My Breastfeeding Journey

If you're squeamish or think breastfeeding is gross or overrated, this is probably a good time for you to click out of this page. While I'm not planning on showing a lot of graphic photos or anything, this isn't just going to be a post that says, "I breastfed my kid for a year. Huzzah!" and skips all the difficult, painful, and/or graphic details. This is a post for the soon-to-be-mamas, the first time mamas in the weeds, or the mamas who look back on their breastfeeding experience and wonder if everyone else had it a lot easier than they did. 

My Breastfeeding Journey

So, I breastfed my kid for a year. Huzzah! But really, I am writing this post partially in celebration of achieving something that was a big goal for me and that I'm proud to have accomplished. I'm not bashing formula at all--we are so lucky that we live in a time and place where moms who cannot or choose not to breastfeed have such a great alternative to keep their babies fed, nourished and healthy. But it's also okay to be proud of accomplishing a big goal that you've set for yourself if you're able to breastfeed to whatever age you choose. It's okay to be happy with the decision that you have made--whichever decision that is--and being happy with your choice doesn't mean you're judging the different choices of those around you. (A philosophy to apply to many other parenting choices as well!)
Dainty birthday cake eating

Goal Setting

Let's go back to the beginning and talk about goal setting.  I chose one year to be my "big goal" because breastmilk or formula is recommended as the primary source of nutrition before the age of 1. If I stopped before 1, I'd need to use formula but if I stopped after , I could use a milk alternative or make sure all the nutrition my baby needed was found in her diet of solid foods. (Now that she's one year old, we're still breastfeeding but I am starting to taper off on pumping at work and soon we'll be down to a couple of week's worth of my frozen milk.) But if I thought too much about the "big goal" from day one, I would have been completely overwhelmed. Instead, I focused on smaller goals.
"I'll breastfeed at least until she gets all the colostrum--it's liquid gold!"
"I'll breastfeed at least for 6 weeks--I hear that's the hardest time."
"I'll breastfeed at least for 3 months." "6 months." "1 year."

Mama and baby's first selfie in the hospital, middle of the night...precious memories!
And we made it! We made it through a poor latch, lip tie (which she still has), about 9 different lactation consultations (super helpful), dairy, soy & corn intolerances, reflux, pumping on a damaged nipple to give it a break from her bad latch, cluster feeding, clogged ducts, a few bouts of borderline mastitis, sleep deprivation, biting, pumping at work for a year, pumping on a road trip, etc.


Getting Started


Another hospital photo
The first time Adaline latched was less than an hour after her birth. I would have preferred it to be immediate, but with our emergency c-section (read her birth story here), that wasn't possible. She latched like a champ (or so I thought) with her teeny tiny mouth and I was on pain meds from the surgery, so it was all around a magical experience. Over the next couple of days in the hospital, I saw the lactation consultant on duty (so not the same one each time) a couple of times per day. They were super nice and would help me get her latched, but the focus was definitely more on just making sure that she was getting enough of a latch to eat and gain and wasn't as much focused on making sure she was latched correctly and stayed that way the whole time. I understand, as getting baby fed is the first priority, and because the LCs were busy and didn't have time to hang out for 45 minutes while she ate to help me. But, it made it so I didn't feel like I could get her latched correctly by myself because they'd just latch her and leave, and it turns out her latch was damaging my nipples and was way more painful than it needed to be.

Breastfeeding at my parents' hotel during my first Mother's Day weekend...real life hair and (lack of) makeup, a look I rocked all errr day for several weeks and still rock quite often.
After going home with my beaten, damaged body (I often felt like the high waisted mesh and the ice pack were the only things keeping my insides inside) her latch didn't improve, Ricky & I were even more sleep deprived, my nipples were cracked and bleeding, and she was feeding for 45 minutes or so, unlatching and sleeping for maybe an hour, and then waking up to feed again. I was in agony. When it was time to latch her on the right, I'd just cry. We reached out to the IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant) at our pediatrician's office and the IBCLCs at Milkworks, a non-profit community breastfeeding support center and shop. The IBCLC at our pediatrician's office reminded me of the ones at the hospital in that she was pressed for time and focused more on Adaline getting enough, which she was, and less on fixing the pain. She gave me a nipple cream and sent me on my way--but she did recommend Milkworks for more in-depth latch help. I had gotten my breastpump through Milkworks but hadn't seen one of their consultants yet.

Resources That Helped Me

We ended up going to our Milkworks IBCLC about 8 times. She was wonderful! She had me pump the more damaged side for a few days, gave me latch help, position help, and encouraged me to break Adaline's latch any time she shifted to a too-shallow position and have her try again. Together we trained her to latch correctly, and eventually instead of gritting my teeth and crying through our feeding sessions, I was able to look into her eyes and feel bonded to her. They also do "weighted feeds" at Milkworks, which means that they weigh the baby in only a diaper before and after the feed to see how much milk they are consuming each time. This helps ensure that milk production isn't an issue, and it was a big relief to see that Adaline, even as tiny as she was (6 pounds at birth) was taking in 3-3.5 oz each time we visited. If you live in the Lincoln, York, or Omaha NE areas, I really can't recommend Milkworks enough. If you don't live in this area, there are other IBCLCs throughout the US & internationally, some of whom work in healthcare office settings, birth centers, or as private consultants. They are extremely helpful. Friends and family who have successfully breastfed are great for helping with positioning or latching as well.


Another helpful resource, believe it or not, was Facebook. There are some great breastfeeding groups on Facebook with helpful administrators who are in many cases lactation consultants or breastfeeding counselors. I joined Milky Mommas as a general group, and Dairy Free Breastfeeding to get insight on breastfeeding a child with food intolerances. I also joined The Fussy Baby group for solidarity with all the crying we were dealing with. These groups helped me with what to do when I got a clogged duct, to directions on how to have others pace feed Adaline with a bottle during the day so she wouldn't refuse the breast when I was with her. I've learned a ton from the resources these groups have in their files and links, as well as from others' personal experiences. Both my mom & Ricky's breastfed their children for several months to a year and that was really encouraging for me.

Breastfeeding & Sleep


Something that I found difficult about breastfeeding was that it required a lot that only I could give to Adaline. Ricky was a good sport (and still is!) and would get up and change Adaline before I fed her but it meant that I was awake for an hour, laid down for an hour, and then was up again--for what felt like forever. She keep pretty much this routine for the first couple of months, and then started giving us one 3-4 hour stretch after "bedtime" and then *usually* slept 2-3 hours between night feeds. But it would take upwards of 45 minutes sometimes to get her to settle if we didn't get her transferred successfully to the crib. I heard friends who formula fed talk about trading nights with their spouses and sleeping a whole 8 hours 3-4 times per week and I would go home and cry, knowing what awaited me. A few people offered the well-meaning suggestion that I have Ricky feed her breastmilk in a bottle so that we could do this. But I would still need to wake up the same amount to pump to replace the milk and to prevent engorgement, so it didn't seem like a better option to me.

At 4 months, we felt the need to sleep train. With all Adaline's issues resolved (as far as we could tell--dairy/soy/corn removed from diet, her poo looked better, gas was better, reflux was medicated) she was still crying for many of her waking hours. Ricky and I were bouncing, rocking, swaying, singing, sweating, and losting our minds trying to get her to sleep. Sleep training is a big mommy guilt topic and a subject for a whole other post, but I mention it here because I really think it saved my breastfeeding relationship. I had gone back to work at the 10 week mark and so I'd been working full time on about 3 hours of sleep per night for 7 weeks at that point and I was about to lose my sanity. Formula, so that Ricky could take alternating nights or every other feed or something, seemed more and more like a good plan. Fortunately, after a few rough nights we were all sleeping better. She was actually crying significantly less than she did in our arms as we tried to rock and soothe her, which was surprising. And she was happier when she woke up because she was getting real rest.

A "reality" photo from her 3rd day of life.
We still fed her every 4 hours...but then at 6 months we were only feeding 2x per night...and at 9 months only 1x per night. Now, at 1 year and 1 week, we are finally night weaning and I'm actually feeling both freedom and sadness at the thought of not holding her tiny sleeping self after a night feed and staring at her little eyelashes and rosebud mouth. Nothing is more precious than a sleeping baby. So--moral of the story is that once I was getting a "reasonable" amount of sleep for a parent of a young child, I was much more able and willing to continue to breastfeed. We plan on pushing through for four months & then sleep training with our next child as well.


Breastfeeding as a Working Mom


My constant companion at work for the past year...

As a working mom, I had to also think through pumping at work. While I was lucky enough to have a boss that didn't give me a hard time about it & even an empty room in our office suite available to use, I made sure that I covered all my bases. I looked up the language of the federal law protecting pumping at work, and had it available in a file on my desk in case I needed it. I let my boss know before I even went on my maternity leave that I intended to breastfeed, hopefully for a year, and that would necessitate pumping at work as often as my baby would normally eat, so that I could make sure I was replacing what she took in bottles each day. I know that I am fortunate in having an office job, so I could take my laptop in with me and with my hands free pumping bra & double electric pump, I was able to work at the same time as I pumped. For those of you who have more physical jobs it may not be possible to work at the same time, but your boss is still required to give you reasonable break times and a private, non-bathroom space that locks for your use.


I'm not going to lie to you--pumping is not my favorite thing. I did it because it was important to me and I was able to, but it does make me feel a bit like a dairy cow and if you have any nipple damage it's pretty painful until that heals. Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter was a total godsend. I also hear really good things about the S2 Spectra pump, so next time around that's probably what I'll go for instead of my Medela. I'm working on a pumping mom bag post so that should be up soon with more details on what I always have with me and how that organization worked for getting things to and from work. There's also an element of social awkwardness, depending on your co-workers. I chose to treat it as normal and tried to act nonchalant about it if it came up--when I was carrying bottles or pump equipment, or when people would ask where I was going or what I was doing--and I honestly think it helped to normalize it for those around me. In fact, the vice chancellor of my institute (I work at a university) even designated an official lactation room in our building after running into me a few times, even though the original plan was to only add them in new buildings and not to designate rooms in buildings that already exist. I'm happy that I'm helping in some small way to pave a way for moms who come after me in this workplace because I personally know people who felt shamed out of continuing to breastfeed after having awkward or unpleasant office interactions--what a bummer of a way to end what is supposed to be a beautiful and nourishing journey between a mom & baby. No one should have to feel that way and I'm hopeful that the more that moms use their legal right to express milk at work, the more normal it becomes to everyone else.

Weaning (Emotions)

At the zoo on her first birthday
As I start the process of weaning, which I anticipate to be a couple months long, I have such mixed emotions. As I mentioned earlier, it's such a bonding experience that Adaline only gets from me, and it's sad to think of letting that go. Besides, my body has created, nourished, and comforted hers since July of 2016. Our bodies are so amazing! At the same time, my little love is growing in independence all the time and can barely sit still long enough for a full nursing session. I am so looking forward to having a full night's sleep again, and of feeling fully present at work each morning. I know that Adaline & I will still be so close, and we'll have other special bonding experiences that will be just ours. Those will grow and change as she does, from ice cream dates or Saturday morning movies in bed as a little girl, to pedicures and brunch as she gets older--or whatever she will want by then. We'll always have had this special time at the beginning of her life and I'm so damn grateful for it. And I look forward to all the great things that come along with the sacrifices for our next child too, God willing, whenever he or she comes along.



(If you're catching up on our baby journey, you can see our pregnancy announcement here, and our 15 week bumpdate heregender reveal here 21 week bumpdate28 week bumpdate32 week bumpdate37 week bumpdate, our office to nursery progress post , newborn must have items or birth story here.  I also have a post on office maternity outfits if you'd like to check that out too!) 

XOXO, 

JACLYN


If you have any breastfeeding questions, please feel free to ask in the comments, or privately by emailing me at lorimerliving@outlook.com. 

Comments

  1. What a journey! Congratulations on meeting your goal and good luck weaning, you guys will do great! Pumping and all the parts/bottle washing was the WORST part for me!!

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    1. Yes! Way too many pieces to wash and keep track of!

      Thank you, Julia! <3

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  2. Thanks for sharing Jacklyn! I am planning to breastfeed and am always hearing so many different stories. Glad to read one where someone stuck through and was successful! Very encouraging! :)

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    1. Thanks Abby! So excited for you--my birthday is June 5 so that's a good day to be born in case your little is looking for a date! :) I'm happy for any help this post may give you and you can always reach out if you have questions!

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  3. I relate to so much of this. Yea for completing year 1 with a healthy, happy baby! Such, such hard work but for such a sweet reason.
    -Amy Sandoz

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    1. Thanks, Amy! And thank you for being an example of sticking with it to me before Adaline was born! Yes, you hit the nail on the head--so hard but for such a sweet reason.
      XO

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  4. I'm happy for you that breastfeeding worked out :) And wow, these are a lot of bottles! Finally one advantage I have/had as a non-breastfeeding-mum :) I never had one drop of milk, unfortunately. I found a good alternative in these formula products, and my kids don't seem as they had any disadvantage out of it.
    I love you photos! Especially the real-life-look and the partner pyjamas (these are sooooooooo cute!!!)
    Best wishes
    Kathie

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