew coffee, clean up a spill, keep the airedale out of the trash (“who left the bathroom door open?”), answer a work email, and maintain some semblance of humor amidst it all.
-7:25 AM: Jam the pump parts into place, change quickly into pumping bra, settle in on the couch, pump for 15 minutes while attempting to parent your toddler. Believe me when I say that ultimatums do not carry the same weight when delivered from a supine position, hooked up to a machine whose whir will haunt my dreams. Every threat feels half-assed. “Do not test me,” I say, as I sit, immobilized, strapped to a machine, entirely unable to follow through on threats of discipline.
-7:40 AM: Take baby out of husband’s hands to burp him and rock him to sleep. Eat three bites of cold, leftover egg from toddler’s breakfast plate while singing Frozen and cajoling daughter to have her diaper changed. Look down and realize you are still wearing a pumping bra (no shirt) and pajama pants with yogurt smeared down the side.
-8 AM: Swaddle sleeping baby and place in bassinet.
-8:05 AM: Rush to stow expressed milk in fridge and scrub all pump parts; leave to dry in kitchen.
-8:15 AM: Dazedly complete a mix of tidying up, brushing teeth, putting in contacts, playing with toddler, occasionally soothing baby, etc.
-8:55 AM: Take a breath. Because the loop is about to repeat.
-9 AM: Breastfeed baby.
Basically, you have little windows of maybe 30 or 40 minutes to get life done. Meanwhile, your breasts are sore, you are constantly changing in and out of the pumping bra, you are always cleaning the pump parts at the sink, while occasionally losing track of a piece or two and then dazedly attempting to jam them together as you wonder what you are doing with your life, and — for some reason, even if you are sitting next to your family while doing it, you find the pump horribly isolating and…demeaning? I can’t articulate why, but I truly hate pumping.
But, I took a deep breath and decided I’d try to pump to help with supply on a more limited basis. The doctor reasonably suggested I try pumping after daytime feeds — and just for a week, to see what would happen. I agreed, knowing I’d love to be able to feed him entirely on my own and deciding that it was worth the effort.
So for four days, I tried the pattern. I found it was incredibly difficult to stick to the routine with visitors coming and going and feeds often falling at highly inconvenient times — like right when mini was having a meltdown or getting ready for bed or just as we were about to have dinner. And so I was lax about it, and would try as best I could to squeeze in a few pumping sessions each day but not kill myself if I missed a few opportunities.
On the fourth day, my supply plummeted and I found myself wrangling a very unhappy baby, as I outlined at the start. I was completely confused — shouldn’t the pumping be helping?! And now I had destroyed my supply?!
I racked my brain. I searched for answers online. I wept to my angel sister, who sat on my couch and reassured me that it would all work out and that I was doing my best besides, although I couldn’t accept what she was saying and could only focus on the fact that I felt as though I was failing my son. I puzzled it out with Mr. Magpie. At first I thought I needed to be drinking more water. Maybe I was dehydrated?! And so I challenged myself to drink a full glass of water at every single feed. I also doubled down on the galactagogues, eating oatmeal and oat bars and drinking mother’s milk tea as often as possible. And then I thought back to the fact that he’d been awake every hour or so the night prior. Maybe he was extra hungry and going through a growth spurt? And so I was depleted because he’d sucked me dry? But this didn’t seem to explain why he wouldn’t latch for more than a few seconds without refusing me — and why I’d then be unable to pump anything, even though he’d not been nursing for long. And then I thought maybe he was angry with the speed of my let-down or flow because he was getting used to drinking from bottles. Mr. Magpie noted that there had been some “1 speed” nipples mixed in with the “0 speed” nipples, and maybe he’d gotten spoiled by the faster flow. Meanwhile, I observed that he seemed extra gassy — maybe it was the gas that was bothering him rather than anything about breastfeeding per se? Maybe I had eaten something that was upsetting him? Maybe the formula was messing with him? What if it was an allergy or intolerance that was just rearing its head now that he was drinking more and more formula? Finally, as I cried to Mr. Magpie about how exhausted I was by everything, adding that things had been better before we’d introduced the pumping to the mix — at least I was at peace with things and felt I was in a rhythm! — he mused that maybe the added stress of trying to produce more milk and sitting in a separate room and rushing around trying to get pumps in every day had left me stressed and therefore unable to produce as much milk, knowing — as a tenured dad — that much of nursing is psychological.
There were too many factors to consider, too many moving parts. And a girlfriend told me that her supply had slowed to a trickle one day and she’d had a similar freak out — but that it had returned 24 hours later, without any major changes to her diet or approach — and that maybe these things…just happen?
I do not know. I do not know!
But we decided a few things. First: that I would stop pumping, as we felt it was introducing way too much chaos and stress. Second: that we would try to only use 0 speed nipples. And third: that I would try to focus all of my energy on just feeding micro. “Let everything else go, Jennie. You’re putting way too much pressure on yourself. Your biggest job is caring for Hill. So just focus on that,” Mr. Magpie said. And so from 9 PM that night to 9 AM the following morning, I laid in bed and snuggled and nursed him. And things seemed to click back into place. At the 3 A.M. feed, I nearly cried when he happily latched and stayed latched. Yes, I still had to supplement, but there wasn’t the furious fussing at the breast. Two days later, he will still occasionally fuss during daytime feeds and so I find myself giving him the bottle earlier than I’d like on occasion. Sometimes I pump afterwards, knowing he’s not taken much from me, and am surprised to find nearly 2 oz. This says to me that maybe it’s more about let-down or flow speed, as he will almost always happily take the bottle instead. But then other times I persist in putting him back on the breast again and again and he eventually settles down — and those times, I think it’s more about gas pain that’s keeping him from latching for a longer period of time, or perhaps that I need to catch him before he gets too hungry.
So again. Who knows. I certainly don’t and no one else seems to, so I’ll continue to troubleshoot and beat myself up and worry just like every other nursing mother out there.
But my points are these:
1 // Breastfeeding is hard and confusing and there never seems to be just one solution. Ask three experts for advice and you’ll get three different answers. So go easy on yourself and do your best. Troubleshoot. Also, trust your instincts. (I followed none of this advice — I was in fact dreadfully hard on myself — and it was rough-going. Take it from me. Although: easier said than done.)
2 // Just a week ago, I was flippantly complaining about feeling “unkempt” while nursing — and now I find myself grateful for the disarray. Maybe not comfortable with it, but grateful for it. The entire experience was a reminder to count my blessings. Every single one of them. Even that bleary 3 a.m. feed.
Some new discoveries for my fellow nursing/pumping mamas:
+So many Rachel Pally dresses accommodate us; this is super pretty.
+This would work if you’re comfortable with pulling down the top. I’d wear this specifically for pumping — you can slide your arms out the sleeves and pull down without having to step in/out or button anything. This fun little frock or this voluminous Marysia would work for similar reasons.
+OMG this Persifor dress is perfection! I love the forgiving shape, the button front, and all of the fun prints it comes in.
+This clever dress is under $50 — the hidden “easy access” detail is genius!
+Perfect for nursing and beyond — in nearly any circumstance. Wear with chic sneaks and huge shades or with smart flats and pearls or…well, virtually anything.
+You can never have enough of these loose-fitting boy shirts. Order a few sizes up to be extra roomy (and generous to yourself).
+If I had my druthers, I’d be wearing my favorite nursing nightgown and this robe all the live-long day.
+Not nursing friendly, but friendly to a pregnant or postpartum figure: this dress.
+If you are trying to build your supply, I think this mother’s milk tea works. With mini, I really liked these bars, but I found them less edible this go around — no idea why. I was just sort of choking them down, unhappily. I now eat any granola bar with oats in them. I have also heard via Hitha’s community that Mrs. Patel’s has some amazing galactagogue-packed snacks and teas.
+Non-maternity and non-nursing finds (if you fit this category and made it thus far in the post, I applaud you): this gorgeous dress, this darling clutch, and these happy jammies, which look a lot like a Liberty London print.
+Some great, inexpensive fashion finds for under $120.
+These must-have summer sandals (I’ve been seeing these everywhere) are now discounted below $200.
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35 thoughts on “Adventures* in Nursing.”
Jen – I am a brand new momma (a week out from my delivery – in what world!) and I wanted to drop you a line to say how incredibly powerful I have found your content to be. There is no other source online that I find myself so constantly turning to in the course of this pregnancy and my new found mothering. Your writing is truly a gift to those of us who follow your journey and have made me feel so much less alone. Thank you for taking the time to reflect so deeply on your own journey and to share it so very vulnerably in this public space. It is a blessing from afar and a balm in the midst of these bleary, tear-filled early mornings when I’m struggling with a latch or feeling generally overwhelmed with the magnitude and relentless of newborn life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Amy! Thank you so much for the sweet note. Sending you all the good vibes as you adjust to motherhood (you got this! it’s really chaotic in the early days, but it will smooth out!) Please feel free to chime in on what else you’d like to read about here. Thank you again for the generous words. Happy we found each other. xxx
“Borderline superhero-esque” — this is what I feel you, and every other mother, are. This is a beautiful post and really opened my eyes to some of the challenges of early motherhood. I am not sure I’ll ever have the chance to experience the same things, but I love the way you write about them.
Aw thank you – that means a lot. I always worry that my increasing focus on parenting/motherhood/pregnancy/etc will alienate my readers who are not traveling the same journey. This makes me happy. Thanks for your encouragement.
Just wanted to say this was a great post- reminded me of many similar confusion/frustration I experienced in the early days with my now 1 year old baby. Mine came early so I did like 2 weeks of “triple feeds” (breast feed,then pump, then feed the baby). It was exhausting and miserable! Luckily he then was able to transition to breastfeeding only. Don’t envy trying to figure out what is best, sounds like you are doing a great job.
Thank you, Erica!!! I know lots of moms have been through this rigmarole and it’s encouraging to hear that you succeeded in getting to your goal. Even if I do not, I still appreciate that other women have “been there, done that” and can empathize with the challenge of it all. xxx
Thank you so much for writing this. Our nursing journeys are very different but also exactly the same, and it is wonderfully reassuring to read.
Aw – thanks, Sarah. It seems like everyone has her own journey. I was just marinating on some of the intense expectations I had set for myself w/r/t breastfeeding for both babies and I think that not only does culture/society make me feel as though “fed is best…but really breast is best” (ugh), but that since my mother was able to BF all five of her children, I had wanted in some way to live up to her example, or had internalized her example as “what was natural.” This, in spite of the fact that my mom is the MOST supportive and encouraging when it comes to figuring out the balance. In fact, she was the one who told me quietly, calmly, that maybe I should consider just using formula. Not that she was trying to sway me but that she was trying to show me that there was no “wrong” and that I shouldn’t drive myself insane on a quest to breastfeed Emory (and then Hill) exclusively. Anyway, a lot of this post and the comments to it have left me musing over where we get our inspiration/expectations from and how to deal with them, especially when they aren’t nefarious! Does that make sense? A lot to unpack…xxx
I read your post early yesterday morning and have been thinking about it since then. I was hoping to offer comfort. When I’m in a quandary I often wonder what an outside person would do – isn’t it just SO simple to look at another issue that does not concern you physically or emotionally and know exactly what to do?
I kept thinking about your writing and wondered:
What are your hopes?
A happy and healthy baby. Of course.
But how? What is your journey?
Is breastfeeding important to YOU or to HIM? Yes, it is a special bond that only the two of you share, but as you look at mini, aren’t there SO MANY other bonds you two also share as well?
When you have more than one child, your focus shifts. You no longer have the ability to be 100% focused on one – someone else needs you. Your husband needs you. AND YOU need yourself too! So what to do?
There is no right answer here. Try to figure out a solution that brings the most comfort. The horrible cycle of nursing/pumping eventually ends, but the middle is so trying. Find a way to make peace with whatever you decide to do. It will be so freeing!
Hi Anna! Thank you so much for writing in on this front and affording such a worthy sense of perspective on it all. I agree especially with the comment that it’s not just me and Hill. It’s also me, full stop. It’s also my husband. It’s also Emory. So I need to figure out a solution that works for everyone. Right now, I feel pretty comfortable with the balance we’re running but even still, I wonder every day if I’ve chosen to do a disservice to Hill by not trying to pump after every session because, well, who knows. Nutrition / expectations / desire to bond / etc.
Anyway, thanks for writing in and giving me the space to step back and assess things more holistically.
Yes, no one knows anything about breastfeeding other people’s children (I’m especially lookin at you, male practitioners and 25 y/o lactation consultants)! And we do know that babies need to eat. The breast is best dogma infuriates me. From my anecdotal surveys, happy mom=happy baby (obviously talking about healthy babies here), so do what makes you happy!
Love that — happy mom = happy baby! True. xx
I too am trying to nurse, pump. and bottle-feed a 7-week-old while trying to convince my 2-year-old to use her inside voice, and I really appreciated your post. Nice to know it’s not just me! One product that has helped me with the back-and-forth between nursing and pumping is this bra: https://www.kindredbravely.com/products/hands-free-pumping-bra?variant=19450046939232. At least, I don’t have to switch bras in the middle and at the end!
Ooh thank you, Betsy! Yay! And thanks for the empathy — glad there are other folks in my exact same shoes who can appreciate the challenge 🙂
This post brings me right back to those early days after my son was born. Emotions running high and simply putting so much pressure on myself. I remember calling the lactation consultant hotline when it was about to close for the weekend, leaving a teary voicemail. I must have sounded so desperate because the consultant took pity on me and met me there the next morning.
For me, nursing was the hardest part of the transition to motherhood, and I had a similar experience where I had every intention of nursing my son, but he lost 11% of his body weight (after only weighing 6 pounds when he was born), so I began to do the nurse/pump/supplement dance where you feel like the only thing you do is feed your baby all day long. I remember going in to see the pediatric nurse practitioner who told us “isn’t it so fortunate that you have this time with your son,” encouraging me to nurse/pump for an hour and twenty minutes each time. I remember breaking down in the car to my husband, exhausted, thinking, I’m never going to be able to do this. Baby snuggles only get you so far.
I remember it as such a difficult and emotional period. I finally ended up giving it all up to formula around 3 months, and honestly, now I wish I had earlier simply because I think my mental state improved immensely after that. I just wish the way we feed our children wasn’t so fraught with societal expectations! I completely agree with you that no one really seems to know anything concrete about nursing, so instincts are best.
I hope your journey through this stage comes easier than it did for me. I offer no advice, except (in case you need the reminder) like anything else, it is but a moment in time. Looking at it from the other side, it seems like such a short period in my son’s life, but when you’re in it, it’s all you can see.
OMG — Ana! I almost cried hearing about your teary call to the lactation consultant. If that doesn’t encapsulate the wild swing of emotions that accompany mothering a newborn, I don’t know what does. I wrote this to a fellow reader in an email, but it’s really tough to see the forest right now; all I can see are tall trees. It feels sometimes like every little twist and turn is larger than life, or larger than me, at least. Thank you for writing in, as you not only made me realize how normal my experience is (so…I’m not a drama queen / nothing’s wrong with me?) and also that this, too, will pass.
One thing that might making pumping easier – store the pump parts in the fridge between pumping session and then sterilize at the end of the day (instead of in between each session). One less thing to do during the day!
OK, this is brilliant and I’d never heard this until writing this post. Thank you!
I have a healthy, happy 2 year old, and I still cannot think about our early feeding journey without feeling extreme guilt, stress, frustration, regret, and tears (I wound up exclusively pumping). You are right – no one knows anything about breastfeeding. It certainly differs substantially woman to woman. However you decide to feed Hill is the right choice!
Thank you, Leah 🙂 Also, so sorry you carry that weight around. I obviously do, too, given my sudden “relief” when I realized the same thing was happening a second time with my second baby. Man, we moms are tough on ourselves. Thank you for writing this kind note!
SO thought out! You are doing a wonderful job! Yes, your lactation consultant is right. Any supplementation will decrease your demand. Its all supply and demand. Your body is able to grow a human and it is more than capable to produce milk. Can it be on the lower side because of lack of sleep, lack of water, nutrients, stress, etc? Yes. But ultimately, your body CAN sustain life. Its only natural. Breastfeeding is such a psychological thing. Try to not overthink it and just go with the flow. Maybe pump only at night once the kids are sleeping and do it while watching a show and eating some chocolate. Have it be your special time to decompress. Even if you produce two ounces. Dont fret. I dont produce a lot of milk but I try to do on demand and never supplement unless I have to. Ive had to give formula a few time because I had to leave the house and didnt have enough milk stored. I definately pump each time my son recieves a bottle of formula. If I give him 4oz of formula that means I have to try and pump 4 oz of milk. Its all just like balancing a budget. The problem that most pediatricians know very little on proper breastfeeding and will sway more towards formula (therefore encouraging formula supplementation quicker). Do what is right for YOU. For me, the health benefits far outweigh my own personal time. But my nature is to be more of a homebody and missing out on social engagement is not hard. Everyone had different needs that affect them emotionally and psycologically. I still try to find selfcare time but nursing is a sacrifice. Its not as easy as formula feeding. Take care of yourself first. Take time to go out of the house alone. Eat good food, indulge on whatever helps you. Before you know it, breastfeeding gets SO much easier. He will be 6 months before you know it and it gets so much easier. Ive been on all sides of the spectrum of feeding babies (formula, formula and breast, exclusive nursing, extended nursing) and I say all this from my own personal experience of feeding four children.
*have you heard of legendairy milk products and their instagram page? SO helpful. Also, Jack Newman is a great doctor full of knowledge. He created APNO cream (which a commentor previously mentioned. A must have for any cracks, etc.)
Hi Christina, this simply isn’t true. Many women suffer from low supply unrelated to anything they do: lack of sleep, nutrients, etc. That is why infant mortality dropped by 60% with the invention of formula – babies of mothers with low supply stopped starving to death. If you have not suffered from it, you cannot possibly understand.
Also, Jen, I do not recommend following Legendairy’s Instagram. It’s a heartbreak to see the women who can pump 5+oz when try as you might, you simply cannot pump more than 1 or 2.
Sending love, compassion and best wishes! xo
Hi there! Thank you for the encouragement and words of caution / perspective. I agree with your primary point above, too — “low supply” is not cured by women “working harder” or “sacrificing more” or adjusting diets, etc. I also feel that maybe low supply is not something that needs to be “cured.” Or at least this is where I have wound up; I’ve come around to a place of accommodating the low supply by supplementing because it feels like the best thing for everyone in my family at this point.
Still, I appreciate Christina’s suggestions above — I think and trust she was coming from a place of encouragement, i.e., “if you want to exclusively breastfeed, here are some things you can try.” And I appreciate those too.
Thank you, Christina! I appreciate the encouragement and advice, and also for reminding me how quickly this time will go by and suddenly I’ll be in a solid routine and this will all be behind me. Thank you 🙂 xxx
Here’s a tip I only learned AFTER I was done pumping: you don’t need to wash the pump parts every time! Mind. Blown. My SIL just put the parts in a container in the fridge and washed 1x per day. I agree that no one knows anything. So frustrating! Especially when you’re a brand new mom and just want someone to tell you how to do it “right.” Sounds like you’re doing a great job, though!
Sending virtual hugs to you! A few things that have helped me are: joining my local La Leche League group on facebook. It’s a private group and I rarely post for help but I’ve learned a lot by reading other discussions. I second the other comments about Legendairy Supplements. I had a terrible sinus infection that caused my supply to dip & they helped me maintain it slightly though some people don’t notice any difference with supplements. I’ve read mixed reviews about fenugreek which is in alot of lactation supplements and products – it helps some people’s supply and tanks others. My employer provides hospital grade pumps (Medela Symphonys) and I credit it for helping me maintain supply (pumping right now actually!) It might be worth it to rent one and see if it helps. I definitely notice an increase in ouput (& in a shorter amount of time) with it vs my Spectra. Which is great because I loathe pumping. Refrigerating pump parts in between sessions is definitely a time saver, as is having multiple pump parts. All in all, I wish you peace and comfort with however you decide to proceed. Though I only “know you” in the virtual sense, I know Micro and Mini are lucky to have you as their Momma.
You are so sweet. Thanks for the advice and for taking the time to share your experience! I’m so touched.
Did not know this until this post!! Thank you!! And thanks for the generous words. I remember saying this exact thing to my sister — “I just wish someone would tell me exactly what to do; I’d do it!” But this is an experience where I’ve got to just trust my instincts and make a decision as to what makes sense for me. Anyway, thanks Stephanie! xxx
Oh man, friend. I so remember those newly postpartum days when everything feels so fragile! I am someone who loves nursing (I’m still nursing my 15 month old son!) so I always appreciate your nursing friendly finds, and support you in your quest!
My midwives always encouraged just what you’re doing- whenever there is a struggle, take a “nursing vacation”: just lay around and snuggle (skin to skin is best!) and nurse, on demand. Hard when there is a toddler around, but a great excuse for a lazy day!
oh! and as far as your point about no one really knowing anything about breastfeeding- completely true. this is actually the area i wrote my thesis about in graduate school, women/childbirth in medicine (which was a ~super~ good use of my tuition), and doctors actually don’t learn much, if anything, about lactation.
Woops, that posted too soon. Fascinating and upsetting. Would love to know more about this thesis. xx
Yes — nursing vacation!! Exactly. Hadn’t heard that phrase before, but it’s perfect.
Everything does feel so fragile and delicate. It feels like if I drink one less 8 oz of water or loose one hour of sleep or miss one feed or WHATEVER, everything is thrown off.
Thanks for your support and encouragement, friend!
Long response but this just speaks so much to me. Nursing has been the hardest part of motherhood so far. Our hospital offered a breastfeeding class for expecting parents and i am so glad I took it. I knew nothing about breastfeeding and I would have given up after the first few days if I hadn’t known that producing only tiny drops was normal!
Since then I’ve experienced similar frustrations and concerns. A brief nicu stay meant our baby was given formula the first few days and thus had expectations for speed and quantity I could not meet a few days post partum so I was also feeding then pumping. I was physically and mentally exhausted (not to mention the nipple pain…). We are thankfully over that hump now and in sync as far as breastfeeding. I did learn a few things though:
1. Talk to other moms, way more reassuring than google. I learned that while everyone’s experience is different, most had the same struggles and frustrations. Whether they continued bf, exclusively pumped or used only formula, all now have happy and healthy children. It also just feels good to commiserate.
2. Take the pressure off. I was obsessed the first week or so with how much milk I was producing . Our pediatrician is thankfully less pushy about bf and subscribes to to the fed is best theory. She made me feel a lot more comfortable about figuring out a method of feeding that worked for me, which at times means pumping and giving a bottle because i just need a break. Also, check out the mom hack of covering the bottles with socks while pumping. Supposedly you produce more when you aren’t staring at the output.
Thank you, Jen!! Such good tips and also AHHH I completely get why breastfeeding has been the hardest part of adjusting to motherhood. I wish I’d texted you/DMed you earlier to compare notes. You are so right that one of the best things to do is connect with other moms. Makes the whole thing seem a lot more manageable and helps put things in perspective. Plus, as is obvious from the comments here (!!), there are great tips to learn.