In honor of #WorldBreastFeeding week, I thought I would share my own personal journey and experience with Breastfeeding.
3 Breastfed babies, each with their own unique experience and ironically it became increasingly difficult with each child.
BABY NUMBER ONE.
Savannah’s feeding journey began with feeding tubes going into her umbilical cord via an IV. From there we went to me pumping, in the NICU nursing room, as much colostrum as I possibly could. We then moved her to bottles then to finally, at 8 days old, the breast. Since Savannah was in the NICU for the first 10 days of life, I had immense support from the nurses and lactation consultants. I owe everything to them, for the success of nursing my first child. Because Savannah started on the IV and bottle and myself on the breast pump; I somewhat missed the painful and stressful cluster feeding stage with her. By the time Savannah had latched my milk supply had come in… and we just kind of flowed from there. (pun intended.) 😉
From 8 days old, Savannah was able to latch on to both breast and bottle. I found that there was absolutely no nipple confusion with her, whatsoever. We went on with bottle and breast for 16 months in total when Savannah self weaned herself. I remember making her up some formula bottles around 6 months, but I personally was just never a fan of the bottle. The sterilizing and formula routine was always too much work and stress for me. I often joke saying breastfeeding is perfect for me, because I am lazy and once you get going it is super low maintenance.
With Savannah I was always self-conscious of nursing in public, even around friends and family. I would often excuse myself to a private room, or bottle feed in social situations. I didn’t even feel comfortable with a nursing cover in restaurants or stores so I would often ask for a fitting room or private room where I could nurse her.
BABY NUMBER TWO.
In 2013 Sienna came storming into the world via emergency C-section. It had been 14 months since I had last breastfed but she latched the second she was plonked onto my chest. I was half in and out of it post surgery but I faintly remember that I instinctively and robotic-ally put her on my breast without a thought about it. Sienna simply started to feed and we seemed good!
A day or two later, I experienced something I hadn’t experienced before – cluster feeding. It was horrible. I cried, I was in pain, my nipples were throbbing and scabbing over. The baby seemed frustrated, I was frustrated, I couldn’t get her to latch properly. I felt isolated and alone in the hospital ward and I wondered how on earth I had managed to breastfeed for over a year and yet I was struggling now.
I wanted to quit there and then. I remember pressing the button to call the nurse to come and take her so I could sleep, and I didn’t care if they had to give her formula. I. was. wiped! I woke up hours later, way past the time that I needed to be feeding her, to the nurse bringing her back in from the nursery to me. Obviously the sleep was what I needed. The rest allowed me to clear my mind, let my nipples heal a little and find the notion to ask to see a lactation consultant.
The hospital LC came in to see me. She adjusted Sienna’s latch and we took off from there. I went home and introduced a bottle to Sienna just to let Chris and big sister feed her from time to time and again she was able to switch from both bottle to breast with ease. Over time, however, I used bottles less and less. With me being home, there just wasn’t a need. Sienna then began to refuse a bottle, which became increasingly difficult the older she became. She refused a sippy cup and getting fluids into her, other than a breast, was a challenge. We found a straw was our saving grace but we weren’t successful with that until she was over a year old.
Sienna loved to be nursed and finally weaned at 2.5 Years old. I began the process of weaning her around 18 months, but with childhood viruses and germs brought home from her pre-schooled aged big sister, paired with her love of nursing, the process of weaning took a while. However, Sienna was healthy and happy and I didn’t mind.
With Sienna, my social nursing anxiety completely disappeared. I would latch her on to me here, there and everywhere. It certainly helped that I was in a large breastfeeding community in Brooklyn, NY with a lot of other nursing moms. If I even tried to use a nursing cover with Sienna, she would just whip it off her head, or play peekaboo.. The older she became, nursing turned into a morning and nightly time for us. This meant that the social feeding was a non issue. I am grateful to Sienna for teaching me there was no shame in breastfeeding in public.
***When Sienna was really young, she started showing hives and rashes on her skin, the Dr suggested that she may have had a cows milk allergy, So therefore I, myself, should cut out dairy. This wasn’t a huge deal for me as I enjoy dairy alternatives as it is, and it did help her skin immensely. ***
BABY NUMBER THREE.
I should be a pro by now? I should have this down by now? Easy Peasey…right? Saoirse-Skye came into our lives, via repeat and scheduled C-section this year. The second we entered the recovery room I asked the nurse if I could feed her. Once again a baby was placed on my chest and feeding began.
It had been over 7 years since my last baby, 5 years since I had last breastfed, however, I started producing colostrum at 20 weeks of being pregnant. By the time Saoirse was 2 days old, my milk supply was pretty much in. I was already engorged, I had so much milk that I was actually chocking Saoirse when she fed. I would constantly have to remove her to allow her to catch her breath. That was stressful in itself but we worked through it.
The chapped nipples were back and painful, I cried again, but nothing some nipple balm couldn’t fix. I thought everything was fine… same old, same old. I took her to her first Dr’s appointment and discussed the choking which was now turning into excessive spitting up. The doctor suggested I pumped a little before feeding as I clearly had an oversupply. She was also a little concerned about Saoirse’s weight so asked me to return the following week for her to be measured again.
We continued on our feeding journey, and the spit up was progressively becoming worse and worse and then colic entered the picture. Colic was next level, Saoirse just never seemed to be full or happy and I was becoming increasingly concerned that I couldn’t make my baby happy. I started to think there was something wrong with her, or something wrong with me.
The next week at the weight check the Nurse practitioner was concerned, Saoirse wasn’t gaining weight as she should have been. I had noticed a tie under her tongue, I mentioned it to the NP and she said “Yes that’s a slight tie, but she is sucking well, so I am not too worried about it”. The NP suggested that I continued giving Saoirse a bottle of pumped milk before each feed to try and help her gain a little weight. She also suggested probiotics to help with the reflux. I was then also referred to a Lactation Consultant and once again, asked me to return in a week.
I was becoming frustrated, my breastfeeding ego was becoming bruised, I didn’t call the LC out of my own stubbornness. I thought I could figure this out on my own. I breastfed two other babies for Pete’s sake! I went to the next weight check appointment, hoping for a change. The colic had certainly eased, however the reflux was still there even though I had been giving both bottle and breast as instructed. Her weight was still too low and at this point my milk supply was actually decreasing. I was becoming worried and the NP now suggested me supplementing with formula.
Now had this been my first baby, I again might have quit right there. My milk supply was drying up, my baby wasn’t gaining weight, she was constantly hungry- formula would have absolutely been the easier option at this point… but I was determined to figure this out. After a cry to my mum on the phone, I went to the lactation consultant web page: www.newenglandmothersfirst.com. I applied for an appointment and filled out the online form, entering all of our symptoms.
I received a phone call the next day and a telehealth (Thanks Covid) appointment was set for that following Friday. Within 1 minute of my telehealth appointment, the Lactation Consultant said “from everything you typed, I suspect this is a tongue tie situation can you just show me the inside of her mouth?’ I brought my Iphone camera to Saoirse’s mouth as instructed and she said “Yup! There it is, Stage 4 Tongue Tie and she has a lip tie also!” She instructed me to reach out to the pediatric dentist she knew would successfully fix it and we followed up with that.
That next week Saoirse’s tongue, upper and lower lip ties were fixed with a frenectomy procedure via laser. I was told to latch her on to me before we left the dentist and although there was some adjustment from her, needing to learn how to latch a different way from what she was used to, It was almost an immediate difference. For two weeks I had to massage the area, which healed like a canker sore and was absolutely horrible to have to do to your month old baby, but It’s now been a month and breastfeeding is going well.
I am also taking both a lactation smoothie and homemade cookies to help with my supply. I finally have a good stash in the freezer of expressed milk. Saoirse is content with her feedings and her reflux has settled. I had wondered if her reflux was due to a cow’s milk allergy, however it seemed like she was getting extra air in, when feeding due to her tie and that is what was causing her colic and reflux.
So while I had the hardest time with baby number 3, I found I gained some more insight into the challenges of breastfeeding and why some mothers don’t feel supported, encouraged or physically able to breastfeed. My number one advice would always be…. if you really want to breastfeed use every lactation consultant reference you can because even us experienced, nursing mothers can struggle!
Now since we are in the middle of a pandemic (Thank you again COVID 19) , I haven’t had many opportunities to breastfeed socially. I am also in a town where I NEVER see other moms nursing (which is a big change from my NY days) so wondered if that would make me self-conscious about it again. However, baby number 3, I’m at the point where I am over, it heck I started this blog with a picture of my booby! I am also on a crusade to #Normalizebreastfeeding so I am willing to feed my baby wherever, whenever I need to.
I, of course will always be respectful and cover up when I can, but if my baby decides to play peekaboo and you get a flash of my boob or a good ole nip slip?- Sorry that’s on you Jim, because you could have always looked away! But for me the bottom line is if a person is someone that sexualizes a mother feeding her child in a completely natural way… some serious inner self-reflection may be needed there. JUST IMO.
Breastfeeding isn’t right for everyone, FED IS ALWAYS BEST. The stigma and shame mothers feel with feeding their babies whether formula or extended breastfeeding is absolutely unnecessary. You always have to find what is best for you, mother and child.
Here is a small list of my own pros and cons of breastfeeding through my own personal experience.
- Once you get going, it is easy – No bottles, no sterilizing, no prep and no clean up, just pop on and go.
- You can feed anywhere at any time.
- It’s a great bonding experience. Lots of quiet time for mama and baby.
- It burns 500 calories a day.
- It provides protection to baby through mama’s antibodies and therefore boosts babies immune system
- Lowers SIDS risk
- Reduces Cancer Risk.
- The start can be painful, frustrating and hard work, it requires a lot of patience.
- It can be quite isolating if you aren’t able to breastfeed in public.
- All the feeding is on mama, you either need to feed or pump, that is a lot of pressure.
- It can be a challenge for working mothers.
- You cant diet right away.
- You cant tell how much milk baby is getting.
- If your baby has an allergy, you need to adjust your own diet.
Breastfeeding may be for you, it may not, once again there is never any shame in the ways you chose to feed your baby. What works for you and your child is always best. I hope you enjoyed my stories and my journey with breastfeeding in honor of #WorldBreastfeedingWeek