Breastfeeding is something I've always wanted to do once I knew we were going to have children. I wanted that bond that everyone talked about, I wanted to be able to nourish my babies from something that my body created, and I wanted those sweet memories to be able to look back and cherish one day when I'm old and grey.
Working in the NICU I way to often see mothers who's hopes and dreams of nursing their sweet baby are crushed due to prematurity, lack of milk supply, or no milk supply for that matter. It just doesn't happen for some women and I prepared myself for that because truthfully, a fed baby is better than a starving baby. To those mothers who did everything they could, exhausted all their energy stressing about feeding their baby with their own milk, know that you are still an amazing mother and they love you regardless of the milk they're getting. Know that you tried your damnedest and you freaking rock. You will still bond just the same with your baby and they love you just the same. To those mothers who exclusively pump, you are a saint. That shit is exhausting and time consuming! I think the 2 times I pump a day are way too much work, so doing that all day to feed your baby is incredible and I admire you.
For me though, nursing my babies came natural for the most part. I got lucky that my milk came in after both deliveries and I got lucky that both my babes were pros at it cuz some babes suck at first and it takes them a little longer to get the hang of it. There were plenty of times that I thought I should give up and quit because I felt alone. Nursing was something only I could do and that was exhausting at times. Don't get me wrong, I love nursing my boys but there were plenty of times I wanted to give up and be done. Breastfeeding is hard work. It's a huge commitment, but I feel blessed to be able to provide my babies with the nutrients they need.
When I delivered Oliver, I was paranoid (like legit bad shit crazy) about my milk supply coming in and I immediately started pumping. I would feed him, pump, feed him pump, feed him pump and I did this every time even if it had only been like 30 minutes. You guys, I looked like a freaking porn star. My boobs were GINORMOUS. I'm pretty sure my supply came in on day 2, when for most women it takes about 3-5 days to come in. I was pumping 10-12 ounces each session when I got home from the hospital and my "stash" of freezer milk stored up quickly. Oliver was an eater, like a freakin pirhanna that never stopped. He wore me out. If he cried (which I felt like was all the time) I put him on the boob. If he didn't wanna sleep, I put him on the boob. If he fussed for just a second, I put him on the boob. Even my husband would ask "Does he wanna eat?" welp, put him on the boob. You get the point, he was always on the tit. He cluster fed for what I feel like was every 30 minutes for 5 hours during the day then again at night. I seriously thought my days of nursing and not sleeping would never end.
This time around, I learned a few things along the way. I didn't start pumping after having Attikus until I got home from the hosptial. I knew I was going back to work and I knew I would need a good freezer stash for him, so I started pumping twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night and I would get anywhere between 3-6oz on each boob, which meant 12-24oz at the end of each day to store up! Whaaahoooo
Many things can affect your supply. Stress, dehydration, lack of sleep, exhaustion, anxiety... I mean really lots of things. I remember many times when I was "drying up" and I would cry and cry and tell Jay I'm not ready to be done. He always reminded me that it's going to be okay and we'll get through it whenever that may be.
When I worked my long weekends, I noticed my supply would drop. Probably from lack of sleep, exhaustion, not drinking enough water and not pumping as frequently as I should so I turned to natural supplements to help increase my supply. One of my favorites that I stumbled upon was Oatmama lactation granola bars and tea. I got a sampler pack of chocolate peanut butter (my favorite), Nut and berry, and dark chocolate almond. All super tasty, filling and soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and egg-free. The best part is that a portion of all sales get donated to Mother's Milk Bank, to help those tiny babes in the NICU which is especially important to me, as I know first hand how much those babies need it. I also use a berry fenugreek drink mix and mothers milk tea. If you noticing a drop in your supply, I would recommend giving these products a try! Especially Oatmama, you won't be disappointed with their products!
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I pump right away in the morning (they say that's when your supply is at its greatest) and then at night, before I go to bed. I try to pump before I feed Attikus to give him all the hind milk (the most fatty part) in hopes that he will sleep longer. If he sleeps for 5-6 hours at a time, I don't wake up and pump, I let him sleep! Yes, there have been times my boobs wake me up engorged and leaking but they'll figure it out. Your boobs are smart cookies. They keep up your supply based on your babies needs and how often they eat. So thats one reason I started pumping twice/day right when I got home from the hospital. Pumping those two times signaled to my body it needed to make more milk which allows me to have that little extra supply to stash in the freezer while I'm away.
I use the medella pump through my insurance company. When I go out and about away from attikus, I use my medella hand/manual pump and try to pump both sides about every 3-4 hours to keep up my supply. I clean my pump parts after each use with dish soap and warm water and then steam them in a steam bag to sterilize them. I use disposable nursing pads (I've never used the washable kind) but really you just want to keep your nipples dry. If they stay moist or sit in wet pads then thats when they become raw and hurt. Trust me, the first couple of weeks are brutal when beginning to nurse your babe. Your nipples are so dang sore, your boobs are engorged, and your experiencing all these feelings your not familiar with. That will all fade and soon your nipples will turn into permanently "hard" calloused tits and you'll laugh at those beginning days.
I nursed Oliver just two months shy of his 2nd birthday. It just felt right. I let him decide when he wanted to be done and thats what worked for us. There were many times I got looks out in public and people/family would ask when we'll be done, but in reality it doesn't matter. People will have their opinions and thats fine, but you just have to do whats right for you and your babies.
Attikus is now 4 months old and I plan to do the same for him. Let him guide our nursing journey, so when he's done we'll be done. For now, I will cherish each nursing session as if it is my last. I hope to reach a year at least, and anything past that I will be grateful for. Just remember, however you choose to feed your baby is up to you. Motherhood has its challenges, so lets be supportive of one another and mother together because in the end we all want what's best for our babies.