Photo Credit: Document Now Photography
This week is National Breastfeeding week and I realized that I haven’t shared a lot about my own journey with breastfeeding. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve most likely seen me chatting about my views on breastfeeding and a post here or there, but besides that, I haven’t shared much. I think part of the reason why is because, just like my birth – it came fairly easily to me. I didn’t want to share how wonderful breastfeeding Tallulah has been out of fear that someone might read it and compare their own journey to mine. But with what I’ve learned this year, I’ve realized it’s incredibly important to share your story, as it can inspire others to share theirs as well. In our society, it seems that people focus way more on negative stories than positive ones. I believe that there needs to be a healthy balance between sharing the harder parts of parenting and the easier ones.
I’ll admit, before having Lulah, I didn’t know much about the process of breastfeeding. All I knew was that as a doula, and a soon to be mama, I needed (and wanted) to learn more. Not only so I could better support my clients, but so I could ensure that I would be able to myself. One of the first things I noticed was that I didn’t have many friends or family members who had breastfed their babies – I only had one cousin who had, that was it. Who was I going to turn to for guidance or advice once my baby was here? I remember wondering why more of my family members didn’t breastfeed. Was there a specific reason? Did they not want to? Was it because of their work schedule? Did they think that they couldn’t?
I attended a breastfeeding workshop, hosted by a local IBCLC, Julie Brill. (Julie was recently on the Healthy Balanced Birth and Beyond podcast – click here to listen. I was blown away by the wealth of knowledge that I walked away with from a three hour workshop. For some people, the idea of a workshop that lasts three hours doesn’t sound appealing. That wasn’t the case for me, three hours flew by and I wanted to learn more. Just like I do with everything else, I began doing my own research to figure out how I could best set myself up to succeed at breastfeeding. I researched books, podcasts, lactation consultants, and workshops. You name it – I was looking into it.
I remember wondering what breastfeeding would feel like – if it would hurt, if it was going to be easy or hard, etc. A little while after I gave birth, I tried to breastfeed Lulah for the first time. It was definitely a weird sensation at first, having a little babe suckling your nipple. But wow, there really is nothing like first latch with your baby. It was such a sweet moment, I immediately felt even more connected to her. She had been wide awake for a few hours after she was born, so she was too tired to get a good latch. We let her rest and tried again in the morning. In the morning, we hand expressed some colostrum. If you’re not familiar with colostrum, it is referred to as “golden milk”. It is the first milk you produce when you start breastfeeding. It is yellow, paste-like, and super nutrient dense. I remember being in awe seeing it coming out of my nipples, it was literally one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and experienced. Colostrum lasts for 2-4 days until your mature milk comes in. (https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/colostrum)
In the hospital, they tell you that your baby “should” be eating every 2-3 hours. I’m not sure who decided on this “one size fits all” approach for every breastfeeding mom, but I found it to be the farthest thing from the truth. Once Tallulah latched and we found our rhythm, I felt like she was literally on my boobs 24/7. I truly don’t think we ever went more than an hour in between feeds during the day when she was a newborn. At nighttime she would give me longer stretches, except for when the cluster feeding began. Cluster feeding is when your babe nurses in clusters (every 2o minutes or so) to boost your milk supply while they are going through a growth spurt. It’s wild how smart tiny little babies are, isn’t it?
One of the biggest takeaways from all of my breastfeeding research was to simply follow your mama instincts. I remember reading that and not fully understanding what it meant. Now, reflecting back on this past year – I totally understand it. Initially, we planned on having Lulah sleep in the bassinet next to our bed so I could simply reach over and pick her up whenever she woke throughout the night. But thanks to a combination of my awesome postpartum hemorrhoids and sleep deprivation, our plans changed. What worked for us? Co-sleeping. Why? Because I got more sleep, I didn’t have to get up out of bed, and Lulah could nurse on demand. The other amazing part of co-sleeping was that since Lulah was snuggled up next to me, it was rare that she fully woke up in the middle of the night. As soon as she started moving around, I let her nurse (also called dream feeding) and we both continued to sleep. It was pure magic. Being able to snuggle my baby girl, while she filled her tummy and I slept.
The first few months of exclusively breastfeeding was difficult for me. Feeling like she was attached to me 24/7 or that I couldn’t leave without worrying she would need me was hard on me emotionally. There were definitely times I regretted not introducing a bottle earlier, but I also knew that it was SO beneficial for her. Things that helped me work through the emotional parts were therapy, journaling, and connecting with likeminded mamas. Things that helped me physically included drinking TONS of water, eating real food (and carbs, because BALANCE), using Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter and not wearing a bra. (I highly recommend not wearing one, it is such a game changer!)
As the months passed, it was clear that Lulah wasn’t a fan of a bottle and would continue to nurse more often than every 2-3 hours. I accepted it and welcomed it. Sure, there were times where it was exhausting, but looking back – I wouldn’t change it for the world. We have now been exclusively breastfeeding for almost 13 months and I’m so incredibly grateful for this journey. The bond we have because of it is so special and is something I’ll never take for granted. Some nights she’ll nurse more if she doesn’t nurse as much during the day. Other nights she only nurses once or twice. These last few days, Lulah has been nursing less and I’m feeling very emotional about it. She nurses for a few minutes before her nap and then again at bedtime. And in turn, I’ve been having to pump to avoid engorgement. As emotional as it is, knowing that I’m following her cues is what matters the most to me. Providing her with what she wants (and needs) until she feels she is ready to wean is what I plan to do.
At the end of the day, please remember that everyone’s journey is different. Every mother and baby have different wants and needs. There is no “one” way to feed your baby. Some mothers exclusively breastfeed, some exclusively pump and bottle feed, some use formula. What matters is that you feel supported on your journey.
*If you are looking for more information on breastfeeding, please head over to the resources page and check out the “breastfeeding” section. OR if you are looking for additional support, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the contact form!*