There are so many things you just assume and don’t understand before you’re a parent. Pre-pregnancy, while I didn’t think breastfeeding wrong, I did think it was a little awkward to do in public. But that mostly came from growing up in a modest home where if even your shoulders show that was scandalous. While pregnant, I would see classes for breastfeeding and I seriously wondered “Why do I need to take a class? It’s just sucking a nipple. What’s so hard about that?” I’m sure I am getting a few chuckles out there now. Breastfeeding. Easy. Hahaha. Just wait! Right? Now this isn’t to say that you cannot have a easy breastfeeding journey cause there are totally women who do. I’m just writing this to show I was one of the people who didn’t, who struggled, and came out on the other side.
In a counseling session, we did touch a little bit over breastfeeding. Like knowing there were a few growth spurts, learning that cabbage leaves can help relieve pain, and the more your nurse the better your supply. But besides that I didn’t take any official class. I figured it’s natural so I’ll just figure it out no problem.
When Riley was born and we did out first latch it was so painful. A nurse assured me I was doing fine but it hurt so bad. I thought this was normal. She gave me a medicine cup and said if I wanted to, I could express colostrom into the cup and then feed it to Riley with a dropper. I couldn’t believe when she said even just a couple drops is enough. Like how can a couple drops feed a baby?! The next day an LC came in to try help me with latch and positioning. I should’ve spoken up then, I told her it felt better, but in reality it was still painful.
We went home and my milk came in a day later and can I say, Oh my goodness! No one tells you about the horrible and weird pain engorgement is and how the milk just comes spewing out of you! I woke up that morning with my boobs HUGE, hot, and as hard as a rock. Riley wasn’t awake yet so Tony told me to go shower and milk was just pouring out of me. By time I was done showering and I was drying off there was just more milk all over me and I came back to the room in tears of like “why do I even try to get clean?!”.
A couple days later we had to go back to the hospital cause Riley got jaundice. Here I was told that I was storing my milk wrong (I can go into that and provide helpful links another day). They told me the more I nursed her the quicker she could go home. I sighed knowing how much pain I was already in and thinking about now I have to nurse her more? They had another LC come in and go over latches and positions again. The best thing was, it finally worked. I didn’t feel as much pain. I finally got a good latch and I was excited. I wish I could say this is where everything turned around and the rest of my journey was fine but it wasn’t.
When we went home, I couldn’t get the latch right again. Every time Riley awoke to eat I cried from the pain. My nipples were raw, bleeding and cracking. I would slather them with Lanolin, use those cooling gel pads, I put breastmilk on them and let them air dry but nothing helped. It wasn’t just that either. Practically every time I was done nursing, I would get this shooting pain in my breast that would just throb for sometimes an hour or so. To my dismay, when that pain would finally subside, Riley would wake up again and we’d start all over.
When Riley was 2 weeks old I started having a horrible migraine. I was used to these so I didn’t think much of it. Then that night I woke up in terrible chills. I literally dug out my winter clothes from NYC and bundled myself up cause I felt that cold. Then later I’d be laying in sweat (and breastmilk) in our bed, and then back to the chills. I ended up realizing I had a fever. I dealt with this for 2 days before giving in and calling my OB. I went in and she said I had the start of Mastitis but would just call it a breast infection for now. She sent me home with some antibiotics and after a few more days I felt better. Still sleep deprived and in pain, but the chills and migraines were gone at least. Lesson here: Just call for help. Don’t try toughing it out or else you will probably just get worse.
Riley was 3 weeks old and I wondered how in the world am I going to get to my goal of 6 months. Her latch is still painful, I’m sleep deprived, I just had a breast infection, and after doing more reading about clogged nipples and thrush, what else could happen to me? If you read my other post, you know I was also dealing with a lot of postpartum depression feelings and dealt with the feeling of not having a bond with Riley. It was a dark time. My heart was in my old life, and I was stuck in my current one. But with every cry, I tried again.
I started seeing a psychologist at 6 weeks postpartum. She encouraged me to seek new friends and made me go to a mommy breastfeeding group at the same hospital Riley was born at. Here I learned I wasn’t alone. I learned about some future things that could or could not happen and how to deal with them. Someone there also suggested Boobease nipple cream instead of using the lanolin. I ordered myself a bottle to try. I also got to work on my latch with an LC.
Now again I wish I could still say this was an easy fix but it wasn’t. While it all helped, it still took until around 4-5 months old to get into a groove. The Boobease really helped heal my nipples, I learned how to latch Riley better that it wouldn’t hurt as much. But the therapy also helped in guiding me to getting myself back. I also learned that I some of the pain I was feeing during her initial latches was a nipple stretching pain that was likely because of my inverted nipples.
I will add here that while me and Riley finally did find a groove, it was around the time when babies start getting distracted which was very much Riley’s jam. She would constantly latch, unlatch, latch, unlatch, latch, unlatch and oh my goodness it is not fun getting your nipple yanked around! But when we hit our first goal of 6 months I was so proud that I finally did it. We decided why ruin the groove by switching to formula now? Why not save some more money? So we continued. And actually we are currently 19 months strong! As a side note, nursing a toddler full of teeth is not a blast. Yes we got a groove and she don’t hurt as much but she does this thing lately where when I am unlatching her to put her to bed she BITES me as hard as she can and I have to try my hardest not to scream!
Besides that point though, I did have one more problem. I did have a few times I got clogged ducts, but one other thing that I dealt with was an oversupply. Now some people have a hard time producing so I know they would be so thankful for this problem so I guess I’ll just call it an inconvenience. Riley luckily loved to sleep and started sleeping through the night at 2 months old. Because of this though, I had an oversupply at night. I would wake up every morning in a puddle of milk. I would overflow my pads and soak through my shirt onto the bed and pillow. I started making myself wake up every morning around 4-5AM to try to prevent this overflow and pump for 10 mins. But instead of the oversupply going away, it grew. When I started, I’d pump 2 oz and by 8-9 months old I was producing anywhere from 8-10 oz every morning. Because of this though, I decided I would donate the milk to babies in need. Through my breastfeeding journey I donated maybe 700oz or so to 5 different babies besides Riley. The only way I got over my oversupply was when me and Tony went on our honeymoon, I was able to cut out that extra pumping session and can I say I am loving not pumping anymore.
For my one year accomplishment, I purchased a piece of breastfeeding jewelry from Sacred Legacy Arts. It is my trophy piece. I am so thankful to get where I am.
I want to leave you with some encouragement. Breastfeeding is hard. It is SUPER hard. It may be natural but it sure doesn’t come naturally to everyone and that’s okay. In my early days, Riley would occasionally get a formula bottle here and there so I could get some rest or let my nipples heal and it was the best thing I could’ve done. Even if you plan to breastfeed, please have at least 1 container of formula for just in case purposes. YES the more you feed, the better it’ll get for your body but honestly, the stress isn’t always worth it. Stress can hurt your milk production so if you need a break don’t feel bad for breaking into that bottle of formula. Your kid will be totally fine. A fed baby is a happy baby. The best thing you can do is relax with some netflix, a bottle of water, and some of your favorite snacks. Especially in the beginning cause they nurse sooooo much.
Next, don’t give up! This may be one of the hardest things you have to do but when you reach that goal, it’ll be such a proud moment. Don’t quit on your hardest day. Quit cause it feels right, not because you don’t want to do it anymore. If you are needing help, seek out an LC and get it. It is totally worth your while. Get connected to breastfeeding groups on Facebook both large and small local groups. They’ll be able to help you so much and give you that extra support you need.
Lastly, for those moms who have problems producing. You women are amazing. You have tried so hard and it is okay. You are not a failure of a women just because you can’t breastfeed. You are feeding your baby the best way you can whether that is through donor milk or formula or a combination of the two. What matters is the love you are giving your child, not whether or not you breastfeed. So I just want to say you are going great! Maybe things didn’t go the way you planned but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Below I’m going to have a bunch of links about breastfeeding that may be of use to you if you are having any problems like I did. I’m not gonna lie, a lot of it will probably come from KellyMom but it is literally the best website ever for breastfeeding questions.
Helpful Breastfeeding Links:
Mama’s Milk, Breastfeeding Mama Talk
For all Breastfeeding needs or questions: KellyMom.com
About: Milk Storage
About: Clogged Ducts & Mastitis
Get Help: Le Leche League
You can also get in touch with LC’s at your care providers or WIC if you are eligible.
If you are interested in donating or need donor milk, look up Human Milk for Human Babies for your area. I mainly used their Facebook page and made a post from there. You can also sometimes join local breastfeeding groups to find or donate milk.
Want your own Breastmilk Jewelry?
Website: Sacred Legacy Arts