For the longest time, circa pre-baby days, I’ve always known that I wanted to breastfeed my child when I do have one. I am glad to have great role models around me like my sister who nursed her babies from day one. Something about breastfeeding that really appealed to me. It is such a beautiful and primal thing, to care and feed your baby. To me, breastfeeding is a symbiotic relationship; babies gain the nutrients from nursing, mamas get a sense of accomplishment and simultaneously levels out her raging hormones and both gain the emotional and physical bond with one another.
Prior to welcoming Alden Earth-side, I went for lactation classes to learn all about this breastfeeding business. I knew that with breastfeeding, it is a unique experience for each mother-baby duo and this can’t be more true. Other than unique experiences, I too heard that one’s breastfeeding journey can be hard, but of course, I didn’t really know what that meant until I had the baby. At the lactation classes, there were of course, lots of information for all eager moms-to be like me, of which I remembered nothing of when I finally gave birth.
When Alden was born, I didn’t get to nurse him right away in labor & delivery because I had him through a c-section. The first time I got to nurse him was when we were brought to our postpartum room. With the help of the nurses, we were able to get him to latch on pretty easily, but without them, I had the hardest time to get him to latch for each feeding. I was on the nursing schedule, which meant I was feeding him every couple of hours but unfortunately, he wasn’t getting enough milk or who knows what could be the reason, and so he had jaundice. We had to stay in the hospital for an extra day (after having been there for almost a week at that time) because Alden had to be on phototherapy to decrease his bilirubin levels and when he was put on lights, we had to supplement with formula. How my heart broke when we had to do this and I felt like a complete failure as a mom. However, I knew that I wasn’t suffering with a short supply of milk or colostrum because my breasts were engorged.
My first few days at pumping in the hospital. So happy with this yield! Look at all the golden milk!
I started pumping because I was determined to feed Alden breastmilk and if I couldn’t get him to direct feed, I was giving him my expressed milk through the bottle. I was lucky that I could produce lots of milk! Since we supplemented with expressed milk and formula, we were able to get his bilirubin levels down but I was distraught internally. I knew that I needed to get him to direct feed to increase my milk supply but we were not there yet. So, the lactation consultants at the hospital gave me a nipple shield to use, and it worked like magic! After a few feeds with the shield, I still was not happy because at this point, I didn’t want him to have nipple confusion and at this rate, with the bottle feeds and the shield, he might have it.
Feeding Alden expressed milk through the bottle and him on phototherapy. I cried that day 😦
So, when we got home, R’s mom really helped me deal with my engorged boobs. They were too hard and because of that I kept having mild cases of mastitis and it affected Alden’s latch. We expressed the crap out of them using hot towels and lots of hand massages. We were able to get them to soften and just like that, his latch improved immediately. Thank you, mom! For the next few days, that was all I did; pump & feed, pump & feed. I wanted to increase my supply too because I needed a stash for when I get back to work. Ever since then, Alden and I have been enjoying breastfeeding together and we cannot be happier.
So, in a nutshell, here are the things I learned in my breastfeeding journey:
- Engorged Breasts: Engorged breasts do not encourage latches very well. Pump the milk out and let your breasts soften for a better latch.
- Milk Production: There are no such thing as milk-boosters. The only way to increase supply is by increasing demand. That’s why there is such thing as cluster-feeding especially when babies are going through a growth spurt. To increase pump yields, try nursing only on one side and filling up the other breast until it is full, then pump.
- Soft Breasts still contains milk: For quite some time, I was leaving my breasts semi-full because I thought that if I empty it out, there wouldn’t be milk for my baby. This is false. Your baby still will be able to nurse with soft breasts.
- Feeding/Pumping Schedule: For all you working moms, it is important to keep track of your baby’s feeding schedule. For each time you miss a feeding, you will need to pump to keep the supply going.
- Supplements: Try refraining from giving baby formula because it will really mess up your supply. Formulas tend to make the baby full longer, but for each time you don’t nurse, that decreases that demand your breasts need to make more milk.
Continuing pumping at home and increasing my freezer stash!
Breastfeeding is NOT an easy thing to do and as mothers, we have to be the ones responsible for feeding our child and yes, that means less sleep. But, it is so rewarding because each time you nurse, even with 3 hours of sleep or less, each time your baby looks up to you, they are thankful you are there.
Daddies can also bond with the baby by feeding expressed breast milk through the bottle. R does this from time to time and Alden loves it too.
I am very excited to be on this journey with my baby and I am curious to see how long it will last. Hoping that breastfeeding is easy for all mamas out there. It is HARD WORK but it is worth it! HAPPY BREASTFEEDING!