The breastfeeding journey is always full of ups and downs. From what I hear and see from so many other moms or on so many other mom blogs, I am not alone in thinking… “Wow, this is really hard.” There are days where I feel like my little one and I are the greatest team that’s ever existed. Then there are days that I wonder and ask myself, “what am I even doing this for.” Let’s face it, momma life is hard to begin with. Then, add breastfeeding where we are trying to get our own bodies to work together with a tiny little human who has very little control over his or her own body. It’s a difficult task, and there is a lot of pressure associated with breastfeeding.
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Disclaimer: The ideas represented on this site are merely from personal experience. I do not attempt to be medical or health advice. As with everything found on the internet, please consult with your doctor prior to trying or starting something new.
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Here are 5 things that would have made my breastfeeding journey much easier if I had only known this pre-delivery.
1) The Body is Designed to Know What to do
At 15 months, my breastfeeding journey is actually still going, but it certainly has seen its ups and downs. Thankfully, right out the get go, my baby latched quite easily. I’m fairly confident that they had just cut the cord. My little one was laying on my chest, bobbing her head around and feeding almost instantly. At the hospital, we saw the lactation consultant that came to every mom. She told us that everything was going great and really didn’t have any pointers for us. Then, we went home and waited for my milk to come in. And, we waited, and we waited some more.
My poor little one dropped so much weight in her first couple of days and even dealt with some jaundice. As my baby cried incessantly during her third heel poke of the week, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I am mom. My main role was to care for and nourish my child. I was supposed to nourish her. Finally, on the day that either my milk had to come in or we started formula, it came. Quickly my daughter started to turn back to her cute little pink self and quickly was released from jaundice monitoring.
It all worked out
I had spent so much time stressing (and crying) that I probably limited my body quite a bit. All this to say, I learned that I could and needed to trust my body to know what it needed to do. I followed the advice of our wonderful pediatrician team, took very good care of my healing body, and trusted that I could provide for my daughter. In doing so, I gave my body the chance to do what it needed to do. I hydrated, rested, and pumped every hour to trigger my body to know that it needed to make more milk. As a result, my baby got back to her birth weight within two weeks.
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Ultimately, it all worked out. After talking with our pediatrician, we learned that it was actually quite common for babies and mommas to go through this. I wish I would have known that fact. In the moment, I was caught up with the seriousness of jaundice and the fear of potentially not being able to provide for my child like I longed to do. What I should have been focused on was having faith that my body could provide and do everything that I could to make room for myself to do so.
2) Take Care with Nipple Cream
Yes, it may be a bit awkward, but this one is a big one for the first week or so. After the first couple hard days for my baby and I, breastfeeding got easier, but oh my did it hurt. I actually had some Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream as a recommendation to me to help prevent pain during the beginning stages of breastfeeding. Ironically, with all that I had gone through, I completely forgot that I had it. I complained about it to a friend one day, and she had just passively mentioned nipple cream, and as soon as I started using it, the pain started subsiding. There was still the pain of cramping and the slightly painful tingling sensation of let down, but at least my nipples began to heal and mend.
Healthy nipples are such an absolute necessity. A comfortable nursing experience helps prepare the mental state needed to be able to start the let down reflex. I cannot count how many times I waited, in pain, for my let down to start only to be so very disappointed that it never did. However, in reality the pain caused distraction. My body was not able to relax enough to trigger that reflex. Making sure that you have the right products to prevent or ease the initial rawness can make the difference between frustration from both momma and baby and a successful breastfeeding experience.
3) Pay Attention to a Forceful Letdown
Once my little one and I had our routine down, we actually started having problems with a forceful let down. This caused my poor baby to choke and make a mess everywhere. I combatted the mess by having some burp rags around. At the recommendation of my mom, I opted to simply use cloth diapers. This was such a good idea because they were super absorbent, small, and easy to carry. They also gave us a backup for real diapers if we were ever in that much need. I would tuck the rag over my bra and and under my daughter’s cheek. If she struggled with the start of the feed, I would cover up to protect her and myself from the mess.
Slowly, but surely, we worked through the forceful let down. I thought it actually turned out to be a helpful thing. It meant I could nurse my baby within a matter of minutes! However, we developed many bad habits. I will get into those in the next two lessons.
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4) Have a Good Bottle for Expressed Milk
A forceful letdown led to the next issue that my daughter and her entire family of care had to work through – impatience with feeding. I’ll touch on the biggest challenge of this in a little bit, but first I’ll address the first impact. At about 2-3 months, she started rejecting a bottle. It was just too much work to drink from and took entirely too long to become fully satisfied compared to momma. It felt like we tried everything.
I was so excited for my Tommee Tippie bottles that I registered for as a recommendation to me, but she rejected that. We tried Avent, because we had samples, and just about every flow of nipple and still no dice. In a normal stay-at-home mom situation, this would have been manageable. However, because I worked from home and still had meetings that caused me to have to step away from time to time, my mom (my primary workday childcare) had to feed my little one. It would turn into all out battles to get her to drink from a bottle. She needed a quiet and dark room, my mom had to bounce on an exercise ball, and sometimes she could get my baby to take a couple of ounces at the most. It was not sustainable.
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I highly recommend the Kiinde bottle system
Everything changed once we found the Kiinde bottle system. I’m not quite sure if it’s the shape of the nipple or the fact that the bag system puts more pressure on the milk and establishes a faster, easier, more mom-like flow, but the first time we gave her the bottle, she drank the whole pouch. We were in awe! Ever since then, it gave me the freedom to step away guilt free. This was especially necessary for meetings and other scheduled work events, and it did not burden my daughter’s caretakers.
Moving forward with future children, I will always guarantee that a bottle is part of their daily routine. This is healthy for baby and momma. As wonderful as the bond of nursing is, independence and flexibility is key in promoting a healthy and cared for mom.
5) Stress and Dehydration are One of the Biggest Causes of Lack of Milk Supply
We had our system down for a while where I would breastfeed my daughter as much as possible and pump when she had to have a bottle while I worked. Some days, my breaks would correlate perfectly where I didn’t have to pump at all. Then, COVID-19 happened. Life came to a grinding halt. My work got exponentially busier (perk and curse of being an online university). I was dealing with the stress of the unknown in my personal life and the second hand stress of my 120 teacher students. Adding to the stress, I noticed breathing issues occurring. My diet and water intake was all off due to the long hours and lack of childcare (also due to “social distancing” measures). This all caused my milk supply to dip tremendously.
The lack of milk supply led to the inability to start the let down reflex and a slower flow. Ultimately, this manifested in a frustrated, hungry baby and a defeated mom. This also happened when she started to get easily distracted at the breast and was perfectly content eating solid food. She was only 7 months old.
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How I overcame this lack of supply
During this time, I ended up pumping every hour to hour and a half to try to bring my supply back. I also focused on getting my personal health back in order. We choose to bottle feed her so that she could get the proper nourishment and health benefits. During this time, my Spectra S2 Plus became a life saver. This was an excellent find and one that came up at the top of many lists. My pump was 100% covered by insurance, so before going and buying your own, I recommend calling your insurance company. It is incredibly efficient at expressing milk, there are so many different personalizing settings, and it is incredibly easy to clean.
Another super helpful item to have to maximize milk supply is the Haakaa. This manual breast pump suctions to the side that the baby is not feeding on and collects let down on that side during the feed. I would average almost an entire bottles worth during normal supply days. During the struggling times, I would use the couple of ounces I would collect to offset the lack of milk in future feeds. It worked wonderfully, and helped to relieve some of the stress of having to produce.
At 15 months we still breastfeed!
After I started to get more control over the stress, I reintroduced breastfeeding during the wake up feed. She was her calmest at this time and I was the fullest. However, we never got the other feeds back. And, that’s where we are today – 7 months later. She breastfeeds in the morning and has a bottle before her nap(s) and bedtime. I pump around the time that she naps or goes down for bedtime.
The major lesson I learned through all of these challenges was that my mental and emotional state had a huge role in my breastfeeding success or failure. If I allowed myself to get caught up in the stress and worry, my daughter was negatively affected. This created a whole snowball of stress. If I had learned sooner to stop that snowball of worry as soon as I detected it, I could have saved myself and my daughter so many tears and days of frustration. Therefore, the most significant thing that I wish I would have learned from others was the significance of managing and preventing stress, taking care of my body by staying hydrated, and trusting that my body would know what to do.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com
If you are planning on breastfeeding your little one, just starting out, or struggling with your own breastfeeding journey, keep in mind that your body is amazing and it was designed to nourish a newborn baby. Trust in yourself. Take care of yourself. Let your body do what it needs to do, and remember that you’ve got this momma!
Do you have a major breastfeeding lesson or item that you wish you would have learned about the easy way? Leave it in the comments section. I would love to hear your story.
The Mama behind Momma Life 2 the Fullest
Hi Mama! I’m so glad that you are here! My name is Ashlyn and I am a wife, full-time mom and full-time university faculty among other less important titles, such as coffee junkie, outdoor lover, craft and Pinterest enthusiast, energetic traveler, activities planner, and to-do list master. I find that my day sometimes feels like a swirl of diapers, meals, meetings, chores, etc. And, I created this blog as a landing spot to share my experiences and purpose to live this crazy mom life to the absolute fullest.
I was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I was homeschooled for the majority of my childhood, which offered me some unique traveling and cultural opportunities. I earned my degree in English and my Masters degree Instructional Design. Before landing my current, work-from-home job, I also taught in the classroom as a 9th grade English-Language Arts teacher.
When we had our daughter, I knew that I wanted to do everything I could to be as present as possible for my little one, so that’s when I found my current flexible-schedule, work-from-home job at an online university.
Mom life is a true gift from God. We were selected to be our little humans mommies, and that is a tremendous blessing and a huge responsibility. This life isn’t meant to just get by. This life is meant to live to the fullest, and our children deserve the most present, life-breathing versions of us.
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