Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Three – Real Breastfeeding Stories, Vol. 5
Welcome to Vol. 5 of the Real Breastfeeding Stories part of Uniquely Fed – where I share real stories, from real moms with you!!
If you’re just joining me here, don’t miss what has already been shared in this series:
- Part One: My Journey
- Part Two: Common Breastfeeding Issues
- Part Three: Real Breastfeeding Stories
Volume 5 – Berklee, Catherine, and Laura
Click on the links (or images) to read today’s stories:
Breastfeeding is something I always envisioned doing once I had a child. For me, there was no doubt I was going to try to breastfeed for the first year. I figured it came naturally, so how hard could it be? Well, my question was answered rather quickly and the answer was that it could be HARD. The first latch shortly after my son Cayden was born went fine. I had three nurses around to “help” which felt more like I was a circus performer and they were my audience waiting for my trick. But my son eventually latched and the show was over. In the postpartum wing for the next couple days, Cayden was sleepy and would barely nurse, therefore the nurses forced formula on him in order for him to be “nourished properly.” I am by no means anti-formula, but I wish I had more strength to say “no thank you” and know that my child would be okay without it, in order to properly regulate my own supply and give him those jam-packed nutrients in my colostrum.
Once my milk came in about four days postpartum, I became a nursing and pumping queen. I had a routine down and would pump after every one of my son’s feedings. Yes, that means even three times in the middle of the night, pumping for 20 minutes after a 20 minute nursing session. So tiring. I must have dwindled down a few pumping sessions before my body was able to regulate and catch up, because one month postpartum I had fever and chills out of nowhere and a breast that did not get relief from pumping. At first I thought I was sick with the flu and additionally had a clogged duct, but what I soon came to realize was that the two were correlated. I had mastitis. Grateful for an awesome OB, he called in antibiotics for me and within three days or so, I was relieved of the pain.
During those three days, I had to pump even when the pain was unbearable, massage the clogged duct, continue to let my son nurse through my tears, and take a lot of hot showers. This really should have ended my breastfeeding journey, but it didn’t. My supply plummeted, but I pushed through. I endured. I wanted to provide this opportunity for my son, to be nourished with all the antibodies and nutrients of my milk. Despite severe pain, I pressed on.
I’m happy to say, my son is 22 months now and he still nurses. I work full-time and stopped pumping when he turned one since he could drink cows milk, but our nursing relationship continued. He learned the sign for milk and still requests to be nursed daily. I figured he would wean himself, but he hasn’t yet, and I’m okay with that. There are days that I want to quit, but I see the comfort it provides and I don’t care to take that away from him yet. I will wean him at two years old, because that’s my preference, but until that time I will learn to savor every sweet nursing moment we have together.
The best piece of advice I have for mamas who want to make it two years (which I never thought I could do) is to know that you can. Believe that you can do it, pushing aside the “advice” when the world is telling you otherwise. But, if your body can’t or you can’t breastfeed anymore, then that’s okay, too. You’ve done nothing wrong and you shouldn’t feel guilt. There should be no shame in how you feed your child, as long as you do. Cheers mamas, you’ve got this!
About Berklee: Berklee runs the blog faithfilledmotherhood.com. In addition to being a blogger, she is a wife, mother, and a full-time clinical professional counselor. She blogs about her faith, motherhood, parenting, and mental health issues. She and her family live in Las Vegas, NV and they love to watch baseball, read, and play outside together.
My name is Catherine and I will be 32 this year. I had my daughter Sara in April 2013. I am a NICU nurse. I am also in the US Army Reserves. I have been working in the NICU since 2008 so when I had my daughter in 2013, I thought breastfeeding was going to be easy since I knew all about it. Or so I thought.
When she was born, she was 37 weeks and 5 days, and 6 lbs plus something oz. I opted not to have formula yet and try breastfeeding first. When I first tried breastfeeding, it was very painful. I thought maybe it was because I was still sore so I just let her latch and thought the pain would go away. It didn’t. It got worse and worse. I asked for the lactation nurse (it wasn’t offered to me, I just asked for her because I know we have lactation nurses). She told me to pump and nurse and the milk will come in eventually. She was just gung-ho about pumping and breastfeeding. So the next day, or probably the 2nd day, the pediatrician said that my baby’s mouth was dry and she was probably not getting enough hydration. I was too preoccupied with that and didn’t even notice, even though that was a part of our assessment with NICU babies. So I went ahead and gave her formula and pumped afterwards.
It’s hard to think with a crying baby and painful breasts. I had to think like a NICU nurse first because my new mother brain was shutting off, lol. My daughter was small and her mouth could not latch on to my engorged boobs. In addition to that, my nipple wasn’t fully everted. Her latch wasn’t deep enough so she just ended up chomping on my nipples instead of having an effective suck. When we were discharged, before leaving the hospital, I went to the NICU to ask for nipple shields to help keep the baby latched on to something instead of the nipple slipping in and out of her mouth. It also helped keep the nipple everted.
A few days later, I realized why pumping was painful. My breasts were stimulated and full of milk, but not emptying completely because the flange I was using was too small. So I had to get a bigger-sized flange for the pump. The standard kit comes with size 24 and 27. I had to get size 30 from the breastfeeding store. Fortunately, I knew there were bigger sizes available because of my experience in the NICU. There are some lactation nurses that can help you size your pump flanges. Unfortunately, the lactation nurse that I had didn’t offer the options of nipple shield or bigger flange size so I was thankful for my NICU knowledge.
Bottomline: There were so many things that I asked for because I KNEW they were available. What if a mom doesn’t know that a lactation nurse is available…or that there is this wonderful product called a nipple shield…or that there are more flange sizes available that are not included in the kit? Here are some things I learned/did:
- Most lactation nurses will tell you not to go home on nipple shields. But I used nipple shields until my daughter was 4 months. Around that time, my breasts were not overly engorged. My daughter was big and strong enough to create a deeper latch and my nipples were holding their shape. I had to remember to be careful, though, because the shields are so thin and transparent that they are a choking hazard.
- I rented a pump from the hospital (hospital-grade) to build up my supply and it helped a lot. I put my pump parts in the fridge in a big covered tub. That way it saved me time instead of cleaning the parts every pumping time. I pumped so much milk I donated 400 oz of frozen EBM to a Milk Bank!
- I used to work nights and when I started going back to working out, I noticed that my milk supply would run low. I would try and get more sleep, and eat more protein-rich food like eggs and cheese. My milk supply would quickly come back up after I did those things.
- Kellymom was a very good resource for me when I was just starting out to learn more about breastfeeding. Our workplace is very supportive of pumping. I know that there are plenty of workplaces and careers that are not very conducive to pumping even though it is the law. I pumped for 1 year (or I think up to 18 months, cannot remember) and kept breastfeeding until recently.
After the initial challenge of establishing a latch, there really weren’t any major issues. Except maybe for pumping during drill day in the Reserves. When we did field day, we were out in Camp Bullis for 3 days and 2 nights. We had no access to a pumping room or electricity. I had my Medela hand pump so I was planning to pump and dump. Fortunately there was another soldier pumping milk with access to a government vehicle. So we pumped a couple of times during the day and her husband picked them up for us at the end of the day. I thought I would only do 1 year. But when the time came, we both weren’t ready. My daughter wasn’t very sickly but when she did get sick, she stayed hydrated because even though she didn’t want to eat or drink, she would still nurse.
So we (me and my daughter) finally had an agreement that she would stop when she turned four. I have been conditioning her since Fall of 2016. She had developed the annoying habit of twiddling with my nipples and I thought, “I’ve had enough”, lol. She is going to start school in the Fall of 2017 so I thought it would be a good “argument” as to why she needs to stop breastfeeding. The important thing is that WE both agreed on it. So February of this year, she finally stopped breastfeeding. We were actually ahead of our target date so yay! I miss the bonding though and she tells me she misses the “dodo” (I’m from the Philippines and that’s the Tagalog word for breasts) too.
Most new moms think that since breastfeeding is the natural way, babies and mom will automatically know what to do. It is a learning process for both mother and baby. So do not have high expectations. Attend a breastfeeding class before you have your baby. It is okay to give the baby formula. They need to stay hydrated first. This is not a contest in who gets to breastfeed right away or breastfeed the longest. Utilize the resources that you have while you are in the hospital. Ask for the lactation nurse. Ask for nipple shields or for a bigger or smaller pump flange size. Be patient. (I do not know about nipple confusion. There are some people that subscribe to it. Personally I didn’t have that problem.)
“Laura’s relationship with breastfeeding began as a teenager, when in 1996, she “failed” at breastfeeding her newborn son, Carlos Alejandro, due to lack of support. In 2008, however, a new chapter was written in her motherhood-book once she overcame breastfeeding…”read more about Laura and her struggles and triumphs over breastfeeding here.
You can also watch as Laura recounts her breastfeeding journey in this moving video.
I hope you enjoyed reading these stories and that you feel encouraged if your journey looks like one of these! Stay tuned for more stories in tomorrow’s post.
How long did you breastfeed? What has your breastfeeding journey been like? Did it go the way you had planned or hoped? Let me know in the comments.