I’ve shared about my breastfeeding journey here and there on Stories or in my Monthly Updates over the years, but I haven’t sat down to really talk about it in detail. After being 6 months into baby #2, I thought now was a good time to reflect and I’m excited to be partnering with The Lactation Network to do so. The Lactation Network is fighting to create a world where all parents have equal access to the vital information and resources they need to best care for themselves and their children, working to improve the fourth trimester for the better through lactation support and resources, all through health insurance.
Breastfeeding is 1000% a journey. It’s probably the most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life. Thankfully, my body and my babies took to breastfeeding really well, so while physically it’s been amazing, mentally and emotionally it’s been a lot. Today, I’m sitting down and sharing my experience with both Harper and Camden, and sharing more about the resources available to help any mamas out there on their breastfeeding journey.
As a first time mom, one of my biggest fears was breastfeeding. I heard all the horror stories from fellow mamas in my real life and on social media. Getting the latch right, supply issues, tongue tie, lazy sucklers, mastitis, clogged ducts, cracked nipples. While this was one of my biggest fears going into motherhood, I also didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t look into finding a lactation consultant beforehand, I didn’t research different breast pumps, I didn’t know how to make my breastfeeding experience a positive one. I even went to prenatal and birthing classes… yet, no one ever said anything about breastfeeding classes or seeing a lactation consultant beforehand.
With Harper, she latched right away after she was born, so we thought, this is great. But, once we came back to my recovery room, it all kinda went downhill. Harper would latch, but I think my milk or colostrum was slow to come in (I think all the meds had something to do with this). Nurses kept telling me to hand express, which again, I didn’t know about. Finally, once the lactation consultant came in (day 2), we started to make some progress. She recommended we supplement, so we were introduced to donor milk (just another thing we had no clue about). She also taught me how to use my pump. So, while I pumped to help my milk come in, Mike would finger feed Harper donor milk. Keep in mind, I’m also exhausted from being in labor for 24 hours and just recovering from a semi-emergency c-section, so as you can imagine, it was A LOT.
Mike and I reflect now and we always say how thankful we were for that lactation consultant at the hospital. She turned it all around for us. She put us on a schedule, taught me how to use my pump, taught Mike how to finger feed, showed me different positions based on my nipple and baby preference, introduced me to a nipple guard/shield (for my inverted left nipple). I think Mike ended up only finger feeding a couple of days when we got home and then my milk came in and Harper latched wonderfully.
So now that baby is latched, milk is in, and baby is nursing beautifully, everything is great right? Ha, not so much! This is where a lot of the unknown comes into play. I dealt with engorgement and over-production, which I had no clue about or how to manage it. Harper also had a little bit of eczema, so you start thinking, “is it something I’m eating.” She also had a little bit of reflux, so again, you’re trying to eliminate possible foods from your diet. And you’re also trying to figure out if baby should be more upright when feeding. I mean the list goes on and on of all the second guessing. Keep in mind, you’re also trying to figure out if your baby is getting enough milk. And then a few months down the road you’re wondering if your supply dropped and the best ways to get your milk production back up. There’s SO much that goes into breastfeeding that people don’t talk about. And, I had quite the “easy” journey.
All of that and I haven’t even talked about the mental journey you go on while breastfeeding as a first time mom. The constant second guessing yourself, plus postpartum hormones and recovery, plus the sacrifices. Not to mention, breastfeeding can be very lonely and isolating. You basically have a baby attached to your body for what feels like ever. And a good portion of that breastfeeding is likely done alone. And then if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, which is what I did with Harper and doing now with Camden (he refuses to take a bottle), you can’t be without baby for longer than 3-4 hours. And if you’re using pumped milk, you have to make sure you’re pumping on schedule to keep your supply consistent. Did I mention those early days and all the night feedings? See how mom’s needs can get lost in it all? This is a very tricky time because you’re your baby’s life support, but you also need to put your needs first and make sure you’re eating, drinking, resting, and overall doing your best to fill your own cup. This is a very tricky balance that, to be honest, didn’t really come until baby #2.
Looking back, I would say Harper and I’s breastfeeding journey was amazing. She exclusively nursed for 18 months, which was longer than I intended (12 months). It was hardest mentally in the beginning because it was just so demanding and so new, but as time went on, it really became just part of our days. I had a flexible work schedule, which made our journey 100% possible. Were there stressful times, 1000%, but I’m so grateful we got through it as a family.
With baby #2 and all that experience, you’d think my breastfeeding journey with Camden would be a breeze, right? One of the things that kept coming up when I was pregnant was,”what if my body doesn’t produce milk like it did last time?” Breastfeeding fears all over again. Thankfully, you have the experience and you’re able to prepare a little better and ask for help ahead of time to help ease the fears. I started hand expressing and using my Haakaa right away in the hospital and I was producing so much colostrum that we didn’t need to supplement. I had the nipple shield ready to go for my left inverted nipple. We nursed so much in the hospital that Camden was already a pro. And my milk came in beautifully, just like it did with Harper. We definitely had a better start with Cam, but every child is different and different issues arise. 3 of the biggest issues we had with Camden when we got home were lots of spit up, lots of poop, and bad eczema. All of which can be attributed to my milk. So, there were lots of days stressing over what I was eating. Once this all sort of worked itself out (took a few months), the worry and stress lessoned. I also overproduced, but luckily I was able to regulate my milk within 10ish days.
While I was fortunate enough to have great latches with both kids, an abundant milk supply, a pump supplied to me by my hospital, and access to a lactation consultant at the hospital, I know that’s not the case for everyone. Breastfeeding can be hard and we as new moms need all the support we can get. So much is not talked about and so much is left on us as mothers to figure out on our own, which is why I’m excited to introduce The Lactation Network. The Lactation Network is fighting to create a world where all parents have equal access to the vital information and resources they need to best care for themselves and their children. TLN’s mission is to make lactation support accessible and inclusive. Through education, connection, and advocacy, they foster a network of inclusive care, where moms and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants empower each other to thrive. TLN is the go-to source for lactation education, a one-stop shop for lactation products and services, and a key initiator of lactation health awareness. Through The Lactation Network, you’ll find insurance-covered lactation care and breast pumps, education and advocacy, and unlimited access to education resources.
Harper, Camden, and I are so blessed that our breastfeeding journeys have been so pleasant and wonderful, but even so, I would have loved to have something like The Lactation Network when I was struggling or had questions. Breastfeeding struggles are SO REAL whether it’s the latch, the supply, or the mental load and I’m SO here for lactation health awareness. If you’re a new parent, expecting mother, or know a new mom who’s looking for help with breastfeeding, I would highly encourage you to check out The Lactation Network.
Special thank you to The Lactation Network for partnering on this post.