Though it's only been 4 weeks, our breastfeeding beginnings proved quite difficult. Yes, this post is about breastfeeding. Consider this your warning... Mooo...
I thought everything was going fine until we placed our baby girl on the scale at her follow up newborn appointment with the pediatrician. Prior to delivery, I shed many tears over a fear of not producing enough milk for my baby. You heard me right, I had yet to have my baby, and I was already shedding tears for something that most likely wouldn't be an issue. But, due to my PCOS (polycistic Ovarian Syndrome- hormone imbalance), I had the feeling that the same hormone imbalance that caused us difficulty in getting pregnant would also effect breastfeeding. And it did...
My college roommates can attest to not only my sincere interest in the breastfeeding topic but for my deep desire to breastfeed my own children. In nursing school, I not only completed my senior project on a breastfeeding topic but also had the career goal of eventually becoming a lactation consultant. As a nurse in the OB field, I have completed countless hours of education on the topic and probably spend at least a quarter of my work days helping and supporting other women and newborns in initiating their breastfeeding journey. All to say, my heart and soul could not wait for the day that I would get to breastfeed my own baby. That I would get to be the one she cried for to supply her needs. That I would be the one she would look up to from the crux of my arm. It may sound strange, but really truly, this was my heart's desire.
When Andrew placed Bonnie's little body on the scale in the doctor's office and the numbers read almost an entire pound less than her birth weight, I knew there was a problem. I'm the one who normally has that conversation with the family when they ask if their newborn has lost too much weight. I'm the one who normally helps get them started on a feeding plan to get back up to birth weight. Now, we were those parents. That was my newborn.
To make a long story short, a dear friend of mine generously shared some of her breastmilk with Bonnie during her first week of life. This was such a kind gesture and gave me such peace of mind that I had a little more time to try and get my own production up without having to give any formula.
**Sidenote: I do not recommend nor encourage the sharing of breastmilk! I know the detailed health history of my friend and would probably not accept milk from anyone else other than my own sister. Donor milk banks test and process donated milk to make it safe as breastmilk can carry and transmit many unwanted things. Breastmilk from donor banks is the only way to ensure your baby is getting safe milk.**
Three lactation appointments, a few weigh-ins, an intense-every-two-hour feeding & pumping schedule, and two weeks time later, and my milk finally came in. We educate patients that breastmilk will come in 3-5 days post delivery. In some cases of PCOS, breastmilk can either not come in at all or take an extra long time. I didn't know what my case would be, but I stuck to the regimen and am beyond pleased and grateful for the beautiful supply and demand system.
Those two weeks were difficult. Very difficult. Not only were we out and about so much because of so many appointments, but I was in quite a bit of pain due to so much pumping and feeding. In fact, I dreaded each feeding session for a long time. Which, then turned to tears. Here I was, hating feeding my daughter. Yes, I hated it. It hurt. It stung. Not even the water could touch me in the shower without stinging pain (yes, I was doing everything in the books to soothe and heal my nipples).
But, at the magic 2 week mark, Bonnie was finally at birth weight. I finally had milk. Plenty of milk.
My nipples finally didn't hurt as bad.
My baby finally seemed satisfied with just the breast and didn't require my pumped milk in a bottle after each feed.
Most importantly, I finally felt confident in my ability to supply for my baby's needs.
This may seem quite silly, unimportant, confusing, or right-out gross to many. But, it's nature. It's mothering. To me, it was something I couldn't wait to do. And, we're finally doing it.
All of this to say... persevere.
All of this to say... even though our first two weeks on instagram looked like heaven, things aren't always as they seem. Behind those smiles, behind those sweet baby cuddles was exhaustion and struggle, and many tears. In fact, Andrew was concerned with my bonding with our sweet baby. Since I was feeding her so regularly, and each feed/pump session took an hour, with only and hour break, I never got the chance to just cuddle without the pain of feeding. Every time baby girl and I were touching, it meant struggling through a feed. He so gently loved me through it and made sure that baby and I got a little bit of time to just cuddle and get to know each other each day. The skin to skin time without feeding was important and beneficial for both of us. Praise God for thriving, healthy babies! And, praise God that Andrew had this time off to help and support me. I seriously could not have gotten through and persevered without him.
This post is plenty long. Thanks for sticking through it this far. I also want to say that there is nothing wrong with giving formula. If that was my plan and desire, then great! It simply wasn't my plan for feeding my baby.
My humble pumping beginnings followed by my beloved frozen stash!
Our every day routine included eating oatmeal for breakfast & taking a breastmilk supplemental herb (that I continue to take). I also enjoyed a few too many lactation cookies...
If you are struggling with milk supply or simply want a good, reliable resource for all things breastfeeding, check out kellymom.com.