I am writing this on Adeline’s first birthday, and what I believe will be the last day she breastfeeds. It is a bittersweet feeling, but a change I am ready for. We had a very rocky start to our nursing journey, and I am honestly shocked that we made it as long as we did. I wanted to capture what I learned over the past year, mostly for myself to refer back to in the future, and figured I may as well share it with you too!
A happy, healthy mom is most important.
During my first week of motherhood, I had a lactation consultant come to my house (more on that in a minute) and she said something that gave me perspective. As I was sitting in my living room, in tears, in pain, she told me the best thing I can do for my daughter is take care of myself. If breastfeeding is taking me to a mental place that is unhealthy, it is not what is best for Adeline.
That was so good to hear from a professional, and it gave me the “out” card I could play if I needed it. Words can be powerful, and I was so thankful for this wisdom when I was in the first week fog.
It’s different for everyone.
Some people I know picked up breastfeeding with no problem. For others, it just never worked. Every mama and every baby are different. There are so many variables at play. It’s great to have people to talk to and resources to draw from, but you have to make your own decisions because at the end of the day (or in the middle of the night) it is only you and your baby on this journey. If things are going well, be grateful, and if they aren’t, give yourself grace.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
I had a lactation consultant come to my house twice in the early days. Once at five days postpartum and again at ten. I feel having this support was what kept me going during this “make it or break it” week. Here’s what a visit with a lactation consultant looked like for us:
- We did weighted feeds (where she weighed the baby before and after a feeding) to make sure she was transferring milk.
- She taught me a latching technique that really seemed to click for us.
- She put me on “breast rest” for 24 hours to let my nipples heal, during which time I pumped and Marcus fed Adeline with a syringe.
- She gave me a nipple shield and taught me how to use it.
- She noticed that Adeline was really tight on one side of her neck/cheek/palate (most likely from how she was situated in the womb) and suggested I take her to the chiropractor for a gentle massage to relax her muscles. *I think this made a huge difference*
- She shared tips for pain relief.
I used Leah Jolly from Bay Area Breastfeeding Education, per my doula’s recommendation and was very impressed. I’ve recommended her to a handful of friends since then, too! If you are expecting and in the Houston area, I suggest putting this number in your phone. You will thank yourself if you end up needing breastfeeding support that first week at home with the baby. I even called Leah back when I returned to work and my supply was dropping. She is a wealth of knowledge!
The right gear is important.
Here is what helped me:
- Brest Friends Pillow – This was my favorite breastfeeding product. I love that it snaps around you so you don’t have to constantly keep pulling it back in. It’s also firm which kept Adeline high enough that I didn’t have to hunch over.
- Nursing Pads – I used disposable at first and reusable once my supply regulated a bit.
- Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads – You store these in the fridge or freezer, and they feel amazing!
- Shoulder Massages – Either from your baby daddy or a professional. Nursing is no joke for your neck and shoulders.
Friends in the same life stage are key.
I have been so blessed to have mom friends who had babies around the same time as me. I was even luckier that some of those girls were going through the same breastfeeding struggles around the same time I was. I think it is by design that God makes you forget a lot of the hard details of this season, but because of that, most people can’t really relate the way another mom who is literally in the trenches with you can. Find those other mamas and hold onto them tight!
Moms who exclusively pump are heroes.
That’s all. Pumping is a huge labor of love, and I give so much credit to all the mamas out there that pump exclusively for their little ones. There is a special place in heaven for you! See my previous post on my Must-Haves for Pumping Mamas.
It’s okay to cry over spilled milk.
Been there, done that.
You hit a sweet spot.
If you decide that breastfeeding is best for you and your little one, somewhere along your journey you will hit a sweet spot. For me, we had a breakthrough at eight weeks (when the pain finally subsided), but the real prize came for me around seven months. I had just made the tough (but sweet) decision to stay at home with Adeline, and with that I was able to breastfeed exclusively. At that point we settled into a really nice groove, and it became something I looked forward to each day.
Fed is best.
What it all really comes down to is, we all do what is best for our kiddos. There is no place in this world for negativity or shame around how moms choose to feed their babies. Us moms need to stick together!
So today I’m going to celebrate having a one year old, a bit more freedom in my schedule and not having to choose my outfit based on whether or not it is nursing friendly!
Kathryn Berthelsen Tees says
Beautifully said, Janelle! Couldn’t agree more.
Thank you, Kathryn!
Kara Kot says
Reading this post while I pump at work… you couldn’t have summarized this topic better! I loved reading it 🙂
Thanks, Kara. I’m glad you liked it!