I'm going to recap a little bit about my experiences and then I'll follow up below with further info, tips, helpful links, and nursing products I've loved.
Note: No two breast feeding experiences are alike. These ramblings are strictly based off my personal experiences.
So just to recap briefly... with baby #1 I didn't have much knowledge and I just assumed it would all come naturally. But that didn't happen. I began supplementing with a bottle when she was a week old. Which messed up her latch and I got the bright idea that it would just be easier to bottle feed but I insisted on giving her breast milk. So I wound up exclusively pumping and bottle feeding. For six months before I called it quits. Insanity. If you know a Mama who pumps exclusively - praise her!
After above said experience with baby #1, I decided I would do a little bit more research, be a little bit more prepared, and put in a whole lot more effort with breast feeding baby #2. So here I am, currently BF my 15 week old. He was just as hard (if not harder) to BF and I couldn't tell you how many times I said "I give up."
See, I told you... no two experiences are alike!
Let me just start with this... I do believe that "breast is best" for many reasons. However, I absolutely do not disrespect any mother for choosing not to breast feed her baby. Based on my experiences, I must say that breast feeding is harder than I ever imagined. The first few weeks were by far the most exhausting, painful, and frustrating weeks of my life. It wasn't until the 2 month mark with both babies, that I began feeling somewhat human again. Some Mama's make it look so easy! They need to share their secrets!! ;-)
With R, it took 5 days for my milk to come in. With ML, it took 7 days. Side note: when you have a cesarean delivery it takes your body longer to produce milk because the body is focused on healing your incision (both of my kids were delivered via cesarean). I actually did not know this until baby #2! The only reason I was told that was because I asked my LC every. single. day. why it was taking so long for my milk to come in. I thought, gee, thanks... you could of told me that a long time ago!
(I'll apologize now. This section is cut short due to being all from memory from a year and a half ago.. and you know... mom brain..)
With R, she had a hard time latching correctly right from the start. Therefore, she wasn't getting enough milk and she would get so upset. Which is why we began supplementing her with a bottle even though your "not supposed to". Not to mention it was painful for me to nurse her. I was told it should not hurt if the baby is latched on correctly. Looking back now, I think I didn't have enough patience or knowledge about latching and there is a good chance she was latching correctly but throwing a bottle into the equation may have confused her more. Regardless it's going to hurt no matter what for the first 7-10 days. As my nurse in the hospital told me, "Your nipples have never gotten this much action, therefore it's going to hurt for a while." So true and so funny!
The other reason I thought that she wasn't getting enough to eat while nursing was because she was nursing for such looooong periods of time. However, I have since then dealt with the same situation with baby #2 and I learned that this was normal! In the beginning, all the baby does is nurse. Which is a comfort thing for the baby plus the more he/she nurses the more your milk is going to come in. This creates the supply/demand effect. - I did not know that with baby #1.
After a few weeks of attempting to nurse but also continuing to pump and supplement with a bottle several times a day, I thought "Oh, it will just be easier to pump and bottle feed!" So I quit trying to nurse all together and began bottle feeding. In my opinion, it wasn't easier. It was SO much work! I now had to set up to pump/bottle feed at the same time plus wash and sterilize pump and bottle parts. I imagine it's just like having twins! Note: if your going to pump, you need to keep up with the supply/demand effect I mentioned above to build and maintain a supply. Therefore, every time the baby eats, you need to pump. Middle of the night feeding/pumping was literally a nightmare! For several months, we were typically up every 2 hours. Then it'd take 30-45 minutes before we got back to bed. When people would offer to stay the night to feed R, I would say well whats the point? I have to get up to pump anyways....
Within a week of pumping exclusively and bottle feeding, R (one month old) began sleeping less, crying more, having gas build up, and spitting up more. She was diagnosed with reflux. Then I began having huge regrets that I wasn't breast feeding her. Was it because of the bottle feeding that things changed? Was it too late to start nursing again?! (The answer is no). But for some reason, I didn't go back. I stayed on the exclusive pumping path. I couldn't tell you how many times I wanted to give up. But I didn't want to be a quitter. I wanted my daughter to get the best nutrition possible. I felt guilty putting her on formula (so silly, no mother should ever feel bad for feeding their baby). So I stuck it out as long as I could. Even through 3 months of going back to work.
Once we got into a groove it just became part of our daily routine. When it was feeding time, I would buckle her into a bouncy chair that sat on the couch next to me and I would pump and feed her at the same time. Often times, she would be finished eating before I was done pumping, so I would have to hold her to burp her while I finished pumping. Once my supply got established, I began skipping a pumping session in the middle of the night so that I could save some time and get back to bed sooner. I did have some guilt that I wasn't bonding with her during feeding time since she was most often sitting in a chair rather than in my arms. When I went back to work, my supply dropped drastically because I wasn't able to pump as often as I was pumping prior to. I was typically pumping twice a day at work. Sometimes I would even pump on my drive home.
After being back to work, I really started to dread the pumping more than I already did. When R was 5 months I decided enough was enough. I began spacing out my pump sessions and ending the process. Which went on for about another month. I had a freezer supply that would get us through a few more months which was
Looking back on my first experience is tough. I don't think I put forth as much effort as the baby deserved. However, I also think my strong desire to BF was a bit over the top and I wish I hadn't been so hard on myself about it. I am thankful that I was able to provide at least some breast milk to my baby! Like I said before, there is nothing wrong with formula feeding your baby and it's unfortunate that society really puts that pressure on mothers.
Since I had a hard time getting baby #1 to latch from the start, I made sure to get all the help I possibly could while I was at the hospital. At one point I was calling the nurse or LC every time he ate. No shame. Day 1 was pretty good. The baby latched well and nursed every two hours as expected. By day 2 I was already crying. I was frustrated and my nipples hurt terribly already which lead me to think the baby wasn't latching correctly. Plus, I was having a hard time with finding a comfortable position due to having a caesarean delivery. I had Michael in one ear telling me to just give up and the nurse in my other ear telling me to keep trying. My nurse gave me a nipple shield to use even though they prefer you don't use one this early on, but maybe it would buy me some saving grace. On day 3 the pediatrician made her morning rounds and made sure the baby didn't have tongue tie (he did not) since I was questioning his latch. Before I left the hospital I had the nurse check just one more time that ML's latch was correct (which it appeared to be). So before I threw in the towel too early, she gave me a few pieces of advice...
1. Your nipples have never gotten this much action, therefore it's going to hurt for a while. (Lol)
2. Pull chin down or tip baby's head back and aim the nipple towards the roof of his mouth.
3. Let the baby nurse/pacify himself as often as he wants because it will help your milk supply come in. Also, it is normal/common for the baby wants to pacify himself on the mother for comfort.
4. If your nipples are cracking and bleeding, then that's when you should be concerned about the latch. (yikes).
As the days progressed, they got harder and harder. He was nursing pretty much nonstop around the clock. He would nurse for 20-45 minutes at a time and then want to nurse a half hour to an hour later. In between feedings, I would pump to try to help my milk come in as well. When I say he lived on my breasts, it's no exaggeration. I didn't even allow company to come over because the baby was attached to my boob and we couldn't enjoy visiting anyways. Every day, multiple times a day, I said I was going to give up. Between the discomfort and the time I was spending nursing... I was exhausted and frustrated. How could this be normal?! Every day I talked to the LC she would tell me my milk will be in any day and it will get better. Finally one day I asked her if it was normal for it to be taking so long for my milk to come in?! She explained that when you have a cesarean delivery it takes your body longer to produce milk because the body is focused on healing your incision. Good to know! No one told me that with baby #1. So that bought me a little more patience. In the mean time, I was pumping, eating foods to boost milk supply, taking milk supply supplements, drinking lots of water, and crying to my Mom or cousin Ashley.
My milk finally came in on day 7. Phew! Those 6 days were some of the longest and hardest days of my life! The next problem came with the milk supply - engorgement. Due to the engorgement, ML was having a hard time latching on. The solution for that was to hand express, pump before nursing him (which I wasn't a fan of because of how often he ate as it was I just wanted to give my nipples a break) or to squeeze my breast into a sandwich to allow him to latch. I chose the latter. It helped.
After another week of the baby nursing every hour around the clock, I was changing my mind by the minute whether or not I should give up on BF. I was constantly in tears and questioning what was the right thing to do. The LC had said at 2 weeks it should begin to get easier and feedings more spaced out - which wasn't my case. I was typically nursing all morning and afternoon and then by the evening I would supplement with a bottle or feed through a syringe to give myself a little break. I explained what I was experiencing to the LC - he backs off the breast or clenches down, possible nipple confusion from supplementing with a bottle, discomfort when positioning him to eat, and my nipples feeling like razor blades sometimes when he nurses. I thought if he was getting enough he wouldn't want to keep nursing so often and I wondered if it was possible that he's tired from nursing so he's getting lazy and not latching correctly. Or maybe it possible that he wasn't getting enough milk from the breast.
These were some of the suggestions I recieved:
// Side lying down position - sometimes can help reduce the baby's clenching and can be more comfortable for Mom and baby.
// Hand express or pump - spoon, syringe, or cup feed to avoid nipple confusion with a bottle when they are still learning to nurse.
// If you do use a bottle - use a slow flow nipple and use the paced bottle feeding method - hold bottle parallel to the floor and every so often take the bottle out of his mouth to let him digest, get oxygen levels back up, and begin feeding again. Take the bottle out and "pacing" him mimics a mother's letdowns and it keeps him from guzzling a large amount of milk too fast.
// When he backs off the breast - help guide his head back on the breast. Put your palm on his shoulder blades area and the balls of your fingers around his head kind of behind his ears. Don't squeeze at the base of their neck. Help guide him so that the bottom of his mouth touches first, then guide head up and over nipple. (I don't know why but that seemed so hard for me to do because ML didn't open his mouth wide).
// In question of "is he getting enough?" - Keep track of how many wet/poopy diapers the baby is having per day as well as the color. As long as he's urinating and having bowel movements as well as gaining weight, that's the signs that he is indeed getting enough to eat.
By week 3, things were actually slightly worse than better. In addition to the nonstop cluster feeding, ML was extremely fussy and was spitting up excessively. In the middle of the night he would nurse and then cry for an hour. Michael suggested a doctor appointment. Something had to change. At this point, ML began refusing a bottle so I really felt completely helpless. There was nothing I could do to catch a break. I cried every. single. day. Let's not forget I had a one year old to take care of as well. Oh, the mom guilt...
As I suspected, the doctor diagnosed ML with reflux and he prescribed him Zantac which could take 7-10 days before I seen any improvements. I was not looking forward to another week let alone possibly two weeks of dealing with my miserable baby. Dr. Z said that the reflux was more than likely causing the baby to eat so often because he would eat, get the acid reflux discomfort causing him to stop eating sooner than his belly was full, spit up, and then want to nurse again. Which is basically what was happening. However, his weight gain was perfect (2lb gain) so the doctor wasn't concerned that the cluster feedings or the reflux was affecting him negatively.
After another two weeks, we still had zero improvement. I was lucky if the baby went two hours without eating at least once a day. In addition to giving him the Zantac, I was using essential oils on him too... but still no buneo. We went in for a follow up at the doctors and he changed his meds to Nexium. Again, it could take 7-10 days before we seen any improvements. Oh, and the new meds cost $160 for 30 days worth. Yow.
After two more weeks and still no improvement (ML is 7 weeks old at this point) I was really ready to throw in the towel. But then there was the guilt... It wasn't his fault that he's so uncomfortable due to the reflux. I knew that breast milk was easier for him to break down and switching to formula would cause more discomfort with his reflux. For whatever reason, I decided to continue plugging along. At this point, I decided to cut dairy out of my diet to see if that helped as well. We also began taking him to the chiropractor 2-3 days a week. That's when we started to notice a slight improvement. Was it that he was getting older and growing out of his reflux problem? Was it the meds were kicking in? Was my milk supply building up enough to keep him fuller longer? Was it because I cut dairy out of my diet? Was it all of the above??
For the next seven weeks we continued on our journey of BF and I continued to put forth my strongest efforts despite the desire to give up. It was rare that he would go 2 hours between a feeding. Some nights I would be up every hour and some nights he would sleep for 3 hours. Our days were always unpredictable. I think what kept me from giving up was partially the guilt and partially because I was too exhausted to keep fighting ML to drink a bottle and then have to worry about pumping on top of it.
Fast forward to currently... ML is 15 weeks old and is exclusively breast feeding. A typical day consists of 12-13 feedings. Sometimes he eats every hour and other times he stretches it out for 2 hours. He has refused a bottle since he was 3 weeks old up until this week we finally had a successful bottle feeding! Hooray! To be honest, there are days where I still have thoughts of wanting to stop BF. I am definitely not one of those people that loves or enjoys BF their baby. Is that wrong of me? Maybe. But I am just doing it because it's one of my duties as a mother to provide for my baby.
I often wonder what type of experiences other mother's have had because I'm certain not everyone has a complete challenge like I've had. It sure has been a roller coaster of an experience(s) and I am thankful that even through the challenges I've been able to provide breast milk to my babies. I hope my story can bring light to the struggles and triumphs that coincide with breast feeding. If you are a nursing mom and need some help or support, please reach out to me! I'd be happy to lend an ear or offer some help!
In addition to the links throughout this post, I've listed some additional links and products below...
Baby Nursing App - I love this app! I've used it ever since ML was born. It tracks feedings, growth, pumping, etc.
Kellymom.com - An amazing website full of resources not only for breastfeeding but also growth and development, nutrition, and more.
Growth spurts via KellyMom - Great reference for when your baby is going through a growth spurt so you can better understand why he/she may be more fussy and/or eating more.
The Wonder Weeks app - Another great reference for when your baby is going through stages. I swear by this app! It's always right on! Well worth the cost!
Find you local La Leche Leauge here
Info and pics for positions of latching
General Q's about breast feeding via La Leche Leauge
Breastmilk Solutions - Videos provided by Dr. Morton of Stanford University to assist BF mothers.
Infant cup feeding videos - How to use an infant medicine cup to avoid using a bottle and causing nipple confusion
How to hand express milk videos
Follow Lactation Link via Instagram
Food and Supplements that affect milk supply (I highly reccomend being prepared with some of these items before baby's arrival)
+ Peppermint, spearmint, sage, and parsley REDUCE milk supply
+ List of 68 foods to INCREASE milk supple (ie. oatmeal, leafy greens, almond milk)
+ Lactation Boost by Honest Co.
+ Funugreek drink mixture
My favorite breastfeeding must have products
Medela Breast Pump - Be sure to check with your insurance provider as most pumps are 100% covered
Nursing Pillow - Smaller than the normal boppy
Reuseable nursing pads
Medela T-Shirt nursing bra - very similar to a sports bra
Medela sleep bra - very comfy and "easy access" for quick feedings in the night
Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water
Medela Hands-Free Pumping Bra
The First Years Lanolin Free Nipple Butter
Medela Cooling Gel Pads - Excellent cooling effect for those first days/weeks
Milk Storage Bags