My Breastfeeding Journey

February 13, 2015

I didn't know much about breastfeeding before I was pregnant with Erin. I think I just thought: every woman will have lots of milk after having a baby and the baby will drink and everyone will be happy - The End. Breastfeeding is definitely not that simple. Maybe it's because more people focus on the actual birth/labor, people don't really tell you the part about what happens after the baby arrives.

Here's how it went down for me.

Erin arrived August 10, 2013 (birth story here). I was exhausted and completely overjoyed. After we had moved into the maternity ward and Erin was all cleaned up, I was ready to breastfeed. I remember while I was attempting my first real nursing session I was thinking, "um, where's all the milk?". I just assumed that there would be a plentiful supply of breast milk once the baby was out. I was wrong. After giving birth, women have colostrum in their breasts for the baby to drink. It's still considered milk but it has a different color/consistency and it lacks in volume (colostrum is actually very good for your baby). I learned that it takes a few days for your milk to actually "come in". I remember leaving the hospital wondering if Erin would have enough to drink, but the nurses reassured me that she would be fine just drinking the colostrum. Unfortunately, Erin had issues with jaundice so we had to supplement with formula. I waited and waited for my milk to come in and finally, the fourth day after giving birth, the milk finally came in. It was in the middle of the night that I woke up to a soaked shirt and really really painful, rock solid breasts and a slight fever. Not.Kool. You have been warned, wear a nursing bra or you'll have a mess. 

I never imagined breastfeeding would be painful. It's actually very painful. The first few weeks your body is adjusting to how much milk needs to be produced so you'll have some uncomfortably full breasts. Some women get mastitis, which is an infection in the breast so make sure to keep your breasts from getting too engorged! Poor Erin couldn't keep up with all the milk that was coming out. She'd be squirming, choking and spitting milk out. I had an over-active letdown and it would not be a pretty sight. I said I wanted to quit just about every other day (Ken can confirm). I'd say it took a solid 2 weeks for my milk to adjust and a  solid 4 weeks for Erin and I to get a rhythm down. We had issues with latching on one breast in the beginning, but after seeing a lactation specialist, Erin was taking milk on both sides. (Lansinoh nipple cream will become your best friend because your nipples will hate you in the beginning)

1. Nursing bra 2. Nursing cover 3. Nipple Cream 4. Nursing Pillow 5. Medela Advanced Double Electric Pump 6. Nursing pads 7. Bottle cleaner 8. Milk bags
Erin was a slow eater and when I say slow... I mean really slow. She took her sweet time. It was more of a comfort thing for her than it being about getting full. One nursing session would take almost 45 minutes and at night (cluster feeding), I'd be nursing for over 2.5 hours with maybe a 15 minute break somewhere. It was hard going out with her the first few months and if we did go out, she'd be attached to my boob the whole time. But it all goes up hill from there. Erin got bigger and started to learn to eat better and faster. Oh, and the pain goes away. It was during that time I really got to enjoy spending time with Erin during our nursing sessions. She'd almost always fall asleep nursing and I loved just sitting there and staring at her. It was bonding time and I love that we were able to experience it together.
I stopped breastfeeding once Erin turned one. I think both Erin and I were ready to stop, which turned out great because it made weening so much easier. I cut down a nursing session every few days and then a few weeks into it, I completely stopped. Please note though, weening will be painful for your breasts. They will get engorged once again and will feel uncomfortable and painful, but in a couple of weeks, all will be well again. I had my highs and lows when it came to breastfeeding, but I'm so glad I was able to experience it. (btw, it's so nice not having to sleep with a bra anymore!)

Here are a few tips:
  1. Massage, Massage, Massage. Your breasts will get engorged and full quite a few times. It really helps to massage them or express a little milk. What really helped me was applying a warm compress and sleeping with it.
  2. See a Lactation specialist. These specialists are here to help you, so if you ever run into any issues/questions, go see one. They're so helpful!
  3. Get a nursing pillow.
  4. Breast milk has magical healing powers. We put breast milk into Erin's eye whenever she had an eye infection. Her eyes were always better the next day! Breast milk is very precious, save every job!
  5. Drink lots of water! I had really dry skin postpartum. Wasn't sure if it was due to breastfeeding, but I do remember being constantly thirsty and hungry. So make sure you hydrate and eat lots because breastfeeding burns calories!
  6. The car was my go-to place for nursing. Once Erin became aware of her surroundings she hated the nursing cover. She'd always try to kick at it or grab at it and frankly it made me so hot (nursing in the summer = not fun). She was so easily distracted by any noise so it would be so difficult trying to nurse her in the open. I ended up doing a lot of nursing in the car. I didn't mind it. It kept her focused on eating with no distractions.

Just as an FYI, a baby drinking breast milk has a mustard like color poop. It's some pretty explosive poop too. She'd always leak out to her back. Fun stuff.

Back when she was somewhat chubby. Knocked out after a meal.

She didn't fall asleep nursing as she got older. We'd try to make each other laugh while she was eating. She loved sticking her finger in my nose.


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