Thursday, August 4, 2016

My Breastfeeding Journey

My sweet little Katherine is four months old (well four months and one week to be exact) and we are four months into our breastfeeding journey. Our first daughter, Elizabeth, was formula fed after six weeks because I was completely clueless when it came to breastfeeding and I gave up far too soon because I was engorged and overproducing (because I was overpumping). I didn't listen to my body, I didn't listen to my baby -- I just jumped to the "I can't do this" conclusion and turned to formula instead of seeking the help of a lactation consultant once I was home from the hospital. There's not a day that goes by that I don't regret this decision. But when I found out we were expecting baby two, I promised myself that I would give breastfeeding another shot and wouldn't give up.

After some initial difficulty (thank you inverted nipples) and having to briefly (24 hours) supplement with formula due to Katherine's jaundice, we are well on our way in our breastfeeding journey. After using formula with Elizabeth, I can honestly say how much easier breastfeeding is. With the exception of breast pump parts and the occasional bottle, it's just so much easier! I just whip out the nipple shield, grab my nursing pillow, and my sweet little nursling goes right to work! Luckily she has a very efficient suck. so our nursing sessions range from 12-25 minutes -- sometimes a little bit longer when she becomes distracted and decides to be absolutely adorable and flash her pretty little smile!

In my experience, a well-fed and taken care of baby is a healthy and happy baby. This can be done with breastfeeding or formula. As a mom who has done both, I would never say "breast is best" -- because for some moms, it isn't best. It wasn't the best for me with our first daughter because it was causing emotional and bonding issues. But what I will say is that the time my little Katherine and I spend together nursing are some of my most favorite moments. Sure, I am typically scrolling through my IG and Facebook feeds (hello short attention span), but it's the middle of the night nursing sessions that tug at my heart. It makes me so proud of my body for not only carrying a baby for nine months, but for being able to provide all of her nutrients as a baby.

There are a few items that I think make breastfeeding a little bit easier for myself -- and I thought I'd share them with you!

1. Medela Nipple Shield
As I mentioned earlier, I have inverted nipples that prevent Katherine from being able to latch. I do occasionally try to have her latch without, but we are still unsuccessful. I'd honestly rather just keep using the shield than have a batch latch which would cause a whole bunch of issues - cracked nipples, clogged ducts, etc. While in the hospital recovering from delivery, the lactation consultant brought me a couple and I was able to try them on and see which size works. I suggest having a bunch of these, especially in the beginning when you're nursing what seems like every hour. It's also nice to have a few ready to go in various rooms in your house -- the nursery, your bedroom if you're baby sleeps in the same room as you, as well as the diaper bag and the car!

2. Nursing Pillow
A friend of mine gave me this nursing pillow and it's perfect. I'm a petite person, so I didn't want a big, bulky pillow (I ordered the Ergo one and I hated it once it arrived so I ended up returning it). This pillow is perfect and is also great for tummy time! I know breastfeeding can be done without a pillow, but I couldn't imagine not using it! Plus it's so comfortable for baby Katherine to lay on!
 I think she likes the soft pillow!

3. Nipple Cream
Although I've only needed this a few times, it really comes in handy! Cracked/irritated nipples are an awful thing to experience and it's something you need to address immediately so it doesn't lead to an infection and/or thrush. In addition to nipple cream, I also used coconut oil. Both work to coat the nipples and make that initial latch less painful if you have cracked nipples. The nipple cream I turned to was Lanolin which can be purchased on Amazon. It's important to remember that nipple cream, no matter what the brand, doesn't "cure" a cracked nipple. It just makes breastfeeding more comfortable for you while it heals.

4. Baby Scale
Now I know not everyone is crazy obsessive I am, but I wanted to see exactly how much milk my little sweetie was getting (type A much!?!) and so I used a baby scale quite frequently the first few weeks (okay, I still use it occasionally) before and after feedings. It was a lifesaver because I was able to be confident that she was getting enough milk from me and I didn't have to worry about her gaining the right amount of weight. There are some pretty high tech scales available on Amazon (one that is wireless and records the data onto an app on your smart phone like this one), but I have just a basic, regular baby scale. You can find two examples here and here.

 Our little peanut! :)

So many people have asked me how long I plan on breastfeeding for and I don't have an answer. Every breastfeeding session is a celebration of success to me, so I will take it day by day and not set a long-term goal. I will be returning to work in November, but thankfully I have a job that gives me the flexibility to pump as needed, so that is definitely one huge stress relief. I know I'll be dreading the sound of the pump several times a day, but if my schedule allows me the chance to pump, I will be taking full advantage of that so my baby can continue to get all of mama's milk!

For the time being, I will enjoy having the ability to nurish my sweet Katherine and realize that she solely relies on me for all of her nutritional needs! In just a couple of months, she'll be moving onto solid foods like oatmeal and fruits and veggies, so I'm going to soak up all of the moments I have alone with her!

What made breastfeeding easier for you?

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