I got your attention, didn’t I?
Feeding your children with your boobs is hard. My own breastfeeding journey has ups and downs and more downs and precious memories all wrapped up with pride.
I am four and a half months into breastfeeding my second baby, and what I’ve learned is: this time around is nothing like the first.
All the mommas say that each kid is different, I didn’t know exactly what that meant until baby Luciano came along. He’s a champion nurser. Violet never quite got the hang of it. The good news is: I’ve been on both sides of the nursing experience and I’ve learned a lot.
I like to share my knowledge. Sharing means caring, and I care about your boobs. If you, like me, have decided to nurse your baby, some of my opinions may be just what you need to get through.
Your support system is of utmost importance.
Let’s be honest: the first month of breastfeeding sucks. If I wasn’t so determined to nurse my babies for at least a year, I would have quit after a week.
The lack of support vs. solid support makes a world of difference. I used a nipple shield for both of my kids. Violet was never able to nurse without it. Luciano only needed it for a few weeks. The difference is that my support system was invested in how things were going– and in how he could help. I didn’t feel like I was in it alone. If you have a partner who thinks that a breastfeeding relationship is just between a mother and a baby make them read this: partners are very important too!
When I became a single mother within the first year of Violet’s life, my level of support didn’t change-it wasn’t ever there. I will tell you that I successfully breastfed Violet for 12 months, because I did. Successful breastfeeding comes in many forms. I exclusively pumped for six of those 12 months. The end result was that my baby had breast milk for the first year of her life, and that would be a success.
The support I have how now has provided me with the ability to pull encouragement and strength when I need it most. That has made all the difference. L has a proper latch (he didn’t at first). He’s able to go back and forth between pumped milk in a bottle when I’m at work, and the breast when I’m with him. Violet refused to latch once she regularly had a bottle . I’m not saying that you won’t be successful with out a man, or that you can’t do it alone. I’m just saying that the help is valueable. Support doesn’t have to be traditional. It can be your mom, a friend, or your local Le Leche League. My advice would be: in the months leading up to your baby’s big entrance: make sure you have your support lined up. Some is better than none. You’ll need it–just like your milk filled boobies will need that super supportive bra.
Accessories can be a life (boob) saver.
Nipple cream you guys. Your nipples will need some serious TLC. I’ve tried all kinds of nipple creams. Earth Momma Angel Baby Nipple Butter is by far my favorite. You can find it here. At first I was thrown off by the seemingly hard round balls in it, but once it hits the air, all of the ingredients soften together and it’s like magic for your boobs. It’s organic and non-GMO, and you don’t have to worry about wiping the reminants away before baby eats. Bonus: it cleared up L’s baby acne and drastically improved his cradle cap, too. I put this stuff on everything…even up my nose! (The air is dry and my nose was bleeding. Don’t judge. It worked.).
Gel pads. Get them before your baby comes. Put them in your fridge. When you are in those first two weeks…putting those suckers on your nipples in between feedings will be a big old sigh of relief. I used this kind.
A pump is a good thing to have. Even if you won’t be working, or spending lots of time away from baby, I would reccommend you have a pump. At least a manual pump; sometimes you just need to take some pressure off the top. Sometimes your baby decides to take a long nap, and if you don’t pump, you essentially miss a feeding. It’s all about supply and demand–so there’s a time to pump and a time to not pump. (You don’t want to create an over supply issue). Either way–it will come in handy at some point. I have a double electric pump because I work full time (and exclusively pumped with Violet). I also have a hand pump like this one. Some of my nursing momma friends swear by this silicone pump, but I haven’t tried it yet. If you do: let me know how it goes!
One more gadget: the Milkies Milk Saver. I have an obsession with keeping my supply. When I was nursing Violet-I had a lot of milk. Then my world came crashing down around me and my milk disappeared. (Milk doesn’t like drama. Stay as stress free as possible). So now that I get another go at it, I’m very aware of my supply. Your let-down happens on both sides. I collected up to 5 oz of breast milk a day using the milk saver. Once I established my supply, I stopped messing with it, but it was pretty cool for a little while. It makes me sad to waste that liquid gold.
Tips for when it’s uncomfortable.
Know when to use hot therapy, and when to use cold therapy. When you’re in the hospital, birthing center, or have your midwife with you in those first hours–it seems like an expert is always close by to help you adjust a latch, perfect a hold, even make you comfortable with pillows and sips of water. Then you blink and you’re on your own. And THEN your milk comes in. The entrance of the milk threw me right back to square one. Sure: I had the most amazing rock star boobs….but my goodness they were full- and hard- and hurty. Any latching that either kid had gotten the hang of was instantly gone. You try latching on to a watermelon. Not easy.
When this is you: reach for the frozen peas. I was afraid to use cold therapy when my milk came in, because I thought that you only use cold when you want your milk to go away. My amazing lactation consultant set me straight when she explained that the cold helps to calm your breast tissue. Everything is enflamed and swollen. Using a cold compress in between feedings is totally fine–and rather helpful around those few days when you feel like you’re carrying around water balloons that are about to over-fill and pop. I received these as a gift and they came in handy.
Clogged ducts are almost inevitable, or so it seems. This is when you use heat. I dealt with mastitis with both of my babies, and this time around one of my mommy groups gave me the most amazing advice: hang your boobs into hot water to help un-clog the duct. I tried it, and it worked. I filled a basin with water as hot as I could stand it. Then, I leaned over the water and massaged. Bingo. It also works to lay the baby down and nurse one your hands and knees. You know: gravity.
Keep reading for my supply tips.
I’ve talked to lots of fellow mommas about supply. I’m sure my tips won’t work for everyone, but they work for me.
First and foremost: RELAX. Keep your life as stress-free as possible. (I know: easier said than done). My marriage ended while I was trying to produce milk for Violet. It didn’t work well–it was a constant struggle. I trickled through the finish line, like an exhausted runner at the 26th mile. I still have stress in my life now. My employer went through a buy-out a few weeks before L was born, I lost my dad while I was on maternity leave, I went back to a completely different job…those are all things that would cause anyone to stress out. When it’s time to feed L, or pump for him: I just push it all out. I’ve practiced mindfulness and I take deep breaths. So far-so good.
The tea. Mother’s Milk Tea, Lactation tea…you either love it, or you don’t. I find it to be much easier to drink when I make it into a batch of iced tea. Sweeten with honey to help with the licorice taste if that isn’t your cup of tea–pun intended. I notice a difference when I drink a few cups a day.
Hippy Voodoo Oils. I love essential oils. Fennel and Basil EO’s help to maintain your supply. I mixed equal drops of each with a carrier oil in a roller bottle. After I use it, I smell like an Italian Restaurant. I just roll in on to my chest–avoiding the areola and nipple section–and rub it in.
And as always: make sure you’re drinking enough water. I know: you’re tired of hearing it. So am I. Do it anyway.
That latch tho.
For me, it was elusive. It finally clicked when I laid down. Yep. Look it up: laid back breastfeeding. I didn’t think it made sense, but what it does, is force that little nugget to open his mouth is wide enough to get milk. I don’t have to lay down all the time now, but it was my saving grace for the first couple of months–when I was just at home anyway.
Also, one nurse described the latch like this: your baby’s lips should look like they are able to be a suction cup against the wall. I will actually adjust his mouth so that he is on right. I don’t have to do it as much anymore, but it was a very helpful visual for me.
I find that nursing can be hard and sometimes frustrating. But now I’m finally at a place where we settled in. I’m comfortable–he’s comfortable. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. Nobody else gets to stare into those beautiful big blue eyes quite like I can.
I’m proud that I pushed through. I set a goal, and stuck to a goal. And now I’ve set it again. This happens to be one of my favorite things to talk about: so please–if your needing some of that ever so important support–let me know! I’d love to be your lactation cheerleader!