Let me give you some back story to my breastfeeding journey with Calvin. Due to having preterm labor (A labor before 37 weeks), Calvin was premature as a 33 weeker. I gave birth, I got to hold him and the doctors took him away after that to the NICU. The first night my milk barely came in. I think mentally and emotionally I was too exhausted to even try but I did. Through the tears and sadness of not having him bu my side the first night I had to wake up every three hours ( Newborns feeding schedule is usually every 2 – 3 hours) and pump, that was the hardest thing I had to do. I went on to do that for two weeks which was the time he spent in the NICU.
The times that I would visit him we had a lot of skin to skin ( this is great for bonding and also stimulating your boobs to produce milk) and tried to breastfeed but either he was sleeping or couldn’t latch on correctly. Due to that he was fed through a feeding tube and given the formula to supplement what I wasn’t producing. I read articles on breastfeeding, spoke to lactation consultants, bought pills and cookies to increase my supplies, and spent hours pumping to produce in a day maybe 12oz of milk. I think over time Calvin became used to being bottle-fed and it wasn’t until that he had surgery that we found out he was tongue tie. Babies that are tongue or lip tie struggle latching on to your breast since they aren’t able to fully get a grip of your whole areola. It’s very painful for you and also frustrating for them because they’re only getting to latch on to your nipple. Clipping their tie, which is a small surgery allows the baby to freely open their mouth and latch on correctly. It’s easier for them to eat and empty out your breast.
After he got his tie clipped I moved on to exclusively pumping till he was six months and supplementing with formula. He got half breastmilk and formula in his bottle. I spent all those months crying and praying that my milk would increase. Some days were great but going back to work made it hard to meet the demand of pumping every three hours. Here’s something I would say if you find yourself in my shoes, your mental health is more important than the guilt of being a “bad mom” because you have to formula feed your child. Not everyone can produce milk, our bodies are imperfect. However long you tried, be proud of it.
My boobs produce MILK? How crazy is that! Being a mom has grown a love in me for my body. I’ve been so amazed at all the things I’ve been capable of doing. Embrace all of it, even the milk stains on your shirts.
Your milk will come in three stages: Colostrum, Traditional milk, & Mature Milk
- Colostrum: When you hear in the beginning people talking about the “liquid gold” this is it right here. This yellowish milk is the first milk you will let down for your baby. It’s packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals in order to help your newborn fight against any bacteria or viruses.
- Transitional milk: This milk is a mixture of colostrum and mature milk, usually around the third or fourth day.” It contains lower levels of immunoglobulins and protein than colostrum but has more lactose, fat, and calories.
- Mature milk: This milk is thin and white, very much like watery skim milk, it’s packed with all the fat and other nutrients that growing babies need. This will be the milk you let down for the rest of your time breastfeeding.
(More information can be found on the “what to expect” website)
The beginning is very much trial and error, You’re new at this and so is a baby. If you’ll be delivering at a hospital, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I personally would suggest that if you can have skin to skin contact with your baby right away that you take the time to embrace each other and even attempt to breastfeed. Babies are usually ready to breastfeed right away but if your baby is not or even if you too tired after labor, it’s okay mama.
During your stay at the hospital, they will offer to feed the baby especially if your let down is a little slow if that’s not something you want to do then continue to ask for help in latching on the baby. Be vocal about what you want and what you need. Nursing isn’t easy, but with patience and help from others, you can get things going fast. Hospitals usually provide you with pumps in case you would rather pump milk for baby but if not, make sure to pack your own in your hospital bag.
Talk to a lactation consultant
You can talk to this person as many times you want and when you leave the hospital they will also be available. Hospitals offer lactation classes, however, during the pandemic I’m not sure how that looks like. So make sure to ask for information and even a number to get help from a consultant at home. The lactation consultant gave me a lot of tips and even a booklet to help me at home. She observed the way I would feed Calvin and also step in when I needed help. So take advantage of that. If you’re delivering at home, your midwife will most likely be your key person in the process.
Breastfeeding On Your Own
- Create a feeding area: This is the area you want to use when breastfeeding at first. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be breastfeeding anywhere in the house.
- Get comfortable: If you can be the couch, your bed, or even rocking chair. If you need pillows or back support use them. The more relaxed your body is the easier it will feel for you and baby.
- Water is your BFF: Drink lots and lots of water. It increases your milk and also keeps your hydrated.
- Practice: Even if the baby is struggling, don’t give up. Keep trying to catch baby on and take note of things that work or don’t work. Does baby eat better is a certain position? Does one boob feel more full than the other?
- Switch sides: It’s important that baby drains (empty’s out) one boob first before switching to the other. The more you drain your boob, the more milk you’ll continue to produce.
- The more you feed, the more milk: It’s very important that you consistently breastfeeding or pumping in order to produce more milk. Babies usually eat every 2 – 3 hours average and some will even cluster feed ( feeding more consistently between hours. Although the temptation is to just let baby sleep or wait more than five hours to nurse or pump, try to fight against it. Building up your milk production will continue to increase your supply. If you’re feeding fewer times, your body will think that it’s already meeting the needs of your baby and therefore not produce more then it already is.
- You got this: For some moms, breastfeeding comes very easy and for others, it doesn’t. it can feel emotionally draining and exhausting especially in the middle of the night. You may even feel resentful or lacking the desire to breastfeed your baby. As someone who’s experience wasn’t at all great, reading about the norms of breastfeeding helps me a lot. I felt so horrible at first and cried a lot trying to breastfeed. It was painful for me because of Calvin’s tongue tie. But breastfeeding should not be painful and if it is for you, check for babies latching or ask for support from a lactation consultant.
Here are some breastfeeding Must Have’s
- Nipple Cream – This is my favorite nipple cream, it’s organic and very smooth on your breast. Breastfeeding can often leave your breast dry and raw, constantly putting cream on them will help. It’s as safe for babies while feeding.
- Breast Therapy Pack – I haven’t used these before but I’ve heard great things about them. They’re great for soothing your breast, helps relieve engorgement. The hot therapy encourages milk let-down and helps relieve plugged ducts & mastitis.
- Breastfeeding Pillow – Breastfeeding pillows are meant to support your baby while you nurse. I love the boppy but I will recommend looking for a pillow with a much flatter surface and back support. Here’s One
- Nipple Shield – These are often used when a baby is struggling to latch on to your breast correctly. Some mamas use it if they have inverted nipples. Once the baby has a hang on feeding, no need to keep it for a long period of time.
- Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump – This product is used for pumping during nursing, catching milk let down during feeding or a quick go-to pump.
- Nursing Pads – Great for wearing under your bra to avoid milk leaking on your shirt.
- Nursing Cup – Works in the form of a nursing pad, but it’s actually catching your precious liquid gold.
- Lactation Massage Roller – Massaging your breast before feeding and during pumping helps with milk let down. The roller serves as a support to get rid of any milk ducts you may have hidden in your breast.
- Cool Gel Pad’s – Cracked or raw nipples… meet you’re other best friend.
- Organic Nursing Pad’s – These are cloth washable pad’s. Easy to wash and be used.
I hope these tips were helpful, what are some of your breastfeeding faves or tips?
Part Two: Pumping/ Formula