Hey Friends! So today I wanted to take some time and talk about my breastfeeding journey thus far. Granted we are only about 3 months into it, but we have had such great success so far. I just thought I would share my experience and also write it down for myself to look back on with the next baby.
So I knew well before I had Penelope that I wanted to breastfeed. There were several reasons why. The first being the health benefits for both her and I. Breast milk provides her with the ideal nutrition and has the perfect amount of vitamins, protein, and fat needed to help her grow. Breast milk is also a lot easier for babies to digest and it contains antibodies that help to keep her healthy and to fight off any sickness. Did you know that when you breastfeed your baby is sending messages to your body about what the baby is lacking and in need of. If your baby is starting to get a cold for instance then that message gets sent to the mom’s body. The mom will then produce breast milk that carries antibodies in it that will help to fight off that cold. For myself there are benefits like burning more calories to help lose the pregnancy weight faster which helps me get back to a healthier weight, not that i’m really concerned about that right now though. It also releases that feel-good hormone, oxytocin, that helps put mom in a good mood and also helps the uterus return to it’s normal size after birth. It also helps reduce bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also helps to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Another reason I chose to breastfeed is the reality of there being no vegan formula in the United States. Phillip and I chose to raise Penelope plant based so this is the best way to continue with that. Also breastfeeding is just way more convenient. You always have it there and ready to go. Lastly I choose to breastfeed for the bonding experience. I cannot explain to you the connection that Penelope and I have developed through breastfeeding. There is nothing better in the world then feeding your baby and having them look up at you with those beautiful eyes. It’s a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
So after I gave birth I knew it was extremely important for me to get her to breastfeed within those first couple of hours and to do skin to skin contact. We immediately did skin to skin for the first hour of her life and she did latch on within that hour. We didn’t really get a good sense of breastfeeding though until we were in the recovery room.
Once in the recovery room where we would spend the next day we really started working on breastfeeding. She stayed in just her diaper for the most part and stayed skin to skin with me the majority of the time. I noticed right away that she preferred one breast over the other. As a new mom I had no idea what I was doing. You can read all the books you want and get all the information you can, but until you start doing it it really is a mystery. So I called a lactation consultant to the room and this is when I learned so much. I learned that you don’t actually hold them in that baby hold that you think you are supposed to do. It’s actually a harder angle for them at that stage because of the lack of head control. So I learned to do the football hold and she latched on much better. I also learned to hold my breast like you would if you held your hand up and made the letter C with it. I learned to hand express a bit at first and then to rub the nipple from her nose down to her mouth. This helped to put the smell out there and she would immediately try to find it. I learned what hunger cues to look for so that I could feed her before she ever got to the point of crying from hunger. This was very important. Once they hit the crying stage it becomes harder to get them to latch. So I looked for when she made little fists. This is a sign of hunger and their little fist will actually release and relax as they start to get full. I looked for the head to move back and forth. Babies actually do that in an attempt to find the nipple. They are searching for food. When feeding I looked for her arm to go limp. Meaning that I could pick her arm up and there wouldn’t be any resistance. This would mean that she was full. After learning all these tricks, we were really doing great with feeding. She had a wonderful latch from the very beginning. She still had a preference for the left breast though and that wouldn’t change until around week 2. Having initially fed her for the first few days on the colostrum I produced, my actual milk came in around day 3 once we were home.
Once we were home and my milk came in, I really struggled with an oversupply. While Penelope would feed from one side the other side would just pour. When I say pour I mean it would leave a puddle on the blanket in my lap. So I thought why am I wasting this!? So I started collecting it and thus starting the huge stock pile that I currently have now. Like I said before she still had a preference for that left side and we were having a bit of an issue with her feeding on the right side. This was tough as well since my right side produced more then my left. After asking around online and really paying attention during feedings I noticed that my right nipple didn’t come out as far as the left. Who knew there could be a difference between breast on the same body. No wonder she was having trouble on that side. So I started pumping that right side for about a minute and a half before I latched her. This would pull my nipple out and make it so that she could latch on. During this trial and error period I also tried different holds with her on that right side. She preferred to be held like a typical baby on that right side during feedings. So around week 2 we finally had it figured out and Penelope was on a roll. On the left she was held in the football hold and would just latch right on. On the right she was held in the baby hold and would latch right on after a small pumping each time. This went on until about week 4. I started slowly decreasing the amount of time I would pump that right side before latching her on. By week 5 she was able to latch onto the right with no pumping needed.
Once at about 8 weeks our feedings were easier than I could ever imagine. I didn’t have any pain during feedings and I never really did. Her latch has been great from the beginning. We feed on one side each feeding and then pump the other side. Then the next feeding we switch. This has allowed me to be able to stock up so much that I wasn’t worried when I went back to work. I no longer have to hold her head a certain way or do things in a certain manner to make her feed. She has great head control at this point and other than her preferred football hold on the left and baby hold on the right, she isn’t picky about her feedings.
If I have any advice for a new breastfeeding mom it would be this. Consult with a professional early on. That is why they are there and most hospitals have lactation consultants on-staff. If things are going good, have them come in and watch a feeding. They can then let you know what is working and what isn’t. Ask a ton of questions. Know that it will be hard and it like most things with kids its trial and error. You have to try a bunch of different things until you figure out what works, and like in my situation it may be different on each breast even with the same child. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help or to voice your concerns or feelings. Those first few weeks are a whirlwind. Lastly, you are doing amazing momma and don’t forget the reasons why you chose to do this in the first place! It does get easier! If you can make it to weeks 4-6 then you are in the clear on figuring it out and then the pain starts to go away. Remember that soreness and tenderness is to be expected. Pain is not. If you are on week 4-6 and are still in pain when the baby feeds, then seek help. Baby is not latching correctly or may suffer from a lip or tongue tie.
I wish every momma the best in their breastfeeding journey. It’s tough, but so worth it. I actually hope it doesn’t end for a long time. I love those moments of just me and her looking into each other’s eyes and bonding. It’s a very special time.
Baby Dust To All,