Thursday, April 30, 2015

Breastfeeding Diaries

This is a post I did as a guest blogger on a blog called The Girl in the Red Shoes. She has a section titled The Breastfeeding Diaries where moms share their experiences with breastfeeding. I had been following this blog for a year or so before Reagan was born and learned a lot so I was glad to add my story to the others.

Hi there! I'm Stephanie and I'm a wife, sister, daughter, mormon, nurse, dog and cat mama, and the lucky mommy to the amazing Reagan! I'm also a regular follower of The Girl in the Red Shoes and especially the Breastfeeding Diaries. I gained so much from reading fellow moms stories and feel blessed to share a bit of my own experience.

 I had a pretty easy pregnancy until the last few months when my sweet baby would not/could not turn out of her breech position which resulted in a scheduled c-section. It wasn't part of my "plan" but it was what was safest for both of us and turned out to be a very positive experience for my husband and me. I was lucky to have a great physician and nurse who worked with me to have the most natural c-section possible. We had a mirror in the OR so I could watch her birth which was followed by skin to skin within 1 minute of her birth right there on the OR table! She rode back to the recovery room right there on my chest.

Like many other moms I didn't do any formal preparation for breastfeeding but knew that I wanted to do it and knew that I had a very supportive family to help me. I didn't really think about it but figured we would both just know what to do. Well thank goodness for my angel labor and delivery nurse who was my first coach and teacher as soon as we got out of the OR. What would I have done without her?! She got me started and then I was lucky to have a lactation consultant visit me each day after. She provided so much reassurance and direction in those first days. Yes it toe curling while she latched hurt but I knew it was worth it and was pretty sure it would be temporary. And it was!
But thank goodness for lanolin!

I'm so grateful for the family support we had in those first few weeks. Breastfeeding advice from my mom and sister was essential and my husband was so supportive to whatever we needed. 

In those first weeks and months of uncertainty as a new mom I was certain about one thing. This girl loved to nurse! Sure it was for nourishment but it was also many times for comfort. I remember feeling like we were attached 75% of the day and at times it could get exhausting but now that I look back I wish I would have cherished every moment  just a little more because those babies grow SO quickly!  
But all that time together did teach me how to multitask...

Outside of a few bouts of thrush which required treatment for both of us, my biggest struggle while breastfeeding was a low supply. I had no idea this was coming and had no idea who much of a mental struggle this would be for me. I started pumping about a month before returning to work and quickly realized that my supply would not be enough. So we began supplementing with formula. And you know what? It wasn't horrible! In fact we could not have fed our baby without it. But I still tried "everything" the internet, other moms, and the lactation specialist could suggest (outside of beer since I don't drink alcohol). I tried extra water, extra calories, oatmeal, lactation cookies (ughh), fenurgreek, prescription domperidone, extra pumping sessions, etc. But ultimately nothing helped. I'm sure that my return to work played a big part in the low supply but there wasn't much I could do about it. I had amazing coworkers who watched my patients so I could get away to pump twice every 12 hour shift (ideally it would have been 3 times but in the hospital world that's not gonna happen). But I kept at it. I pumped twice a shift, EVERY shift for almost a year even though I saw my supply dwindle down as the months went on. When I got down to bringing home 1 oz after a whole shift I knew my pumping time was coming to a close. But I wanted to continue nursing her as long as SHE wanted. Sadly, that time came at about 14 months old. She had been showing declining interest for many weeks and I remember one morning specifically when I was trying to get her to nurse and she looked up at me with a "what are you doing mom? I'm done" kind of look and I knew. That was one of the last nursing sessions we shared. I was sad to be done but knew that it had happened as naturally as possible and on HER timeline. But oh how I LOVED nursing my baby! I cherished that time with her and was sad to see it end but not devastated as I was worried I would be. It was an amazing time to reflect back on those early days of nursing a brand new baby that I could hold in one arm and to watch her grow into this big toddler who's legs hung over the arm of the nursery chair that we spent so much time in.

I think the biggest pieces of advice I could offer to other moms would be...
First, seek out the help that is available. Whether you think you need it or not. Especially in those first few days after birth as you are getting started on this journey.

Second, as a mom who spent plenty of time pumping, I cannot say enough good things about the hands free pumping bra! I honestly can't imagine pumping without it. 

Third, the best thing I did for my mental health while combating a low supply was to just "let go" of the stress and anxiety about the amount of milk I was or wasn't producing. The stress certainly wasn't helping the low supply. One day after months of struggle I just came to grips with the fact that I was doing all that I could and giving my best to my baby. That's all she asked of me and it's all I should ask of myself. My world really changed after that.

And last, ENJOY these times together! Because they will be over so quickly.
I'm grateful for this chance to share my story and hope that it will help even one mom. I look forward to reading your stories and look forward to the blessing of nursing another precious baby of mine in the future!