Breastfeeding Awareness Month – Nursing and Pumping, Tips & Tricks
August is breastfeeding awareness month! To celebrate this, and support other moms, I wanted to do a quick blog post about my own nursing journey. Please note that none of this is medical advice, and only my personal experience.
Breastfeeding can be a beautiful journey- it is just incredible that our bodies can support our children in this way. It can be very rewarding, but it can also be incredibly difficult for some moms. I can say that I have been lucky enough to have had a great nursing and pumping relationship through my own two kiddos.
Oh and just a quick note, capturing a breastfeeding image with your child is just such an exquisite portrait. I regret not having one with my first child since he stopped nursing earlier than I would have liked. I rectified that with my second! If you’d like to book a motherhood session with me, click here!
.. and just to clarify
PUMPING IS ALSO BREASTFEEDING. I’ll just leave this here- if you’re pumping, you are still feeding your baby with milk from your own breast. Some moms are extreme pumpers and have an oversupply so large they can SUSTAIN OTHER PEOPLE’S children by donating their milk! This, to me, is a superpower in and of itself. If you ever donated milk, you are a godsend to some people.
My own nursing journey, & babies with lip and tongue ties
Baby # 1
When I had my first baby, he was in the NICU for five days. I came home on day two, not having been able to have that initial bonding time with him because he had passed meconium when my water broke before I even had contractions. I WAS DEVASTATED. Would I be able to nurse? He was getting bottle fed. Would my milk come in? Would he latch?
I followed the lactation consultants guidance when she said- pump IN BETWEEN his normal nursing schedule (or would be nursing schedule) to get my milk to come in. So i did. Pumping sucked for a newbie. It hurt. It was not enjoyable at all. But I was determined to at least try to get milk to give him, even if it was via bottle!
On day 5, I woke up to what felt like boulders sitting on my chest, and rushed over to the hospital. GET THIS OUT. I’d heard about mastitis, and this was SO PAINFUL. When your chest is rock hard like that, it’s hard for baby to latch, because well, it’s like latching onto a brick wall. No softness. To soften, I pumped for what seemed like an excruciating eternity in the NICU, and when they quieted down, I was able to try for a latch. This was 5 days in mamas, and to my surprise he latched onto one side, better than the other.
Side note to all of you out there- there will always be, excuse my french, a “shitty-titty”. This is the one that, try as you might, will always produce less milk. But I say this with affection.
I noticed right away that he seemed to have both a lip and tongue tie, and the lactation consultant confirmed the same. If you aren’t familiar with what these are, do some research on Google. This is not to say that this is a dealbreaker for your nursing journey. For my first son, it wasn’t. He had a big mouth, and was able to properly FLANGE his lips around the breast.
THE FLANGE IS IMPORTANT. Without the flanging aspect of the lips, which is what many ties restrict, the baby can’t grasp the breast tissue, only the nipple. This is why it hurts some moms to breastfeed, because the babies lips and mouth are just pulling on your nipple. It causes friction, hurts, and blisters and bleeds. For effective breastfeeding, they have to pull some of the breast tissue into their mouth, and the sucking action of the tongue underneath the tissue, is what draws the milk out. Breastfeeding without any issues, shouldn’t be painful. The pain indicates an issue.
So to resume, my kids big mouth didn’t hamper the flange ability. I did consult an ENT to see if this would cause any issues. She said if he nursed well, not to worry about it and see how he would develop in the future months. A lot of people worry that the lip tie will cause a tooth gap – IT DID. Or potential speech delays- IT DIDN’T. As a matter of fact, he had a crazy gap, that then rectified itself when all of his teeth came in. As for speech delays, there were none. In fact, he spoke extremely early, in TWO languages, in cohesive phrases, before he was two. I watched the mobility of his tongue, and boy could he stick that tongue out far.
The point is, I went with my gut, and did nothing to correct the lip or tongue tie, for him. He nursed for over 14 months, while taking a bottle at the sitter simultaneously. I pumped well into the 9 or 10 month mark, still getting up at 2 am until month 8, and was able to have enough frozen milk to supply all of his daytime bottles and until he was about 18 months old.
Baby number two came out angry, with a much smaller mouth, and lo and behold- a lip and tongue tie, again. I noticed right away, because his latch HURT. Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt, right? He couldn’t flange properly, and was taking in air. He would gag, and belch, and be fussy.
This time, because he couldn’t flange properly, and because of the obvious pain, we did take him to a pediatric dentist to laser snip his ties when he was 10 days old.
Moms. You will feel guilty. No one wants to see their baby in this situation. But seriously, it was a quick 5 minute procedure, and baby nursed and fell asleep right after. The most daunting aspect of this whole process is the exercises you have to do, seriously, for the few weeks after. I did all of these religiously. Although something did grow back (which can happen), the restrictions did not, so his mobility with these facial muscles improved. The latch was great, and he has been nursing so far for 23 months and going. No tooth gap, but he’s a little lazier than his brother when it comes to speaking.
The point is, every journey is different. Every child is different. Do your research, and trust your gut. What I did for one child, I didn’t do for the other. And in that instance, it would have been completely unnecessary.
I will mention, that the pump and I became best friends during my first baby’s year. It is not for the faint of heart. It is a LOT of work. Basically, I spent all the time in between breastfeeding him, pumping.
I am lucky to have been blessed with sort of an oversupply. I took what that initial lactation consultant said to heart, and would pump after my son nursed to empty. Whether that made my supply high is possible, or maybe I just produce a lot of milk. But I took this opportunity to freeze it all. I just had incredible mom guilt that if i stopped, what if I stopped producing tomorrow? I was lucky to have milk, so why not take advantage of it while I had it?
A lot of people will say that the more you take out, the more you make. Your body is responding to supply and demand. If you’re taking out this much milk, then your baby must need it, so let’s make more! So, maybe i created this bit of oversupply for myself, BUT, even though it was a ton of work, it was right for me. Like I said before, it’s not for everyone. It takes a toll on your body, and your mind for sure.
Watch out for mastitis
When you nurse or pump, sometimes people don’t tell you that you can develop mastitis. Mastitis occurs when there is a milk trapped in your breast. When breasts aren’t emptied, the blockage can build up, and combined with bacteria from baby’s mouth or in general, can cause the inflammation and infection.
Don’t worry, you’ll know if you have it. Trust me. I got it once, on my way home from my 6 week post-partum visit, when I started to feel my chest get engorged, hard, and then the pain set in. I had missed one of my overnight pumps because, well, I needed the sleep. And even though I nursed during the day often, it wasn’t enough to clear this. I got home and immediately pumped for an eternity, with the pain, to help remove. But I felt terrible.
Feeling like sh*t is an understatement. I was shivering uncontrollably to the point I couldn’t hold my baby. My teeth were actually chattering. I was freezing and hot simultaneously. And it felt like hot knives were slicing into my breasts. It’s the worst i’ve ever felt. But luckily I didn’t have a fever. So as awful as it felt, it wasn’t at the antibiotic level yet.
Pumping and breastfeeding actually help in this situation. A baby’s suck can be more powerful than the pump and help pull whatever is there, clogged, out. So even though it’s blindingly painful, just do it through the pain. I did have the red marks, but no fever so I avoided going to the doctor for antibiotics. I nursed and pumped like crazy and felt better after 2 days. Warm and cold compresses also helped to a) soften (warm), and b) cool for pain relief and comfort.
Fun fact, the pumped milk from this time actually developed a layer of greenish tinge at the bottom. Your breastmilk changes composition all the time to suit your baby. But if you didn’t pump, you’d never see it and it’s totally safe for baby.
OH, and there’s this fun thing called a milk bleb, which is when milk solidifies and blocks one of the milk pores that milk comes out of for your baby. That was an interesting and painful experience. But this seems to be more rare of an occurrence. Our bodies are just kind of freaky in the things they can do.
FINAL POINT- don’t underestimate mastitis. I was able to navigate it on my own because I didn’t have a fever. But this can become a VERY serious issue if it becomes a serious infection. Trust your gut, and never feel bad about asking or going to the doctor. I am not a doctor, what I’m relaying here is my own personal experience. Listen to, and trust the pros.
Things that helped me nurse, pump, and transition
There were a couple of things that helped me along the way! You can check out the New Mom’s Essentials list in my Amazon Storefront for easy reference to some of the below favorites!
- SPECTRA PUMPS. I had both the S1 and S2. I also used the Medela for my work pump when I was in an office, and although both are great, the Spectra is my favorite. The S1 has that cordless, chargeable advantage. FYI, I tied a belt through the handle and wore it around my waist when I needed to be on the move. Your insurance will generally pay for your pump- just make sure you get a script from your OB to send in to them. I did pay a little extra to have the hands free version, but it was worth it.
- HANDS FREE BRA. PLEASE PLEASE don’t pump without it, your hands will thank you. This was my favorite.
- OATMEAL. I ate this every morning,I truly believe it helped my supply. HOWEVER, i will say that my first baby had eczema that would be triggered by oatmeal, so I stopped eating it.
- EATING WELL. Remember you have to replace and have have enough calories since the nursing and pumping are burning a LOT of calories. I noticed when I didn’t eat or drink enough, my supply dipped.
- LACTATION COOKIES. I had an awesome cookie recipe that I used with my first baby. I don’t know if it truly helped, but boy were they good. I’ve since found these delicious ones that I give to my newborn mamas and recommend. I eat them too, because they’re tasty, and I can’t resist salted caramel.
- POWER PUMPING. On days that I noticed supply issues, I would do a few power pumping sessions. A quick google search will give you many tips into how this works!
- THESE BOTTLES. For my first baby, we gave him one bottle at night to get him used to it since he had to go to a sitter starting at five months. For my second, he was so used to having me at home all of those months, that it took a bunch of tries to find something he would take. Until these! And they worked great!! The nipple is softer and a different shape than typical bottle nipples.
Oh, and stress doesn’t help you whatsoever. If i had a particularly stressful day or event, I would notice it immediately when I next pumped.
Reasons why baby won’t nurse
AND NONE OF THEM ARE YOUR FAULT.
- Lack of supply
- Lip and Tongue Ties
- Inverted Nipples
There are plenty of reasons why babies won’t or can’t breastfeed. Some moms just don’t produce milk. We are all different. Some babies have a poor latch because of tongue or lip ties (these can vary in degree, see my own experience). Some women have inverted nipples which can cause baby to not latch as well.
Besides not producing milk, the other hurdles can possibly be helped with the expertise of medical professionals, lactation consultants, pediatric dentists and therapists or specialists in tongue/lip/cheek ties. If you suspect your baby has a tie- don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician, or even better, the lactation consultants at the hospital and see what your options are. Do your own research and decide what’s best for you and your family.
But remember, fed is best
As mothers, we put so much stress on ourselves to be the best mom per society’s standards. You are not less-than if you decide that breastfeeding or pumping isn’t for you. You are the best mom your child could ask for. Regardless of how you are feeding your baby, as long as you are feeding your baby, this is what was meant to be, and what is best for them. I’m sure you’ve heart the phrase, breast is best, but in reality, fed is best, truly.
If you can’t nurse because of physical or medical reasons, if you can’t pump because it’s too much work (and trust me, it can be a full time job!), if the amount you pump is putting a mental toll on you…. None of these actually help you or baby. A healthy, sane mom is what baby needs. We are already going through so many physical changes, hormonal changes, and mental changes before and after birth- the important thing is that you are both happy, and that baby is fed.
You won’t miss out on bonding with your baby because you don’t nurse- that baby will still love being held and cuddled while bottle feeding, or rocking him to sleep against your chest. Your bond with your baby will still be the most incredible, amazing feeling in the world.
Sofia Ribeiro Photography is a central NJ newborn photographer, north NJ newborn photographer, Union county newborn photographer, Essex county newborn photographer, Somerset county newborn photographer, Bergen county newborn photographer, Warren county newborn photographer, NJ newborn photographer.