Milkmaker | Brittany Silva
So you know how you have this beautiful plan of how you’re going to be a pregnant goddess followed by living in breastfeeding infamy? Well, at least that was my plan. But life had a different curve of the path for me.
I had my sweet baby girl Penny at 26 years old. The pregnancy wasn’t planned, so that was the first dent in my plan of perfection. I had a fairly tame pregnancy as far as such things go, but I certainly did not feel like a pregnant goddess. Maybe because I didn’t feel 100% ready for it. Honestly though, it’s not something you can ever be all set and ready for. Skin, appetite and hormonal changes led me to feeling like a totally different human; and it can be pretty unsettling to barely recognize your being anymore.
Still, my husband and I were so excited for the arrival of our baby girl. The single best thing I did to prepare was take a two-hour breastfeeding course shortly before our daughter’s arrival. There was never a different option for me when it came to nourishing my child. I didn’t necessarily think formula feeding was a bad option, I just always knew I would breastfeed should I be blessed with children. This class gave great tips on positioning of the baby and your breasts, different holding techniques, and other tips and tricks.
When Penny made her debut, the nurse assigned to me during childbirth was not the best. Pretty cranky (I mean, who’s the one in excruciating back labor here, lady?) and left the room as soon as Penny was on my chest. I looked around to get guidance on nursing and no one was there besides my husband. My amazing mother came to my rescue and helped guide Penny and I together. Penny didn’t latch on properly right away but ended up getting some colostrum out.
That night once in our maternity suite, I had a great nurse that helped me teach Penny to latch and I felt so much relief knowing she was getting nourished now. I think the reality of breastfeeding motherhood really sunk in that first night. When Penny woke just a couple hours after I’d last nursed her I woke up thinking well who’s going to stop that baby crying as I looked at my husband and mom fast asleep. Then I realized, it’s me! I’m the one who is exhausted from 24 hours of labor, but I am the one who has the privilege of feeding this child.
Upon request, we had a lactation consultant come in before we left the hospital and watch a nursing session and give feedback and pointers. I wish this was an automatic thing they did for each breastfeeding mother.
The night we got home from the hospital was a big breastfeeding triumph, probably one many nursing mothers remember. I was nursing before bed and all of a sudden a felt an almost pinch like feeling in my breasts and suddenly Penny was making huge gulping noises. I was wondering what the heck she was doing until I realized my milk had come in!
Over the next couple of months Penny and I had a great breastfeeding relationship. She nursed about every 2 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night. Of course no story is without its hiccups. I had to give up any type of caffeine, just when you need it the most! Penny couldn’t tolerate caffeine and would cry and cry. Even one bite of chocolate would set her off. Penny also wouldn’t take a bottle (this is pretty common in breastfed babies) of expressed milk when we tried to introduce them around 4 weeks. She’d attempt but wouldn’t latch on to the bottle and would suck in air instead. This would lead her to projectile vomiting shortly after. Seven different types of bottles later, we finally found a winner. The old school Playtex nurser bottles with the drop in liners.
Around 2.5 months Penny would unlatch seconds after starting to nurse and start angry crying everytime I fed her. Took her into the pediatrician and he thought she likely was having some acid reflux issues. We gave her liquid Zantac drops daily (she hated that) that helped a lot and she went back to her happy nursing self.
Any advocate of nursing and nursing mothers will tell you that there is an unfortunate lack of breastfeeding knowledge and continued education with pediatricians. At Penny’s 4 month well baby visit she had only gained 2.5 pounds since birth. The pediatrician said she was too low on the growth chart and I needed to supplement nursing. Mind you, she had been low on the weight chart since her one-week check-up and continued to gain weight, just slowly. However; at the time I figured since she was younger that she was likely recently educated in breastfeeding education and knew what she was talking about. This was the beginning of the end for nursing for me.
I wish I knew then what I know now. That I didn’t need to supplement. Penny was gaining weight, had regular wet diapers and my supply hadn’t dipped from what I could see through pumping/length of nursing sessions/breast fullness. I started supplementing formula once a day and, right away, it made my supply dip. Enough so that I eventually was supplementing twice a day. Penny continued to be in the 4th percentile for weight until she was 18 months. She was just petite and growing at her own rate. No supplementing needed to take place.
What eventually ended my breastfeeding journey was deciding to lose weight. I gained 35 pounds with pregnancy. 20 pounds came off right away. Those last 15 pounds refused to budge. A lot of women lose all their pregnancy weight through breastfeeding since we burn so many calories each session. My body seemed to want to hold on to every last pound to sustain it’s supply. I did Weight Watchers for nursing mother’s, which I had heard great things from other nursing mamas. Doing the program, I felt like I was getting more than enough food still, never felt hungry. My body said otherwise though. What supply I had left dried up to barely anything. I half-heartedly took fenugreek supplements and made nursing cookies with brewer’s yeast. These did not work for me, and I decided at Penny’s 8-month mark to stop nursing all together. Sure, I lost the weight and then some, but looking back I wish I had carried an extra 15 pounds for a few more months and kept up the nursing. That’s one of the biggest tips I give to my friends that plan on breastfeeding: worry only about feeding that baby. You only get a relatively short window to fully nourish your child and you have all the time in the world to lose weight.
When I look back on my breastfeeding journey, it’s one I look back on with fondness. So many sweet mama and baby bonding moments. Many moments of exhaustion, pain and anxiety. But mostly of love.
Does anyone else ever long to have another baby just for those sweet nursing moments? I’m not actually ready for another child but I sure do miss those days!