I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. God is a genius in His design and it was a part of motherhood I was looking forward to from the moment I found out I was pregnant. What I didn't realize was that although breastfeeding is instinctual for babies, it's not for moms. I didn't realize that sometimes even if moms want to breastfeed they can't. I had no idea that "feeding your baby" would be such an emotional, physical, spiritual and mental experience. I didn't realize that out of all my life achievements and accolades I would consider "breastfeeding for a year" as one of my hardest moments and highest honors. Oliver received breast milk for one year (even though I suffered with low supply off and on the entire time, and practically crawled to the finish line), and I'm hoping I can give Eleanor the same gift. There's a PLETHORA of things that I didn't know/wish I would have known the first time. So here I am today, sharing some thoughts, tips and encouragement. A few context comments and then I'll jump on in: - I'll be the first to say I am on team #FedIsBest. Oliver has had both breast milk and formula and although I hope I don't have to use it, I've already bought some formula for Eleanor that is in our pantry.
-I'm no professional. I have no credentials in this area, only personal experience. Please reach out to your healthcare professional or a lactation consultant for yourself.
-Every mom and situation is different. There is NO shaming here. However, I'm coming from the opinion, supported by research, that breast milk is the healthiest option for your baby. The role and benefits of breast milk are MIND BLOWING. This post isn't a breastfeeding informational excerpt so I encourage you to go to a class or research it on your own time.Once you know the benefits, it's really hard to not do whatever it takes to get your baby breast milk.
1. The bond is indescribable and important.
You know that mother bond you hear about and see on hallmark type movies, of that moment a mother first holds her baby and every fuzzy feeling in the world flushes her as she clings onto HER child. I didn't get that. At all. It felt like I was holding a baby that I had never met and didn't know. I felt proud of him and proud of me, but I didn't have that bond women talk about in the hospital. Breastfeeding, however, is what built that bond for me. The constant skin to skin, flush of hormones, and sweet eye contact every 2 hours gave me all those mushy mommy feelings then and still to this day. The skin-to-skin is also so important. I was feeding him on schedule like clockwork, but what ended up really helping was when I kept him on my chest and let him eat practially all day every day (we're talking weeks 1-3ish). With Eleanor I do plan on getting her on an early schedule again (I think that was the key to helping Oliver sleep through the night by 10 weeks). But I plan on doing much more skin-to-skin bonding and eating for her. (Although I'll have a 20 month old running around this time, so we'll see how that goes. Ha!)
2. A lactation consultant is worth the money.
I met with a lactation consultant at the hospital but honestly everything was hurting and new and it wasn't until I was home after a week that I really needed the help. I was crying daily, hurting, and discouraged. Through good old google, I found a lactation consultant in my area, paid the $115 and had 2 hours with her. She taught me tips and tricks and honestly just hearing from a professional, "This is hard for everyone and you're doing a great job." was worth every penny as I was 2 weeks into things. What was really helpful was using a special scale and measuring baby before and after a feed she was able to tell me exactly how much Oliver was eating. It was WAY more than I was pumping which gave me great assurance to trust my body.
3. Not every woman produces and pumps the same amount of milk.
Speaking of lactation consultants, she gave me the phrase, "You were created to feed your baby not the fridge." She was referencing the pressure us modern moms have at staring at pictures of lady’s freezers stocked with bags of milk. This can be intimidating if you have a low supply. Don't get caught up in the comparison game. (Just for reference, I pumped a combined 3-4oz with Oliver pretty much the entire journey.)
4. Formula isn't liquid failure.
I had to supplement with formula for Oliver for about a week (when he was 2-3weeks old). It was devastating to me. Walking through miscarriage, and then ending up with a c-section with a breech baby and THEN not being able to produce milk.... I felt like my body was broken and I was a complete failure. The enemy really lied to me a lot, and sadly I listened. I was eating all the things, drinking all the drinks, increasing skin-to-skin, trying to get "rest" in but still pumping any second I could inbetween the already short 90min windows all while the enemy was telling me I was a complete mom failiure. I would watch friends give their husbands a bottle with their hair curled and makeup done and I was a lonley, unshowered, exhaused MESS. (I’m just trying to be honest here. i don’t want to paint the wrong picture. Motherhood is THE BEST, but I have to include this part of the miracle process to be authentic.) I had to really overcome the mental battle that formula was failure. It's not. Feeding your baby is not failing. I needed some help as my body figured things out, and can I say, once the stress was gone and I gave myself grace MY BODY DID PRODUCE. But also, supplementing isn't a reason to quit. If you are in a discouraging season, give a formula bottle or two, take a nap, take a deep breath and keep going. I am so grateful I stuck with it, even if it wasn't "exclusive". Every blue moon throughout Oliver's year one I would give him a formula bottle. He would still be hungry after a feed, I wouldn't be on top of my calorie intake and have a low supply that day, or Ryan would whisk me out for a spontaneous date night and I didn't have any milk in the freezer. Life happens and I had to get through my purist head that formula isn't poison. Take a breath mama, you're doing a great job. This is the biggest difference for me going into breastfeeding with Eleanor. I'm preparing to exclusively breastfeed her, but I'm not going to fall a part if I have to give her a formula bottle.
5. Fitting Rooms make for great private nursing stations.
I am a private person and nursing in public was very awkward for me. Not to mention Oliver HATED any type of nursing cover. I soon learned that fitting rooms were my best friend. I could grab a random clothing item, use the handicap fitting room with my stroller and have a nice, private, aced space to feed Oliver when I was out and about. (*Newer Targets and Buy Buy Babies have "nursing stations" that are really nice.)
6. Prayer Works
You know I had to throw it in there. For me, I saw a drastic difference in my supply simply after praying and asking the Lord for more milk. I clung on to the promise, "With God I lack nothing." Ryan added to this declaration, "With God Abby lacks nothing... and lactates everything Oliver needs." :)
7. Pump, mama, pump.
Exclusive pumping moms and working moms.... you are my HEROES! I loathe pumping. There's nothing quite as discouraging as hooking up to machine that makes sound as if to be mocking you, only to get a few ounces 20-30 min later. But I will say, it really does help with your supply. I got my supply to a place where I could do one pump a day (on top of my 5 nursing sessions) and that really helps me keep my freezer stocked and supply where it needs to be.
Going into things with Eleanor, I upgraded pumps to a Spectra through insurance. I plan on pumping much sooner, as in bringing my pump to the hospital.
8. Cluster feeds are your friend.
As your baby grows his/her appetite grows too. For Oliver it happened over night. One day he was eating 2 oz and the next he was downing a 6 oz bottle in the church nursery. Prior to these growth spurts your baby will want to eat every hour. They call this a cluster feed. It is exhausting and frustrating. Honestly, most of my tears came from these seasons. You are exhausted because your sleep is out the window with the around the clock feeds, and then for me, I had a screaming baby pulling at my breast because I didn't have enough milk for him. It is so tempting to throw in the towel in these moments, but cluster feeds are what help your body kick up to the next level, so to speak. If you need your milk production to bump up to keep up with baby, don't neglect the cluster feeds. Let that baby latch and eat when he/she wants. Milk is a demand/supply process. As you put those “orders in” more milk will come.
9. Discomfort doesn't last long.
"But doesn't it hurt?!." is the number one things I hear when talking about breastfeeding. Yes, you will be sore. But for me, that lasted maybe 2 weeks. I put laninoh on after every feed and never endured cracked or chapped nipples. It's like when you start working out, your muscles are sore for a while but then you get over it. The discomfort doesn't last long.
10. Breastfeeding is about nurture just as much as nutrition.
During a growth spurts, a hard day at the doctor, in an overstimulating situation nursing for comfort is worth breastfeeding altogether. There have been multiple times when nursing to calm him down made it all worth it. When you nurse, you are there for your baby physically and emotionally. It's quite a magnificent thing, God created. 11. Get around a community of Breastfeeding Mamas. For personal reasons, none of the mom's in my local community breastfed. This lead to lots of loneliness. At gatherings, I would have to leave the group to find a closet or corner somewhere and nurse for 20 min. I asked the Lord for other moms who could be in my circle, so to speak, about this. He answered! Through instagram distant friends grew closer, through texting some of my long distant mom friends and I would chat while we were both feeding our baby miles apart. Through other mom blogs I gained resources, and through facebook groups I gleaned from complete strangers. Having other breastfeeding mamas around me was such a game changer!
12. Any amount of breast-milk is better than none.
Whether you breastfeed for one week or one year, I want to end with some celebration! Any amount of breast-milk you provide for your child is wiring their little body for a life of health. Many Moms choose to switch to formula for a variety of reasons - their mental wellness, supply issues, work scheduling, etc. You have to do what's right for you as a mom, and as long as you are feeding your baby you are doing a great job.
I pray this encourages some Mama out there. It‘s hard for all of us.
In His Joy,
Abby PS - Don't forget ... The Cirkles are cheering you on!