Jules and I recently had a conversation about feeding our little ones and how different we were. We often hear so many complaints and struggles mom face when it comes to feeding their baby... "they don't latch well, I need to carry all these bottles around, the baby doesn't like the bottle, my milk supply is dropping...etc." Below are two different perspectives on feeding our babies. We hope that through both of our stories, you'll find comfort in knowing that you're not alone in this.
With Riv, I had no idea what I was doing (like most first time moms). I thought she had a good latch but Riv kept crying and I was confused. I'll never forget the nurse who helped Ray and I sleep one night by speaking truth to us. "It's OK that your milk isn't in it. She is hungry. It's OK to give her a bottle of formula. It's OK." I gave in, gave her a bottle of formula and she was content. She slept that night and Ray and I finally received some rest. From there on out, we tried everything. Two days after coming home from the hospital I woke up with a 102 degree fever, was diagnosed with double mastitis infection, and went on antibiotics. Massaged the crap out of my painfully rock hard and bright red breasts in a hot shower for a week. Riv was completely turned off so I continued to pump while Riv received a mixture of formula and donated breastmilk. Then I went to see a lactation consultant and was told that Riv might have a slightly short frenulum but told me to try a nipple shield. Even then, my supply couldn't keep up and we had to supplement with formula for every feeding. Riv was on the nipple shield for 4 months until she could latch on her own. We still supplemented her with formula. Come month 5 and I was back at work when my supply started dropping even more. I was figuring out how to pump in an office that had a makeshift lactation room. I was stressed about having to constantly kick men out of the rooms because they were using it to make conference calls. Then came month 6 and my battle with formula / breastmilk came to an end when I was pumping pretty much nothing at work. I would be lucky to pump 2 ounces a session. For the rest of Riv's first year, she went on Similac Sensitive.
Isla was "easier". She came a month early, she latched well, and my milk came in day 5 so between then and day 5, we were supplementing with Similac Sensitive. I was more knowledgeable this time around. I prevented mastitis by massaging my clogged ducts and nursed Isla as frequently as possible. Week 2 and I was exclusively breastfeeding. Hallelujah, right?! We are currently on month 5 and I am on herbal supplements to help my supply grow. I quit eating only veggies and chicken (for weight loss) because my pumping sessions were drastically different once I put myself on this "diet". I had Ray buy me a pack of Guinness. I ate less foods containing citrus acid because it was reducing my milk supply. I ate oatmeal and flaxseeds. I bought lactation cookies. I try drinking a gallon of water a day. All this for 4-5 ounces of milk per pumping session. Isla is currently going through a growth spurt and I wonder if she'll have enough to feel full with just my breastmilk.
Currently, my schedule looks like this:
- Nurse Isla around 6:30pm / 7:00pm and put her down for the night
- Pump around 9:30pm / 10:00pm
- Nurse around 2:00am
- Nurse around 5:30am - 6:00am
- Nurse her close to 8am right before I head out for work
- Pump at 10am
- Pump at 1:30pm
- Pump at 4:30pm on my commute home (thank you freemies and my spectra s2)
- Nurse around 6:30pm
- Pump around 9:30pm
- Sleep till her 2am feeding
I've come to a conclusion that some women are blessed with an abundant amount of liquid gold and some women have to try hard. Really, really hard. As shallow as this sounds, I'm currently dealing with... do I consume the calories that I need so my body isn't stressed about producing enough for Isla or... do I work towards fitting into my clothes again and feeling more confident about my body but run the inevitable risk of not producing enough and buying formula? I love my time with Isla when I am nursing her but is this becoming almost an idol for me? Am I putting too much pressure on 'Exclusively Breasfeeding'? Why am I so protective over this topic when Riv eventually exclusively took formula?
The minute I held Halie as she entered the world, she latched the very second we did skin to skin. She came out "hungry" and wanting to eat. Gosh, we were such first time parents- I didn't know it took a while for milk to come in. So, the second night in the hospital when Halie would cry and cry, Han and I were freaking out. The night nurse said it's because she was hungry and that I should supplement her with formula. Oh my, how dare she suggest formula?? I had told her she's latching great and so it's impossible that she's hungry. She then proceeded to bring in the medela hospital grade pump and told me to pump. After pumping for 40 minutes, I realized I wasn't producing any milk, I caved and gave her formula... and I cried myself to sleep that night, feeling like such a failure. My milk came in at day 6 since birth and boy, did it flow. I was so naive, and such a new mommy. Since the pump night (July 14, 2014), I've pumped every single day and the only break I had from pumping was from Jan 2016-October 10, 2016 (when we went on an out of state vacation and just nursed Halie at bedtime/pregnant with Janie- per doctor's recommendation).
I ended up nursing Halie until she was 20 months and I only stopped (cold turkey) because I was pregnant with Janie- had I not been pregnant, I might've gone til 24 months. I loved that quiet, sweet, and tender nursing time of just Halie and I, and I loved being able to do it again with Janie... Like Halie, Janie latched the second we did skin to skin. Nursing and pumping was natural and I was happy to do it again. But I forgot the beginning struggles of nursing and the first few days, I was totally stressing and frustrated. Once my milk came back in (day 4), it was back to the the nursing/pumping routine. Towards the end of my nursing "career" with Halie, I found out about donating milk to babies in need but I didn't really get to do it because I found out about it so late and was just trying to find a way to get rid of the pumped milk in the freezer. With Janie, I started donating milk as soon as I built a stash. Over the course of 6 months, I've met up with 9 different moms and donated over 4000 oz of milk- 3 regular moms with milk donated biweekly and/or monthly.
Since March of this year (Janie's 5 month mark), my supply "dipped". I still pumped twice a day (5am and 12:30pm), sometimes 3 (10pm), but it was less during each pump session. I went from pumping 15-18 oz per session to 10-12 oz per session. I know it's still a lot, but it made an impact on the amount of milk I can donate, since Janie is eating more at this point.. I've cut back on donating to "new" moms and just donated to my regular moms whenever they contacted me. My freezer in the garage went from being packed to the brim with gallon ziploc bags holding ~60 oz of milk to maybe one or two ziploc bags. Now, it's completely empty and my only stash is the one in my kitchen freezer, just enough for Janie's daycare. I nurse on demand and pump once a day (1pm) since I'm not working this summer and am able to nurse her until I drop her off at daycare (9am).
Typically, pumping moms are able to pump both boobs at the same time, straight into the bottles. I on the other hand, have to pump one boob at a time, and NOT into the bottles. This automatically makes my pump sessions much longer. I pump one boob at a time straight into the Up&Up milk storage bags because each boob produces roughly 7-8 oz of milk, which is more than how much Janie's Philips Avent bottle or the Tommee TIppee bottle can comfortably hold without overflowing. Once I pump into the two bags, I get another bag (or two) and even them all out. Thank goodness for the drawer inside the freezer because that drawer is designated milk drawer and literally the best way to freeze my milk flat. Once the bag is frozen, I pile them and hold them in place with metal bookends to keep them in place without sliding everywhere. But as you can tell, because the top drawer is reserved for my milk, we can't buy too many frozen goods because I don't have as much freezer space for our food... The struggle is not only on the duration and the amount I produce, but even the schedule of having to pump. If I don't pump by 2pm, my boobs get rock hard, veiny, and I'm in so much pain. Before having babies, I had extra pads and tampons in every purse and my regular places (car, classroom, etc). Now, I have extra nursing pads everywhere because I will, and have soaked through nursing pads (oh, and through shirts too). If I'm going to be away from Janie for the entire day, then the pump and the ice chest are my must's. I've had to contact staff at off-site meetings, trainings, and events to arrange a room for me to pump in and always have to request a schedule ahead of time so that I can pump according to my breaks. This literally means I can't be away from Janie, or the pump, for more than 5 hour blocks- party pooper. The struggle is real.
As you can tell, nursing and pumping varies from mom to mom. We personally feel like we're similar to each other and yet, experiences like these remind us how different we are and how unique God made each one of us. Even in moments like these, God "forces" us to rely solely on Him because 1, He made us and 2, He really knows what we're capable of. Our experiences also remind us that there isn't one perfect way to feed our babies. Whether they are EBF (exclusively breast fed), bottle fed, pumping, etc, FED IS BEST and props go out to each and every mom who is able to feed their babies in their own means and circumstances. We hope this post encourages you to keep mommying your own way. You're doing great, mamas!