In honor of World Breastfeeding Week – I wanted to share with you my stories of breastfeeding each child. All three were similar, yet very different – and if my stories can help even just one Mama figure out this journey, then my mission is accomplished!
My First Baby – The Pharaoh.
Ever since I could remember, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my response was always, “A Mom!”. I wanted to get married and have kids, period. Six years ago I became just that. I was the perfect mix of ‘I know what I’m doing’ and ‘am I doing everything wrong here??’. I had Mom friends, thankfully, who I could ask for any and all advice – but I will admit 100% I relied too much on their advice and not my own (or my husband’s). Lesson #1 – be thankful for your Mom friends, but YOU and YOUR SPOUSE are the parents, and it’s okay to do things your way.
So the Pharaoh latched right away with no problems. My milk came in on day #3. And all I remember was that I had SO. MUCH. MILK. Days 4-6 were absolutely miserable. I slept with a few towels under me because I would wake up with these two huge, rock-hard boulders, that were so foreign to my body, and I would be soaked. My shirt would literally not have a dry spot on it. I felt so disgusting. This actually happened with all three of my kids during that first week until my supply evened out. Lesson #2 – your supply will even out, just get through that godly uncomfortable phase. I however did not know this, and I took pride in knowing that my milk supply was overachieving (you could say I am a competitive person..). So after nursing the Pharaoh, I would pump, and get like 8+ oz AFTER NURSING HIM. Our freezer filled up quickly and I was quite proud. What I didn’t realize was that my body was thinking the baby was drinking all of this (or that I was freaking feeding triplets). Lesson #3 – supply and demand, for the most part – your body will continue to make as much as you are expressing whether it’s from nursing or pumping. This was not something I could keep up with, even though I only had one baby, I also had a full time job working from home. Not to mention – being a first time Mom is exhausting the first… 18 years or so.
The other thing I didn’t realize was how freaking bad it would hurt when he latched on. My nipples were virgins! Have you had a baby suck on your finger? They aren’t playing around! About 1-2 weeks into it, I cringed at the thought of him latching. I found out #1 this is normal and #2 make sure he is latching properly because that could be a game changer. This passed quickly, but I was so thankful the hospital sent me home with some Lanolin Nipplecream.
I will never forget his 4 month checkup, here I am – a super proud Mom of a 4 month old who was SLEEPING THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT, and the doctor tells me I need to start waking him up at night to feed him. (Just picture my face at that moment). So here I am again, pretty confident that I was doing things right (his weight growth was just fine), yet I’m second guessing myself that I am truly messing up my firstborn. I will say, I had him on a super (SUPER) strict feeding and napping schedule. I was a psycho first time Mom. Lesson #4 – chill the F out!! I’m all for schedules, especially for naps… but I was the type who would decline an invitation to something because my baby naps at that time. #sorrynotsorry. Let me clarify, I do still plan around my 3rd baby’s naps, but I’m also not going to pass up on fun opportunities so sleeping beauty can catch some Zzzzzzzz…..
So this Doctor also called in a lactation consultant and I felt extremely ganged up on that I was harming my baby by letting him sleep through the night. Lesson #5 – I am not a Doctor, but I say don’t wake your baby at night to feed them unless they honestly DO need that milk for a reason (such as lack of weight gain). So I listened to the Doctor, woke him up at night, and he never slept through the night again until 10 months old. Around that same time, two months shy of his first birthday, my milk completely dried up OUT OF NOWHERE. I’m talking, one day I’m pumping 10 oz and the next day maybe a 1/2 oz, and then ZILCH for the next few days. I didn’t want to give up, competitive Erica wanted to make it to a year! But the Pharaoh wasn’t getting anything from me, so I admitted defeat. I was SO thankful for my whopping freezer stash that did indeed carry him to his first birthday, and I was pretty satisfied with my efforts.
Did You Know?? There is a good chance your insurance will cover a breast pump for you (with each child!). You might have to pay extra for a double pump however.
My Second Baby – Birdie.
Birdie came out fast, and perfect looking. I had to push maybe 8 times with her, compared to 4 1/2 hours of pushing only to find out the Pharaoh had the weirdest cone head I had ever seen in my life (to this day). She was absolutely beautiful, and latched right on to me within minutes. She also didn’t latch-off for minutes, more like hours. I remember trying to figure out what to do because I had to get up and go to the bathroom. My milk came in on the second day this time, to be specific – it came in right when my Dad was visiting Birdie and I in the hospital. I could feel the let down, followed by big, growing wet spots on my shirt as I’m trying to play it cool and hide under a hospital sheet while my Dad talks to me about life. Lesson #6 – put some pads in just in case, before you have visitors.
Overall I had the best, easiest, breastfeeding experience with Birdie. I was not so psycho-strict on feeding times and schedules as I was the first time around. I didn’t pump much at all – sometimes just so the Pharaoh could feed her a bottle. Latching didn’t hurt at all (I think after your first baby your nipples just turn to iron). I never knew how much milk I had, but it always seemed to be enough for her. My left was always more engorged (like you could literally see how uneven I was at times … not cute), so I knew that side was making more milk than righty and I would always start her on my slower side which seemed to help even them out more.
My one complaint about nursing Birdie was that she refused to be covered up, and I’m sad to say I never had the confidence to whip them out in public without a cover. So that made things a little difficult, I would usually go sit in our van and nurse her. Lesson # 7 – don’t be ashamed to nurse in public. It’s not like you want to be doing it for crying out loud. Definetely not your ideal Thursday evening plan. But your baby needs it and there is absolutely nothing ‘weird’ or ‘gross’ about it. And Lesson # 8 – if you see another Mom nursing in public, tell her she’s awesome.
I highly recommend this dual purpose car seat canopy + nursing cover up. It’s cute, soft, and convenient: <Amazon Link>
Pretty short story with breastfeeding Birdie – things went great until she was 15 months old and started biting and I tapped out. Pat on the back, I made it 15 months!
I highly recommend resuable nursing pads. If you’re anything like me, you’ll go through them quickly so I knew I didn’t want to purchase boxes of disposable ones (which I also felt didn’t work as well, and you could see them through your shirt).
My Third Baby – Momo.
Momo came out like a wrecking ball. I started pushing – and they said “I’d give it about 30 minutes”… competitive Erica replied, “give me 5” AND I DID IT IN ABOUT 3. Great job Erica… you got First Place along with a 3rd degree tear you dumbass. She was worth it though, our surprise baby girl. She followed suit and latched on great as well (or so I thought). My milk came in on day #1 also like a wrecking ball. More towels to sleep on, more reusable nursing pads to double up on.
I thought everything was fine, especially since I had successfully nursed 2 other babies before this, but Momo’s weight was decreasing with each appointment. At first I thought the doctors were making way too big of an issue about it, I knew my body and my baby and we were doing just fine. There were several appointments of me going in, certain she was finally gaining, but leaving feeling incredibly defeated and guilty that she was still losing weight. The doctor finally suggested I get a lactation consultant because she couldn’t lose any more weight. Lesson #9 – I was incredibly surprised with how little the pediatrician knew about breastfeeding problems. I suspected Momo had a major lip tie from what I could see but when I asked the Doctor to check, she didn’t think it was bad at all. Momo did in fact have a severe lip tie and a minor tongue tie as well, which she got clipped when she was 2 weeks old. We found a pediatric dentist who used the laser method and, although it was very hard leaving my 2 week old in the hands of a woman w/ a laser – the whole thing took not even 2 minutes and Momo didn’t cry at all. That lip and tongue tie revision saved my breastfeeding journey. She immediately gained weight after that. However, that wasn’t her only problem.
Our amazing lactation consultant noticed within seconds of meeting us that Momo had torticollis along with a dozen other issues (probably from her idiot mother shooting her out of the womb like a bullet). She was born facing sideways (yeah, awesome) and had tremendous tension throughout her body, especially in her chest area. I just assumed her awkward posture was due to her fixation of the bright ceiling lights and ceiling fans… ahhh no, the lactation consultant quickly called me out on that one. So we were referred to craniosacral therapy. It sounds way worse than it is. Basically, it looked like a very gentle massage for the baby – and Momo loved it. This lady was amazing, and I believe could fix anything with her magical hands! She would make baby girl have a bowel movement within minutes of leaving her office. She would adjust Momo while holding her, as well as adjusting her while she was latched on to me (loosening her jaw, etc..). I will forever be grateful for that women and all of her help, Momo only needed 4 appointments, and it made the world of difference!
Things were going pretty well, I was VERY lopsided this whole nursing experience. Like a cup size C on the left and A on the right – no matter what I did. I would pump as often as I could on just the right side to kick it into gear, and I’d start nursing her on that side first – but she would dillydally until I finally switched her to the left. The side that meant business! At this point I have 3 kids and I look straight up homeless 94% of the time so I literally just didn’t care anymore. Lopsided boobs just added to my hotmess look.
At about 6 months I was definitely worried that I wasn’t making enough milk for her. She ate table foods like a champ and would nurse fine, but I started feeling less and less engorged and I didn’t have a let-down every time she nursed. I made lactation cookies and ate them daily, and they did help, but I could just tell I was beating a dead horse. More like I was beating a floppy saggy sad excuse of a breast. I did have a semi-decent freezer stash so I would give her a bottle before bedtime to make sure she had a full belly. At some point we started giving her 1-2 bottles a day of formula after nursing sessions, and at 11 months I called it quits. Lesson # 10 – what matters is that the baby is fed, regardless if it’s breastmilk or formula. You are a great Mom!
Part of me was sad knowing this was it (she is the last baby), but I didn’t shed any tears over this. I was ready to be done, I was ready to stop stressing about my low milk supply. The hardest part was I felt that she loved nursing, but she didn’t seem to miss it what-so-ever. I was there and would have willingly offered anytime she wanted to try, but she’s my go-getter and she knew a bottle could get the job done better than my lame dried up wannabe breasts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my stories, and if you are experiencing breastfeeding or will be in the future – best of luck to you! Your body is made to give your baby milk, and don’t let anyone shame you for that!!