Baby Joshua is almost six months old and looking back at the last six months, I have reflected on our biggest struggles and accomplishments. This brings me to a big topic that represents both- breastfeeding! So I figured why not write a blog post about my breastfeeding journey with both babies. My biggest hope for this post is that it will inspire other mamas to at least give breastfeeding a try! For me personally, I wish I had done more research on breastfeeding or read more stories about it before I ever started just so I would have had an idea of what to expect. I also want to note that every mom is different. Our bodies, experiences, and circumstances all vary and some moms are unable to or choose not to breastfeed. I think it is important that every mother is equally respected, no matter their situation or decision.
My Journey with Arabella
First, I wanna start with my breastfeeding experience with Arabella because it was equally both difficult and successful. I breastfed Arabella for 17 months. The beginning was HARD. When my milk came in, I was miserable. I remember sitting on the couch in those first few weeks holding frozen peas over my boobs and crying. I described the feeling to everyone as my boobs feeling like they were filled with rocks and beat with baseball bats. YES, it hurts. There were times in the first four weeks when my nipples would bleed and it got to the point where everyday I would have to talk myself into continuing to breastfeed. I am so thankful for my husband and mom who supported me and helped me get through the difficult days. About three months into it, I had to have a small surgery due to complications related to giving birth. Because of the anesthesia and pain meds from the horrible post-op pain, I was forced to pump and dump for a full 24 hours.
The biggest complication came when the entire process dried up my milk supply. This was a whole new stress of breastfeeding for me, because I had always produced a large supply of milk. I tried EVERYTHING. Arabella acted so hungry and it killed me to feel like I couldn’t feed my own child. I read blogs on nursing techniques, went to Babies R Us and tried all their lactation products, changed my diet- I literally tried everything. Finally, I found a couple things that saved me. Feeding her all day, drinking the Milk Maid Tea, and eating the lactation cookies didn’t give me results but what did were a few simple lifestyle changes and some great herbs. 1) I drank a ton of water- at least 100 oz a day. 2) I researched foods that were proven to help milk production and focused on oatmeal, salmon, spinach, and almonds. I also made sure anything I ate wasn’t shown to decrease supply. 3) I drank O’Doul’s and a lot of it! I knew alcohol decreased production but the wheat in beer increased it so even though I did not like the taste of beer, I got over that real quick. 4) I consulted with my doctor about the herbs that helped my mom with her production when she had me, and started taking Blessed Thistle and Marshmallow Root. It took me a month for things to get back to normal which meant it was a long stressful month. I got desperate at times and tried to supplement with everything from Similac to organic, sensitive-supplementing formulas but nothing worked. She vomited every single time. I introduced rice cereal at three and a half months with seemed to help a little as well.
My Journey with LJ
Finally, I stopped breastfeeding when I was 2 months pregnant with LJ. I thought this time around would be so much easier because I had already done it once before and my break in between wouldn’t be too long. I was wrong! When my milk came in, it was just as bad. LJ also struggled with his latch which caused me a lot of extra pain. The most painful part was the first week, when every time I fed him, I had insane uterus cramping, very similar to labor contractions. In the hospital, I was on Vicodin but going home, I only had Ibuprofen and it didn’t help the pain at all. About four weeks in after most of the pain subsided, I then ended up getting a breast infection. My boob hurt SO bad, even my arm brushing by it hurt. I ended up getting chills and a fever. I was miserable but had to keep feeding LJ. My doctor prescribed me antibiotics and I recovered within a few days. It sucked. The first month and a half was a struggle for me but the last few months have been amazing. I have had no production issues and just started LJ on solids because it has been so easy.
So When Does It Get Easier?
The journey is different for everybody. For me personally, with both kids, the pain and difficulty was 90% better after about five weeks. The pain isn’t always so bad though. I have a friend who had a pretty similar experience to mine but I also have another, who didn’t really have any pain at all. The main idea, is that it does get easier and after the beginning, breastfeeding is an amazing experience.
Breastfeeding & Alcohol
I found that drinking any alcohol in the first three months (even just a small glass of wine right after a feeding) decreased my milk production. In the first three months, I really limited my alcohol intake, probably having a glass of wine once a month or so. I am not a big drinker and so this wasn’t a problem for me. I prefer to have wine over anything else so if I do have a drink, I make sure its close to right after a feeding and then I wait at least two hours to feed the baby. After doing my own research, this is what makes me feel most comfortable. I always encourage others who ask me to do their own research and consult with their doctor before making any decisions.
Please note: I am not a medical professional and all information shared on this blog is of my own opinion and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with your doctor if you have questions or medical concerns pertaining to you or your baby.
This was another difficult part of my breastfeeding journey with Arabella. Drying up for me was a very painful process. I tried to slowly ease into it for a month but I am not sure that even helped. What I found that helped was pain medicine, hot baths and showers, hot compressions before feeding or pumping, reducing the pumping sessions to just alleviating the pain instead of emptying the breasts and cold cabbage leaves – lots & lots of em.
The Best Breastfeeding Products
I’ve tried a bunch. Here’s a list of my favorites:
- Boobease Organic Nipple Cream (Recommended by my child’s pediatrician & I loved it)
- Simple, easy, and cute nursing bras from Motherhood.
- Lansinoh Cooling Gel Pads
- Breastfeeding shirts and dresses. I love mine from Undercover Mama.
- Medela Breast Pump & Manual Breast Pump I would also recommend their pumping bra! It’s awesome.
- Lansinoh Nipple Cream
- Breast Shield (Necessary with cracked, bleeding nipples)
- Nursing Covers. I am obsessed with mine from Milk Snob. They are so multi-functional; definitely one of my best purchases.
- This product I actually haven’t tried because I found out about it too late but wish I would have bought it. Milkies Milk Storage & Organizational System.
But Here’s the Best Part
I know I have spent a lot of time talking about the struggles of breastfeeding and haven’t really focused on why breastfeeding is so amazing. This is really the only research I did before making my decision to breastfeed. First- the emotional connection that you form with your baby is unlike anything else. Second- it is so incredibly healthy for our babies. It doesn’t get more natural and organic than this! Breast milk is more easily digestible than formula is and contains vitamins and antibodies that help baby fight off infections and viruses. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk for developing many sicknesses and diseases including asthma, allergies, and even some childhood cancers. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, have fewer stomach viruses, ear infections, respiratory illnesses and meningitis than formula-fed babies. Breastfeeding throughout the night also decreases your baby’s risk of SIDS. Third- convenience! Let’s be real. Whipping out a boob and breastfeeding is so much better than having to bring along formula supplies and mixing bottles. PLUS- breastfeeding for the first year can save you more than $1500. Of course there are some costs for a breastfeeding mother including nipple cream, breast pads, a breast pump and milk bags. The nipple cream and breast pads really only get used the first month and for me personally, I was able to get a breast pump free through my insurance both times. Lastly, nursing helps you get your pre-baby body back. It can easier to forget about yourself when you have a new baby to take care of, but knowing you are feeding your baby with milk your body makes, you think twice about what you put in your body. AND, breastfeeding can burn up to 600 calories a day!
For additional breastfeeding information & support you can check out La Leche League here.
* LJ’s onesie is from Cheerily