Learn about my personal breastfeeding journey and the difficult time I had with it in the beginning, as well as my favorite breastfeeding products that I’ve been loving.
It’s been over 17 weeks since Joey was born, and I can finally say I’m fully enjoying breastfeeding her. It’s magical to be able to nourish your baby with your body and I’m so grateful I get to do it. It wasn’t always like this and it has actually been a very long and windy road. Like many women, I had a difficult time in the beginning, and it was extremely painful for a while.
As someone who wanted to deliver naturally with a holistic approach to health and motherhood, I did not want to give up nursing. However, I now COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND other mamas who decide that it’s not for them, or those who pump exclusively. Being a source of fuel for another human is mentally and emotionally draining and it was probably the most difficult part of being a new mom for me.
In this post…
My Breastfeeding Journey
My breastfeeding journey has been deeply humbling for me. I thought I researched everything so well about becoming a first time mom, and didn’t imagine that I would have issues with breastfeeding. However, I was completely wrong. It was way more difficult than I anticipated and so excruciatingly painful.
Shallow, Painful Latch
Joey had no problem latching on right away, but the problem was in her shallow latch. It was bearable the first 2 days, but as my nipples got blistered and bruised, I was experiencing toe-curling pain that radiated throughout my body every time she nursed (which is all day and all night with a newborn). I remember my husband trying to talk to me while I was breastfeeding and me saying to him, “I really can’t talk or comprehend what you are saying, because I’m in SO MUCH PAIN.”
It also didn’t help that Joey lost more weight than what was considered normal in the first few days. I don’t think I was having trouble producing, but it was more because she wasn’t getting enough with her shallow latch.
Lactation Consultation Appointment
This was probably the best money we spent in the first week after the baby. We made an appointment with Bethany of Birth by the Sea, and she came to our house to observe how I fed the baby and how she was latching.
I just want to say that if you are a first time mom, definitely have a lactation consultant picked out before you give birth, in case you need help like me. It was well worth the investment for us, and I personally think it’s way more important than spending money on any baby gadget or cute clothes.
Not only did she teach us how to get Joey to correctly latch on without pain during the appointment (hallelujah!), she was so knowledgable about newborn care and just reassuring us that we are doing everything we are supposed to. This meant SO MUCH to me in my postpartum state.
Also, I highly recommend that your partner be part of the consultation. Charlie took notes and took photos of my posture and Joey’s mouth when she was latched on correctly, and he was able to coach me later on when it was just me and him.
Slow and Steady Progress
Things didn’t improve right away after the appointment with the lacatation consultant. It took time and patience for my nipples to heal and to correct her latch. I wore nipple shields on and off for about 2 more weeks to reduce the pain.
Slowly, but surely, things got better. It also helped that as babies grow, their mouths also get bigger to latch on more easily. With trial and error, I started finding positions and postures that worked best for me and my baby.
Oversupply of Milk
As the latch started improving, another problem I had that may be a blessing to other moms was having an oversupply of milk. I felt like I was constantly engorged, way past the period of my milk coming in during the first week. Not only that, I had a forceful letdown that made Joey choke and cry and scream during feedings.
This also started causing painful clogged ducts. If you’ve never experienced it before, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I had to pump, massage my breasts, and take hot baths several times to get them cleared every time. Taking sunflower lecithin was immensely helpful as well.
Eventually, my supply became a bit more steady to match Joey’s needs and she grew enough to handle my letdown, but I still produce way more milk than needed. I’m now thankful for this, because I’ve been able to donate it to a local mom in need.
Mental and Emotional Toll
Even though there are so many heartwarming moments with breastfeeding, it’s a relationship that really took a mental and emotional toll on me. It was, of course, way worse when it was painful to breastfeed at the same time, but even when that got better, nothing can prepare you for being physically needed and attached to another human every 2-3 hours.
While Charlie was amazing and tried to help the best he can, it was me that the baby needed at the end of the day and only I could provide what she needed round the clock. It’s such conflicting emotion to be so in love with this new human being in your life that also drains all the energy and life out of you. It’s completely understandable why so many moms go through postpartum depression dealing with breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and a crying baby.
As I got used to the new life with the baby and found my own rhythm and schedule, things definitely got easier and breastfeeding has gotten so much better. However, there are still bad days and I don’t think that’ll ever end as a parent.
Pumping and Bottle Feeding
I’ve gotten lots of questions about my pumping and bottle feeding schedule, so I’ll share a bit of it here. Because of my oversupply, I started pumping early on within the first few days of giving birth. I first used an electric breast pump provided by my insurance, but I honestly couldn’t handle being hooked up to a machine and the noise it made, especially in the middle of the night. I started using this manual hand pump, and it was just so much easier and more convenient, and it’s still what I use today.
For Joey, I store milk in the freezer in 4 oz glass mason jars. Since I have such an oversupply, I also got these BPA-free bags for donating excess milk and they are sturdy, don’t leak, and are self-standing.
As for bottle feeding, we started around 3 weeks. I wanted to wait longer initially just to avoid nipple confusion, but I just NEEDED time to myself in the mornings and evenings while my husband could help. It was the best decision ever for my sanity.
She fussed a bit in the beginning, but she eventually took to the bottle. I think it helped that I had such a fast letdown, because she has always preferred my breasts over the bottle.
We have gotten into a pretty consistent pumping and bottle feeding schedule that’s been working really well for us. It’s honestly so helpful that my husband’s work schedule is pretty flexible so he leaves for work around 10:30-11am, which frees up my mornings quite a bit. Joey also sleeps through the night (for now) which is amazing.
Here’s what’s been working so far and these times are approximates:
- 7-8am: Joey wakes up and I nurse her. She then goes back to sleep for another hour or so, or she’ll just hang out in her crib babbling and staring at her mobile.
- 8-10:30am: I pump around 7-9 oz (this is the only time I pump in the day now), eat breakfast, and either run errands or go work out. This is when Charlie hangs out with Joey and feeds her the milk I pumped that morning (around 2oz). If she doesn’t want everything in the bottle, we just put it in the fridge for the evening since it’s fresh milk.
- The rest of the day is filled with naps, me working or nursing her, and spending time with her when she’s awake.
- 8-8:45pm: This is after dinner when Charlie takes over again while I wash up, take a bath, get a bit more work done if Joey wasn’t great at napping that day, and/or just have a ME time. He’ll give her around 1-2oz of milk pumped from that morning.
- 8:45-9:30pm: I nurse Joey to sleep. Whatever pumped milk she doesn’t eat that day goes into the freezer.
I know a lot of books and “rules” say not to nurse your baby to sleep, but it works for us and I just really enjoy that time with her. Every parent and child is different so you just need to find what works for you!
My Favorite Breastfeeding Products
I know there are so many breastfeeding and baby products out there, and it can all be so overwhelming and confusing. They are also really dependent on your needs, your body, and your baby. With that being said, these are my favorite products that have been invaluable to me during my breastfeeding journey:
- Lactation consultant – This is not a product, obviously, but probably the most important thing we spent our money on on this list. If you are having any trouble with breastfeeding, I don’t recommend you wait to figure it out yourself. Your baby needs to eat and you need answers on how to do that correctly with the least amount of physical and/or emotional pain, especially during the highly sensitive postpartum period. Having a professional assess these things will lead to a happy mom and a happy baby.
- Placenta encapsulation – This isn’t technically a breastfeeding product, but it was SO HELPFUL in boosting my milk supply and my mood during the first 2 months after giving birth. I actually had to reduce my dosage in the first few weeks, because I would get so engorged whenever I took the full dose. I know it may not work for every woman, but it definitely did for me so it’s worth looking into.
- Nipple shields – If you have inverted nipples and/or have a painful latch, nipple shields can be a lifesaver. I know some say it can create nipple confusion, so I used it on and off for 2 weeks while my nipples healed and it was totally fine. Before you use them, I would watch this video on how to correctly put them on since it was a bit confusing for me at first.
- Coconut oil – The best thing I found that worked for soothing sore or blistered nipples is just plain coconut oil, and it’s also safe for the baby. I didn’t want to use lanolin, because it is commonly treated with pesticides and insecticides, and have been found to be accumulated in breastmilk.
- Haakaa Manual Breast Pump – Probably one of my favorite products, it catches letdown from the breast while you are nursing or pumping on the other one. I’ve been able to save SO MUCH breastmilk with my Hakkaa. I also found that filling it with warm epsom salt water and attaching it your breast helps relieve clogged ducts really fast .
- Manual breast pump – There are a ton of manual breast pump options on the market, but this is the one I have that I love. It’s quiet, easy to clean, and I’m able to fully pump both breasts in less than 10 minutes. It’s also light and portable, unlike electric breast pumps.
- Burp cloths – Yes, these are made for burping your baby and cleaning up spit-ups, but I use it more for cleaning up milk. Breastfeeding can get messy, especially when your milk is coming in or when you have a fast letdown like me. I always have a burp cloth next to me or even tucked into my bra while nursing to catch any overflow.
- Reusable nursing pads – I go through a set of these nursing pads everyday, and they are especially necessary overnight. Leaking is inevitable when your child cries or when he or she starts sleeping through the night. I love that these are organic and very absorbent. I also have these which are a bit less absorbent, but still work well.
- Sleep nursing bras – Nursing bras are truly based on your personal preference, but as someone who works from home and can easily nurse their baby, these are my favorite. I wear them more than any other types of nursing bras, because they are insanely comfortable and easy to nurse in. When purchasing nursing bras, always go up a size (or even two) than your pre-baby cup size.
- Sunflower Lecithin – Most of the moms I’ve talked to have experienced clogged ducts, which are so painful and no fun at all. This can happen when you go too long without pumping or nursing, or if you don’t drain your milk fully. I found sunflower lecithin to be the fastest solution to clearing up clogged ducts. When Joey first started sleeping through the night I even took them before bed as a preventative measure and it worked so well.
- Mason Bottle – I love this company, because you can turn any mason jar into a baby bottle and you don’t have to spend a ton of money to reduce using plastic! It also makes freezing your milk in mason jars really easy too. You can purchase the silicone sleeve and the nipples separately if you don’t want to buy the whole kit.
- Comotomo nipples – While Joey was fine using the Mason Bottle nipples at first, she started really fussing and hating bottle feeding after a few weeks. Bottle nipples are truly dependent on the baby’s preference, so you really need to try out different ones until you find the one that they like. Thankfully, we found that the Comotomo nipples actually fit perfectly into the mason jar metal rings, AND Joey has been really happy with them!
- Nursing cover/baby blanket – When it comes to baby gear, I’m all about having less on hand and finding items that serve a double purpose. I really love these Solly swaddle blankets, because they are warm while being SUPER lightweight (perfect for travel), and they are great for using as nursing covers. I always have it on hand anyway while I’m out with the baby to keep her warm, so I love that I can use it as a nursing cover as well.
My Thoughts on Breastfeeding After 4 Months
- After 4 long months, I’m finally fully loving the experience of breastfeeding and bonding with my baby. There’s nothing like the moment when she looks up at me while nursing, and laughs or smiles. I’m SO THANKFUL that I get to have this experience with my baby, because I know some women who are unable to even if they want to.
- I don’t know how long I’ll breastfeed for, but I hope to do it for at least a year, or until she naturally weans off on her own.
- Being a source of fuel for my baby has been one of the biggest lesson for me in letting go control when it comes to parenting and catering to her needs. I thought I had everything figured out before I went through all the hardships that came with breastfeeding, but being a mom means you experience challenges that you never expected nor planned for.
- It is SUCH a different experience for every woman. It can also be so so difficult for the mom or the baby, or both, and there shouldn’t be any judgement towards moms who decide to breastfeed, bottle feed, or turn to formula. FED IS BEST and what matters is that our babies are healthy and nourished.
I hope reading about my breastfeeding journey has been helpful. Please know that my experience is just one of many, and every woman goes through their own journey when it comes to nourishing their baby. I give recommendations, but your experience might be very different than mine. I encourage you to try different methods and products until you find something that works for you and your family when it comes to parenting (and not just breastfeeding).
If you have any questions about something I didn’t mention on this post or if you want me to clarify anything, please leave a comment below. I would also love to hear about your experiences as well, so feel free to share!
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