Monday, February 5, 2018

My Breastfeeding Journey

I have been wanting to write this post for a while now, but didn't know quite what to say or how to say it. I wanted to share a little bit of my journey with breastfeeding in hopes to help maybe just one Mama out there.

Even long before I got pregnant,  I heard the saying "breast is best" and took it to heart and believed it was true. I look back on some of my conversations with moms I know who formula fed that I may have offended because I unknowingly shamed them for not providing "the best" for their child. I told them when I had a baby, I was going to breastfed because well, "breast is best". Let me just go ahead and say right now that I now believe whole heartedly that FED IS BEST! 

When I was pregnant I was so excited to breastfed my soon to be little girl. I read books about it and took a class with my supportive husband. However, I didn't think too much into it, because “how hard could it be?” It's the most "natural thing in the world" I thought.

Jump ahead to giving birth to Brooklyn via c-section and all the joys and anxiety that came with the nurses suddenly placing this beautiful little girl into my arms that I now am solely reasonable for nourishing with MY body. I just assumed she would latch right on and we would go on our merry mommy-daughter blissful nursing way. This was not the case at all for us! The next few days we were in the hospital were a whirlwind of what seemed like endless lactation consultants (LC) visits, nipple shields, pain and discomfort, pumping, SNS (supplemental nursing system) feedings, countless nursing positions, lots of tears, and some little victories. Feeding Brooklyn definitely did not come natural for me.

After many hours of stress and confusion, Brooklyn and me began getting the hang of it! Things seemed to be on a upward swing. We brought our bundle of joy home and I was advised to continue pumping after every nursing session. Brooklyn took forever to eat and the whole process was exhausting (about 1 hour each nursing session). My hubby helped so much and would feed a couple ounces of the milk I pumped after I breastfed her.

I had a lactation consultant visit my house, which was wonderful. She told me I could stop pumping as my supply was regulating. Things seemed to finally be getting better. Brooklyn preferred using a nipple shield but was nursing well. I was always a nervous nelly though, and was never quite sure if I was doing things correctly and I was always anxious she wasn’t getting enough. Postpartum anxiety was something I struggled with the first few months after her birth and definitely played a role in my fears and stress with breastfeeding. Brooklyn and I started going to a local breastfeeding support group, which really helped me to gain confidence in nursing. It was so nice to talk to other moms who had questions and concerns like me about breastfeeding and it was great to just get out of the house.

Everyone kept saying, “Give it two weeks and it will get better”; “The first two weeks are the hardest and then it’s easy”. Things never really got any easier for us though. We had our good days and bad days with nursing. Brooklyn continued to gain weight steadily, however, so I beginning to think that soon things would be easier.

We tried everything to get her off the nipple shield in hopes that would help. We were advised by my LC to take her to a local dentist to see if she had a lip or tongue tie. Turns out she had both! We made the difficult decision to get them corrected. We were told this could help solve all our nursing problems and that most moms report that right away latching and breastfeeding in general is so much better. This was not the case for us. She still needed the shield and still took forever to eat. During this time, we also found out that Brooklyn had a milk protein allergy so I went dairy free to help her tummy troubles.

After several weeks of continuing to have a hot and cold nursing relationship with Brooklyn and some stubborn clogs we discovered Brooklyn had dropped some ounces at her 2 month checkup. I was horrified. Not knowing exactly what happened but thinking my supply was compromised her pediatrician and my LC advised me to start pumping again after every time I nursed to jump charge my supply and make sure she was getting enough and thus would continue gaining weight.

For the next few weeks I continued to feed her for her hour nursing sessions and then I pumped after. The whole process took at least an hour and a half and Brooklyn ate about every 3 hours, so I was exhausted to say the least. As soon as I was done cleaning up my pump parts, it was time to nurse her again.

Brooklyn seemed so content and happy after her bottles and began gaining weight again. She began to prefer the flow of the bottles and started resisting nursing sessions. She would cry, I would cry and a cycle of very challenging nursing sessions had me feeling so defeated. One night I just had enough of all the stress and anxiety and I made the extremely difficult decision to exclusively pump (EP) just shy of her turning 3 months. I felt so defeated and slightly ashamed that I couldn’t make this work for her, but I was happy and optimistic that I could continue giving her “momma’s milk”. Thus, as pumping mama’s say “the pump life chose me”.

I began pumping every 3 hours during the day and went 4 hour stretches at night to continue building up my supply. My exhaustion wasn’t able to subside but this avenue was easier and less stressful for me. I loved the idea of knowing exactly how much Brooklyn was getting and seeing her content and happy after feeds was so wonderful.

Exclusively pumping is no joke though and I seriously give anyone who does or has EPed a standing ovation. Your days are spent worrying about your pump routine and schedule, washing pump parts, organizing and cleaning bottles, all while trying to hold/entertain/feed/take care of your little one all in the process. It becomes a full time job.

Eping for me wasn’t easy either as it took me sometimes up to an hour to empty (my damn flow is so slow!). In the beginning I got awful weekly clogs that kept me up for hours at night trying to release so I wouldn’t get mastitis. I had bruised and bleeding nipples for weeks. I was attached to the pump for up to 4-5 hours a day! There were days I wanted to throw my pump out the window and call it a day. However, after following my strict pump schedule I began to see my supply increase and I was fortunate enough to maintain a good output with EPing so I kept going.

I pumped alone in a room or my car during weddings, concerts, beach trips, vacations, baptisms, family outings, holidays and parties when my friends and loved ones were happily celebrating and making memories without me. I had to meticulously plan out my days to make sure I got a pump session in right before I went somewhere and then count down until the next time I had to pump. Some days I literally felt attached to the wall and this damn machine. I can’t tell you how many times I had to forego or change plans because I had to pump. Being an exclusive pumper can be a very lonely road. Most just don’t get it. I think my family thinks I’m nuts for keeping it up as long as I have and think I should have called it quits long ago.

I kept up my crazy pumping schedule until Brooklyn’s 1/2 birthday. This was my ultimate breastfeeding goal. I wanted her to have breastmilk until she was 6 months and then I would quit I told myself.  Once I reached 6 months I started to drop pumps and things got a lot easier. I decided to keep going. By the time she was 9 months I was only pumping 3 times a day and I was able to get out and about with her a lot more and I started to feel “normal” again. I thought I would stop at 9 months but I kept going.

Fast forward to now- we just celebrated Brooklyn’s first birthday. I made it ONE year breastfeeding my little girl! I never thought I would get to this point pumping. I have pumped 10,268 ounces or 80 gallons for my little girl since I started keeping track of my pumping outputs!!

Now I am finally ready to wean. I am down to 1 pump per day but can’t quite seem to hang up my flanges just yet, but I am excited to finally be done very soon. I was lucky enough to have an oversupply so I was able to store a deep freezer full of milk for Brooklyn so she will continue to be able to have breastmilk for a while even after I stop completely, which I am so thankful for.

This journey has not been easy for me. I had a very hard time letting go of our nursing relationship. I can’t help but feel sad and down in the dumps when I see my friends or others on social media share how easy or how wonderful breastfeeding is going for them. I spent many nights crying and feeling ashamed that I couldn’t continue providing Brooklyn with a nursing bond that I so desperately craved. Yet, I look down at my sleeping baby and see her dreaming so peacefully, milk drunk from a bottle I was able to pump for her and I too am able to feel at peace.

Although our nursing bond was never what I hoped it could be, we developed a unique and special bond just the same. Now when I pump in the morning she happily looks up at me with her big brown eyes and grabs and pulls at the tubes and milk collection bottles with her big smile and I think I’ve done alright for my little girl. At the end of the day your baby doesn’t care where their milk is coming from- the boob directly, via a machine, a can, or a donor. What matters is that you love your baby.

I’ve learned that being a mom is tough. It’s easy to compare yourself to other moms and question yourself. The truth is all moms struggle at times and feel inadequate. To all the moms out there who have struggled with breastfeeding, know that you are not alone. To all the moms out there who EP- whether you are an undersupplier, just-enougher, or oversupplier- you are amazing, and YOU ARE BREASTFEEDING- don’t let anyone make you feel any different. To all the moms out there who formula feed- know you’ve made the right choice for yourself and your baby- don’t let anyone make you feel like crap about it. To all moms who have struggled in general, know you’re not alone. Us moms gotta stick together and support one another. Most of motherhood is flying by the seat of your pants and learning as you go. Things don’t have to be perfect and that’s okay.

If you are a mom, you are a superhero. Even on the days you feel like you are sucking in the mom department, look around, I promise you your little one is looking up at you and thinking you are just fabulous.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mother’s Day Mommy and Me Photo Shoot

Of course had to do a photo shoot with my sweet girl for Mother’s Day. My sister took the beautiful pictures that I will cherish forever.

Brooklyn's Half Birthday

With a winter birthday and no celebrating in the sun (we live in New England) we decided to have a little party to celebrate Brooklyn's half birthday. It was more just an excuse to have a party and not so much about her "1/2 birthday" and why not celebrating our little peanut turning 6 months!

The theme was Ladybug picnic and I reused a lot of the items we used for her gender reveal.

Brooklyn's Baptism

Hi All,

It's been forever and a day since I posted on here. Life has been pretty crazy around here since our little girl made her grand entrance. Brooklyn Lily is now almost ONE! I can't believe it! As we are getting ready to celebrate her first year, I thought it would be fun to look back on and document a few of the fun events we had for her this year and up first was her beautiful baptism.

She was so little then. Only a little over 2 months old.

The theme was rustic with lots of white and silver and butterflies! (Her nursery theme is butterflies as well!)

Had to add "lilies" to the bouquet on the table for our little "Lily"

Prayers for Brooklyn