Happy Friday everyone! I have a long one for you today so buckle up.
When I found out I was pregnant I started reading every book I could get my hands on about pregnancy and childbirth. I knew I was going to breastfeed but for some reason I didn’t read anything about it. In my mind it was just something I was going to do. It is natural, right? I also knew that while in the hospital I would have access to a lactation consultant which took some pressure off as well.
Well, I had no idea what was to come. I know a lot of people struggle with breastfeeding so I thought I would share my journey. I’m not entirely sure how to approach this topic so I just divided it up into sections. Here we go!
The First Latch And Before My Milk Came In
Although I was adamant about having immediate skin-to-skin contact with our baby, I hadn’t thought of how my first try at feeding her would go. Thankfully, the second they placed her on my chest she had no trouble latching on. I was completely overjoyed because that was the moment I had been dreaming about and looking forward to for nine months. The first night after she was born she cluster fed all night. It didn’t hurt at first but after 24 hours of constant feeding, I was pretty sore. I felt like I wasn’t giving her anything and it was really tough mentally and physically but I had a ton of support from the nurses, the lactation consultants, my family and my husband.
When My Milk Came In
About 3 days after she was born, my milk came in. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I basically just woke up in the middle of the night to really sore breasts. The next morning I woke up to what felt like tingly, sore rocks on my chest. Engorgement is no joke! It was so uncomfortable that my mom suggested I pump to relieve the pressure (more on this below). Although the first few days of engorgement were uncomfortable, I was never really in pain. I was told by the lactation consultant to wear supportive bras without underwire to help relieve any discomfort. I chose to either go without or wear a looser sports bra that was easy to feed her in. I made the mistake of wearing a sports bra that was too small and ended up with mastitis which required a shot and antibiotics. Lesson: make sure you wear comfortable bras that aren’t tight at all. Honestly, once my milk was in, I felt like things got easier. The bleeding, chaffing and scabs went away relatively quickly. I also felt better mentally because I felt like she was actually getting something out of me.
I noticed quickly that I had a very forceful letdown reflex. I’m talking making her choke forceful. It was very frustrating because she would pull off coughing (it was pitiful!) and my milk would go spewing all over the place. This was extremely draining mentally and physically. After reading about Julie’s experience and speaking with a lactation consultant, I decided to buy a nipple shield. It was amazing! She was able to stay latched and drink easier due to the flow being slowed down.
This is when I started having to rely on nursing pads. My letdown would occur at random times and my shirt would end up being soaked. At night I would wake up drenched. I ordered the Lansinoh Stay Dry nursing pads to wear inside my nursing bra.
When I am feeding on one side, my milk lets down on both sides so the pads catch the milk from the side I am not feeding from. At night I can sleep knowing that milk isn’t wetting me or the bed. Now I continue to use these because if I go too long between pumping session my milk lets down. I also continue to have forceful letdowns which is why I pump every three hours.
Pumping and Storing My Milk
The first time I attempted to pump was during my engorgement period. I was very hopeful and naïve. I let the pump go for about 6 minutes before deciding to call it quits. I got about a fourth of an ounce. It wasn’t even enough to keep. I was really discouraged and started freaking out because I knew I would have to pump once I returned to work. My mom assured me that after a few tries it would happen. She was right. About a month before I was supposed to go back to work I started trying to pump between feedings. It was pretty tough because she was eating every 1.5 to 2 hours so I was short on time. Thankfully, I was producing a ton of milk (which I will take advantage of next time around) so I wasn’t worried about running out.
After my body adjusted to her schedule and how much she needed I no longer had any left to pump after feeding her during the day. At night, I continued to become engorged. After speaking with one of my friends who has a 1 year old, she told me that she would always pump at night while her husband gave their baby a bottle. So, I decided to start pumping at night. I really wanted to hold off on giving her a bottle as long as possible so I would feed her on one side and pump the other. I found that feeding her first allowed my letdown reflex to happen easily and I would actually get a ton of milk (like 3-5oz).
After researching all the different ways of storing milk, we decided to go with the Kiinde bottles so that I could pump directly into the Kiinde bags and freeze them.
They are disposable so we could just throw the empty bag away after a feeding and not have to worry about cleaning bottles. The downside was that it was extremely hard to tell how many ounces I had pumped because although the bags had measurements on the outside, it didn’t seem very accurate. About two weeks before I needed to go back to work we decided to give her a bottle for the first time. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. Milk was pouring out of her mouth and she was coughing and throwing up. After a few tries which ended in frustration for all of us, we knew something needed to change. That’s when we decided to switch to Lansinoh storage bags.
I began pumping into my Medela bottles that came with the pump to see how many ounces I was getting. I would then store the milk in the Lansinoh bags. When I first started I was getting only 2oz at a time so that is what I stored. When she started to spread out her feeding times I began pumping again between feedings, especially when she only ate on one side. When pumping at night and getting more I would store the bags with 4oz in them. They store flat so they fit well in the freezer. When it was necessary to give a bottle, we would pour the milk easily from the bags into Dr. Brown bottles. These bottles are amazing! She takes them so well without a problem. We used the preemie nipples to start with and gradually moved to the size 1 nipples which we currently use.
Pumping At Work
When I returned to work, I was very nervous about how pumping would go. I had read that it is important to pump when your baby would normally eat but I was breastfeeding on demand. Since we had no schedule, I got advice from my friend again and also read some example schedules online. I decided to pump every three hours to begin with and go from there. Thankfully, my boss was more than willing to allow me to start back part time. I began by pumping once in the morning and then again during lunch. The first day I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to pump about 6 ounces during my first session and about 4.5-5 ounces at lunch. I think it was because I had no expectations and I knew I had a pretty good freezer stash stored up.
Currently, I pump three times during the day (morning, lunch, afternoon) and I am able to get more than she eats. Anything I pump on a given day we use the next day for daycare bottles. Whatever I pump on Friday goes into storage bags and into the freezer. Milk pumped on the weekend also goes into the freezer stash. On Monday we use the oldest milk from the freezer. The system works pretty smoothly.
I exclusively breastfeed on weeknights and weekends. It has been a long few months and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I cannot express how much I love feeding her and I hope to be able to feed her at least through her first birthday. It really does get easier just like they say. Just stick with it through the tough times and it is so so worth it.
Trial and error has been our method so far and we finally found what works for us. My advice is to take it day by day and know that things will get better and work out in the end. Please let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!