breastfeeding did NOT come naturally to me when i had everett. we struggled from the beginning. i had never breastfed before. i don’t know that i prepared myself for it very well. i didn’t even really know what information i needed to know. i put SO much pressure on myself! and of course babies are naturals – which he was – but i just wasn’t. i couldn’t bring myself to let nature do her thing. i thought i had to control every aspect. i did take a class and thought ‘it’ll be fine – i’ll figure it out’, but things happened and it didn’t go like i expected it to. truthfully, i felt like a failure. i looked around and saw so many of my friends nursing their new babies and pumping a ton of milk (and storing a ton too)…and then there was me. pumping three times a day to barely get two ounces of milk. it was a hard pill to swallow.
what did i learn from it? i learned that (a) i needed to educate myself if i was going to ever try breastfeeding again, (b) motherhood is unpredictable so let it be, and (c) IT’S FINE. everett is perfect. in the end, it didn’t really matter how he got his meals. and i know that i was harder on myself than i needed to be. i just wanted to succeed so badly.
now, i’m on the other side of baby #2. i’ve breastfed successfully for 14 months now. it’s been the best experience i’ve ever had, but guess what? it isn’t for everyone. and that’s okay! NO mom-shaming here. i just wanted to throw out everything i’ve learned this time around in hopes that it can help another momma. because, listen, you ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB. don’t forget it!
because this is a rather lengthy post, i thought i’d break it up. this first segment will be about our initial process from hospital to home. the second segment will be more about our experience as eleanor grew to now. if you’re interested in reading about my past bf story, you can find that here.
that little hand – ugh!
p r e p
so before i had eleanor, i was determined to educate myself on all things breastfeeding – but i wanted to approach it from a natural perspective. i had taken the hospital breastfeeding class with everett and, while extremely informative, i felt like i didn’t apply what i learned. so i took that knowledge with me and wanted to build on it with a new angle. i found a local breastfeeding class and signed up! [if you’re in the st. louis area you should check out milk + carry. jen is an IBCLC, is the nicest person you’ll ever meet, and truly cares about your needs.] the class was amazing and i learned a ton. but i wasn’t done. i asked other moms questions to get a feel for their routines and what to expect from my baby. i also read so many articles and books (great resource found here). bottom line, educate yourself. you don’t have to be an expert, but you should know enough that you feel comfortable with what and what not to expect.
another area that i was adamant about before birth was my water intake. i might have been excessive, but i wanted to get myself into a routine so that when eleanor arrived, i already had a ‘norm’ going throughout my day. i tried to drink about a gallon of water per day. when you’re breastfeeding, you HAVE to stay hydrated. if you are dehydrated, then how will your body make good milk? it’s all a cycle. besides, water has so many health benefits in and of itself – it’s good practice pregnant/nursing or not! 😉
b i r t h
i had some specific requests at the hospital this time around.
1. no bath at the hospital. did you know that the vernix a baby is born with is full of vitamins and nutrients? not only is it amazing for your baby’s skin and overall adjustment to the outside environment, but it is also extremely beneficial for mommas. your body will sense the natural chemicals that are found in your placenta (amniotic fluid) and help your brain produce oxytocin. oxytocin will trigger your lactation reflex.
2. no hats. the constant skin to skin with mom and dad help the baby to naturally adjust his/her body temperature. plus that new baby smell triggers the happy hormones (prolactin + oxytocin) to help with lactation.
3. room in. many hospitals are doing away with taking babies to the nursery. my hospital is one of them – which is awesome! but when i had everett, it was an option. so i made sure that they knew i wanted to keep eleanor in the room at all times.
4. time to nurse. i asked that when the baby was born, to have her laid directly on my chest. i didn’t want them to take her away. the nurses can actually do the APGAR scoring right on your chest. they only take the baby for a brief moment to weigh and measure, but it isn’t right away.
it’s important to communicate these things with your nurses and doctor. don’t be afraid to make your ‘demands’. the nurses and your doctor are understanding and they want to do any + everything possible to help make sure the experience is as perfect as can be! something i learned along the way – don’t be upset if it isn’t as planned. one thing you will come to understand about motherhood is FLEXIBILITY. just go with the flow. trust me.
after waiting for what felt like forever, eleanor was here! and it went just as i envisioned. she was laid on my chest; andrew and i got to love on her. we rubbed the vernix all into her skin and hair (which she had a ton of!). she was perfection. the nurses and doctor finished up what they needed to and left us to snuggle and feed. if you haven’t heard of the breast crawl, you need to watch this video. it’s incredible that babies are just born with that natural instinct! what’s even more amazing is that your breasts are actually giving off a pheromone that attracts your baby (and that helps them find their way to nurse). the pheromone is something that is unique to you and your baby and it is the familiarity your baby has with that pheromone that lets him/her know you are their mom. oh the bonding!
s t r u g g l e
eleanor made her way to nurse and did it all on her own. it was so cool to see and be a part of! after her first few feedings, we came to the conclusion that she wasn’t getting quite enough of what she needed from me. when i had everett, the nursery immediately threw a bottle in his mouth. but I came prepared with information this time! i asked for a hand pump and expressed my colostrum out to feed to elea. it worked beautifully!
here’s how that went:
[(typically, newborns are around 1.5 to 2 hours in between feedings.) because we had already concluded that she needed to be getting more from me, i had expressed colostrum after the previous feeding so that i’d have some ready to go. breastfeeding is very much a cycle…and you’ll get that as we go!]
she’d cue us up that it was about time to eat. i would let her latch and nurse for as long as she wanted, always offering both sides. when she was finished with me, we would give her the expressed colostrum from a syringe to ensure that she was getting enough of that liquid gold to fill her up. she was full and my colostrum was being emptied. win-win! the trick here is to ALWAYS OFFER THE BREAST! if you immediately offer an easier way of getting food, the baby will prefer that way. babies are smart and very efficient. there is nothing wrong with expressing on your own if your baby is just taking a little longer to learn the latch/suck part. they’ll learn soon enough!
this is how we operated at the hospital for our stay. it worked for us, she didn’t lose any weight, and we left happy campers!
h o m e
[the first eight weeks]
i was very fortunate to have 12 weeks at home for maternity leave. i knew that going in, so i had a little bit of an idea as far as pumping/building a supply went. i knew that it was very important to try to exclusively nurse eleanor – it would help empty my colostrum + help my supply get established. i knew that i wanted to try to pump after going back to work so i could continue to give eleanor my milk. and i also knew that it would take about 12 or more weeks for my milk to plateau and even out to provide exactly what i needed for elea. with that, i decided that i’d exclusively nurse her, on demand, whenever and wherever she wanted – for the first 8 to 9 weeks. and then i’d start building a supply to go back to work after that.
she was pretty good at letting me know when she was ready to eat. it was about every two hours for the first couple of weeks and then it started spacing out a bit. i will say that i did wake her for the first couple of weeks at night. i always heard ‘never wake a sleeping baby’, but babies are still learning about hunger and what it feels like. they are also growing rapidly and weight gain is super important. so i wanted to make sure she was getting enough to eat and i also wanted to make sure i was establishing good nursing habits and milk supply right away. i know it’s exhausting, but it is the best bonding experience! we did a lot of side nursing at night – which was relaxing for both of us.
once she was about three to four weeks old, i started to let the feedings space out some. so we were about every 2.5 to 3 hours. and that’s where she stayed for quite some time! her night feedings did change and she started sleeping more – about 3 to 4 hour stretches at night. not unbearable! and this is how we rolled until about 8 to 9 weeks.
pumping. i had had enough of that pump life with rett. so i was determined NOT to hook myself up too soon, but i did want to make sure i had a nice stash before heading back to the work grind. i made it super easy on myself. by that 8 to 9 week marker, you will more than likely be on a routine with your feedings, not to mention you are probably a lot more at ease with breastfeeding in general – you’re more confident and comfortable. this was true for us. by 8 weeks, i knew that eleanor would eat around 4-5am and then again around 8am – then sleep. i squeezed my pumping in after her 8am feed. i know it might not make sense to pump right after a feed, but i promise there will be milk! you will always have a larger supply in the mornings! whatever you pump, FREEZE. this is the start of your ‘back-to-work’ stash. i did this just about every day for around four weeks. i didn’t have hundreds of ounces in the freezer, but i had enough to get started back at work and also eliminate that worry + stress about ‘oh my goodness, do i have enough? i’m not getting enough milk!’. (all the thoughts i had running through my mind with everett).
a couple of things to end on for this post…
*i did not have a hat on eleanor at all in the hospital.
*i kept her in her diaper and a little hospital shirt, but usually just a diaper when i was nursing her. skin to skin is important for momma + baby.
*i didn’t let her go for more than 2 hours without nursing in the hospital. most of the time we were there, she was ready every HOUR.
*hospitals typically supply a free manual pump that you can take home with you. it is GREAT to have as a back-up pump or to throw in your bag in case you have to pump and don’t have an outlet. i used this one extremely frequently.