I went into motherhood with no expectations for myself as it related to breastfeeding and/or pumping. I decided I’d give it a try, but if it didn’t work for me or for Brecken, that would be that.
First of all, I don’t think we do a good job of prepping women for what this is actually going to be like. You give birth and after the baby is checked/cleaned up, a nurse puts him on your chest and says “Oh, see, he’s routing around. Time to breastfeed!”
Excuse me, what? How? I read some pamphlets but… like… what?
There’s no milk at this point, just a substance called colostrum — more often called liquid gold. Colostrum contains antibodies that protect your little one against diseases. Brecken latched fine in the hospital (show off) and then he’d “feed” for like 20 minutes per boob, but it never felt like he was getting much. We kept this up for days and I began to wonder if this was it? Surely I was doing something wrong.
Then my milk came in and holy cow. Holy. Cow. I was horribly engorged and felt like the world must be ending. It was so painful and I was too engorged to get much to come out. My boobs were so full Brecken couldn’t even latch! On top of that, it was Saturday so I couldn’t get ahold of our pediatrician. I reached out to a local lactation specialist who gave me some tips to get through the weekend (CABBAGE LEAVES!!!) and we scheduled an appointment for Monday.
Side note: If you want to give breastfeeding a real shot, I highly recommend a session with a lactation specialist. They teach you tips and tricks in YOUR house with YOUR baby, and it makes a world of difference. If you’re local to OKC, I highly recommend the Thrive Mama Collective.
After my lactation appointment, I felt empowered to give this a fair shot. And then, a week later Chandler went back to work and that empowerment dissipated. I was lucky enough to have one of my three mothers-in-law in town that third week, which greatly helped this transition, but it was still much harder than I thought it would be. I was barely keeping up supply-wise, so we started supplementing with formula. The dairy-based formula didn’t sit well with Brecken and, at just 3 weeks old, we discovered he had a dairy intolerance.
So now I was going to have to give up cheese. And I LOVE cheese. More than most people love their dogs. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. But even people who don’t know me well can tell you two things about me: I love cheese and I love Britney Spears (…more on that one later, ha).
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a mom. Then I got pregnant, but wasn’t sure I would breastfeed. Now I was a mom and I was breastfeeding. But supply issues coupled with giving up dairy seemed like a recipe for disaster. I knew I needed to do what was best for me, because my mental health being in a good place was best for our entire family. Chandler was totally supportive of either option (we are big Fed is Best supporters in our house).
I decided to tough it out another week and see what happened. For me, 4 weeks was the magic number. Everything fell into place. One day it was still really hard and somewhat painful, and the next it was like Brecken and I were pros. I ended up breastfeeding for 6 months. It obviously got infinitely harder again when I returned to work when Brecken was 12 weeks. But, by that time, I was determined to keep going.
I ended up going on two trips without Brecken during that 6 months, and managed to pump in the most awkward places, transport milk through numerous airports, etc.
I’m proud of my journey because I didn’t expect it whatsoever. I want you to be proud of your journey, too. Whether you breastfed for 2 years, couldn’t breastfeed, or didn’t want to, you gave your baby the nutrition he or she needed to grow big and strong. And I promise, it was enough.
PS – If you’re engorged or trying to dry up your milk supply, trust me on the cabbage leaves.