I’ve actually been putting this post off for quite a while. I supposed I should have written it last year when I was breastfeeding G at only 3 months old instead of 15 months. Everything was still fresh, then. I actually haven’t written her birth story yet either – part of me doesn’t want to remember it… if you know about my experience giving birth for the first time, you know why I’m not interested in writing or sharing about it, but if you don’t know how my experience went, don’t worry. All you need to know is that everything is okay now, and we are all happy and healthy.
I stocked up on breastfeeding supplies. Everything was pretty useful to me, including my Boppy pillow [I’ve heard the ‘My Breast Friend’ ones are better], nursing cover, some disposable breast pads (if only I knew how many of those I would really need), and my Earth Mama, Angel Baby nipple butter. I also shopped for a few nursing tanks and bras, and a couple of nightgowns, which I lived in for the first few weeks while recovering from surgery, etc.
I baked like four dozen! These supposably help your milk come in. Most recipes are packed with oats and flax seed which are foods that help women maintain a breastmilk supply or increase it if it’s low. The recipe I used can be found here. I loved my lactation cookies and found that eating them a few days before labor and then making a ton and freezing them for after I had the baby was the best thing I could do! I brought them with me to the hospital when I was in labor and snacked on them after birth as well. The cookies were amazing quick snacks for a sleep-deprived new mom, and left me super satisfied after nursing around the clock during those first few weeks.
Basically the first two days of nursing were me worrying sick that she wasn’t latching but sometimes she would drink and I’d feel like she was getting colostrum. Nursing is an odd thing as a new mom because no one tells you how much your baby is getting, but later on as I got better, the mom-tuition kicked in. The hospital (yes I know this is meant to be a good thing so they know baby is being fed) is very sassy about you writing down when you fed the baby, what side, and how long. Let’s just say I’ll never be doing that again- it was the most stressful thing. I had to write it on my little log; a piece of paper next to my bedside that was literally soaked with spilled melted ice from me not being able to eat for 36 hours and desperately wanting water.
My Experience Breastfeeding in the NICU: Home of the Breast Pump
Fast forward a couple of days and G is in the NICU. Again… I’ll explain all of that nonsense another time. But she’s in the NICU; she spent a week there. When we first arrived, I was kind of a hot mess, but I was bombarded with a ton of information about pumping, and almost instantly introduced to a giant, hospital grade breast pump that can be wheeled around with you. Basically the impression I got was: “Hi, welcome to the NICU, home of the breast pump, where you will literally never get to feed your baby with your breast” and it felt horrible. Everything was a total blur, but I just remember feeling defeated.
I won’t go into super detail because it may bore you, but if you’ve never been in the NICU, something you may not know is that there’s a very rigid schedule. Babies are fed, temperature taken, diaper changed every 3 hours, on the hour. (At least that was the schedule at the hospital we were at). While I understand that most NICU babies are premature, and therefore thrive on a schedule, (they aren’t able to leave their crib to latch onto the boob, let alone, cuddle their mother, which is absolutely heartbreaking) so this schedule works for them. However, my problem with this is the same problem I have with the medical field as a whole. Not everything is one size fits all. It isn’t fair that Grace had to be fed every three hours if she was hungry every 1.5 hours. I was there to breastfeed her, and if she needed to eat, I wanted to feed her. Some nurses were more gracious than others and allowed me to do so but others were very strict about when I fed her.
A few days passed, and I was already sick of pumping, but continued to do it frantically so that I could have my milk there in case the nurse that was working that day decided to feed G while I was out getting her meds, or getting my meds, or eating breakfast, so I always kept a few bottles of breastmilk in the little fridge with G’s name and number on it. I was so horrified that they would give her formula. I wanted her to be an exclusively breastfed baby. In fact… they did give her formula once… without my consent. I am scarred by it. [Note: I have nothing against formula or mamas that use it/need to use it for their littles, please do not feel as though I’m attacking… no formula was my personal choice for G].
One day the neonatologist came in and said to me “We are worried that your baby isn’t gaining weight at a rapid enough pace, so we’re going to have to start supplementing with formula” and I about DIED. I strictly remembered reading in several books something like, “While breastfed babies tend to be leaner than formula-fed babies, their weight gain is steady and appropriate” (What to Expect When You’re Expecting) aka, they will gain weight slower in the beginning and then plateau around 4-6 months (which she did). I remember sitting there with tears in my eyes and feeling, again, like a failure.
The Light At The End of The Tunnel
After talking with her other doctors, and the lactation consultant on call, I decided to exercise my right as her parent and decline the formula supplementation, as I didn’t feel it was necessary. She was gaining weight.. just not at the pace they wanted her to be gaining. I also consulted her pediatrician and he seemed to think formula supplementation wasn’t necessary. I’m glad I looked more into it, and ended up not having to use it, because again, I was determined to breastfeed her exclusively.
The last two nights Grace spent in the NICU, I was able to breastfeed her on demand, however I wanted, whenever I wanted… They still made me log the time, how long, and which side, but I was just thankful to be with her, and to be able to pick her up when I wanted, or pick her up when she cried without wondering if it was allowed. Those two nights were the real beginning to my wonderful breastfeeding journey.
The Glorious Couch Days
Those first few months of nursing were the most blissful. I would lay with her on the couch from sun-up to sun-down and just snuggle. Newborns love to be on their mama’s chest, so we didn’t do anything but cuddle on the couch. I would eat the occasional meal or two, and have my Netflix show or book handy, and nurse, sleep, change diaper, repeat.
I know this is tough if you are a mom of multiples, but if you’re a new mama or expecting your first little one, some of the best advice someone gave me was do not anything the first 6-8+ weeks; just revel in the newborn goodness and cuddles. I have so many photos of those moments, and I’m so thankful for them.
Breastfeeding Into Toddlerhood
Fast forward a year and four months, and our breastfeeding relationship is stronger than ever! G nurses around 5 times a day still, and hasn’t, nor will she ever take a bottle. We tried a couple of times, but she had no interest. I am thankful that I never had a reason to try and get her to take a bottle. I’ve had a plugged duct here and there, and definitely wanted to cry when she was teething on my nipples a few times, but altogether it’s been an amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade the cuddles, giggles, smiles, or sleeping sessions for anything. I would go through this whole experience, and one hundred times more to be able to experience the intimacy that is nursing my baby.
I look forward to nursing all of my children, and don’t plan on weaning G any time soon. See my post on seven reasons I don’t plan to wean my baby here.