Even before I was pregnant I knew I was at least going to try to nurse my baby. There are SO many benefits to both Mom and baby, I was always determined to make it work. I hadn’t really done my research until I was actually pregnant, but from what I had always heard – Breast is Best. I also knew a baby cost a shit ton of money, the amount of money you can save on formula just by nursing is so worth it alone. Aside from the substantial benefits for baby, there are many benefits for Mom too. For starters, I think my baby weight came off pretty quickly because I was nursing. It is also said that nursing can lower a mom’s risk of developing Breast & Ovarian cancer. Most importantly, the bond you develop with baby while nursing is like no other. While there are many benefits to nursing, it can be really challenging on Mom, especially in the beginning. It is REALLY important to have everyone on board, even if there isn’t a bottle waiting around to feed the baby with. Brian was very supportive of me nursing, he would always get me water and a snack anytime he saw me feeding McKenzie. Eventually, you learn to just always have water near you but early on it’s super helpful when your partner does these things to support you.
I had a fever during delivery so McKenzie had to be taken to NICU about an hour or so after I gave birth to her. I always pictured giving birth, the nurses cleaning up my child and then placing her on me to find my nipple to latch herself. They didn’t have me nurse her right away which looking back, I think led to latching issues in the beginning. This wasn’t something I thought about immediately after giving birth, I knew they wanted to take her to NICU so I just wanted to hold her. Since I was in a recovery room in the labor & delivery wing and McKenzie was in the NICU wing, Brian had to push me in a wheelchair about every 2 hours to go see her. We would go see her, I would attempt to nurse her for 20-30 minutes, we would hold her, Brian would change her and then go back to my room to attempt to sleep. 90 minutes later, we would go back to see her and do the same thing. It was such a strange process. I was so tired, but I wanted to keep going to spend time with her. But it was NICU, so you didn’t want to overstay your welcome there so we just went back and forth back and forth for the 2 days.
They had me use a nipple shield in NICU to get McKenzie to feed any time I was having trouble. It really took a toll on me that I had to use a crutch to nurse my baby. I would cry while sitting there that I had to use this thing. I felt so guilty that I was even upset in NICU since McKenzie was perfectly healthy. There were about 5 other babies there fighting for their life and here I was, crying because I needed a crutch to get my baby to latch. I called in a lactation nurse every time I went to feed her. My nipples were chapped and at times bloody, it really is so painful in the beginning. The morning we were going to take McKenzie home, one of the nurses mentioned McKenzie could be tongue-tied and that is why she wasn’t latching. Great. Now I worried about this up until our first pediatrician appointment where he confirmed she was not tongue-tied. She had maintained her birth weight which he was impressed by, babies usually lose weight after leaving the hospital. I continued to nurse her every 3 hours. The only time I would wake her to feed her was at night.
I was still really upset about the shield. Our pediatrician gave me a lactation consultant’s number so I called her one day. I had told her I’m using a shield and I burst into tears. She was so sweet and understanding. She asked me a bunch of questions like “Is your baby gaining weight?”, “yes”, “Does she fall off your breast naturally when she seems done?”, “yes”, about 10 minutes on each breast “does she have milk on the side of her mouth after a feed?”, “yes” “is she crying frequently throughout the day or during a feeding?” “no, only really cries around 4pm,” I said. She said, “it sounds like you’re doing a really good job Mom, I know people who use the shield for 4 months and then all of a sudden, baby doesn’t need it”. I was hysterically crying at this point. She told me I could come to one of her group sessions if I still had concerns or even needed support, but I felt so proud after that phone call. So what if I would need to use this damn shield for a few months. It was really annoying to use and I always had to find or grab before a feeding, but I made it work. I also think it saved my nipple from chapping as well but I also used this cream. I used the shield for 5 months until one day I tried without one and she latched like a pro. I sat there feeding her crying my eyes out with this achievement. I was so proud of her and of myself.
The first few weeks of nursing are so tough, I can definitely see why women give up early on. It takes a toll on your body, your mind and mostly your breasts. My boobs would become so engorged and for some reason, I was scared to pump. I’d tell my husband I’m just going to feed her because my boobs were so full, but she would be sleeping and he would yell at me to pump. That is definitely one thing I wish I started to do earlier especially since I was oversupplying. I caught on pretty quick that I could build up my stash for later if I just started to pump if Kenzie only fed from one side or even if my boob still felt full. I have also heard of mom’s using this milk catcher on one breast while baby nurses on the other. This helps you to produce more milk since your body thinks she needs it and that stash really comes in handy later on. I used these storage bags to store all of my milk in the freezer.
Pumping at work is a whole other beast. Traveling back and forth to the city with your pump, laptop, and cooler with milk. Might as well put a “new mom” sticker on me. I would pump 3 times a day when I went back to work. I always based my 3rd pump around the last time McKenzie has eaten so that I’d be able to nurse her when I got home. I was very obsessed with the schedule early on. I would bring home 24 oz each day so I always had enough for feeding her the next day and then to freeze. Pumping takes a lot of time at work, but I always took my laptop with me and continued to do my job while I was pumping. Even the whole process of going to the nurse, pumping, cleaning all your stuff and making sure everything was stored and labeled was so time-consuming.
I didn’t realize that my body would produce the same amount even if I was pumping less often until about 6 or 7 months when I dropped to pumping twice a day at work. I was still bringing home 24oz so it was annoying that I didn’t realize this sooner. I’m not sure if everyone would adjust that way, I’m sure it’s based off how much your baby consumes throughout the day. This was around the time that I started to go back to the gym as well, I felt like I had free time during my lunch now to go to the gym that was in my building. I think the combination of making these 2 changes at the same time shocked my body. I had the worst pain in my breast one afternoon that I had to cancel a meeting and run downstairs to pump. There was barely anything coming out and the pain increasingly got worse. I Googled what was happening and I had a clogged duct. One article I read said to lay vertically above your child and have them nurse. No problem, I only commute an hour and a half away from my child to work but let me grab her quick. Now I have a fever and I’m sweating at this point so I panicked and left work and headed home. I was in so much pain on the train home and literally grabbed McKenzie the second I got home and laid her on my bed. The pain was brutal at this point and pointing my boob toward McKenzie only hurt even more. Now the both of us are crying because she isn’t getting any milk from me and I’m in severe pain. Brian took her to give her a bottle and I went and took a hot shower to relieve some of the pain. This helped and milk finally started to come out. I kept up with pumping and warm compresses for 2 days and the pain finally went away and I started to feel normal.
I think that was the only time I had a really bad clogged duct, I made sure not to make too many drastic changes at once after that experience. I know Mom’s that would get clogged ducts all the time or I would even see on some Mom blogger posts that they were experiencing clogged ducts. You just don’t understand the pain until you go through it, it’s awful. I was so lucky to only have that happen once.
When McKenzie was around 11 months I decided it was time to wean. It seemed like it was starting to happen naturally for her. If there were distractions around she wanted nothing to do with me and would rather crawl around. I was really proud of myself for coming this far, and I had so much milk in storage that I would get her to at least a year. We started to offer her breastmilk in a straw cup around this time as well so we could get rid of the bottles too. I took some time off in May so I was down to nursing her 2 times a day one week and then once a day before bed the week after. It took me a little while to stop the night feeding because I just didn’t want the journey to end. I think I told myself 3 or 4 times that it was going to be my last feeding until I finally pulled the plug. I think a year was the perfect amount of time because then you make the transition to Milk, whichever type of milk you and your pediatrician agree on. Some Mom’s go longer, some Mom’s stop sooner, and some Mom’s don’t do it at all. What really matters at the end of the day is that you have a healthy and happy baby AND Mommy. There is no right or wrong way, it’s whatever way works for you.