Milkmaker | Nicole DeTone
We're so excited to share our next Milkmaker story from mama to one and photographer, Nicole DeTone's. Have a story you'd like to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before my journey to motherhood began I’ll admit that I was one of those women who made the unintentional mistake of judging other mama’s. When I officially became a new mom myself, I felt shame and guilt for previously thinking other mom’s weren’t doing it “right” when I had no real experience of my own! I now know that every mom, every baby, and every mother-baby relationship is different and valid. My breastfeeding experience with Penelope is completely unique to any future experiences I’ll have or to that of any other mama. And at the end of the day, I truly believe that as long as you and your baby are happy and fed (by whatever means), that is all that matters.
Although this is “my” breastfeeding journey, it feels more appropriate to label it “our” breastfeeding journey because there were a couple other pretty important people involved… Of course my daughter, Penelope Love. And my husband, Matt, who supported me (emotionally and sometimes physically) before, during and after. Our breastfeeding journey began long before the day that Penelope entered the world and instantly changed our lives forever. I regularly attended prenatal yoga class while Matt and I both attended holistic childbirth & breastfeeding courses. While these classes enlightened, empowered and informed me, I think they were even more eye opening for my partner. As a woman and an expecting mom, some of what we were learning was familiar or intuitive to me. But what my husband learned and the toolkit he developed was crucial for supporting me and our baby. And even though I’m an avid reader, I tried to not overwhelm myself with too many breastfeeding books or philosophies and instead stuck to what I found in Deepak Chopra’s ‘A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth’ and the ‘What to Expect’ series. For us, the emotional, physical and medical benefits of breastfeeding felt important and in line with how we wanted to raise our child. Before our baby was born, I knew that I might face some obstacles but I felt prepared with techniques and a mindset to approach breastfeeding with patience and determination.
On March 8, 2016 Penelope Love DeTone was born into this world, teeny and screaming and perfect. Our hearts were replaced with entirely new ones and we haven’t been the same since. Our plan for an intervention-free and natural birth changed when we learned of some in-utero complications and a cesarean section was scheduled. At first, I was disappointed but it was the safest option and we worked with my doctor to create as much of a natural experience as possible. This included immediate skin-to- skin contact, delayed cord clamping and of course breastfeeding as soon as possible. While in the recovery room, I was completely delirious but this little 6 pound 7 ounce miracle was scooting her way towards me to nurse. It was the most primal thing I’d ever experienced and wouldn’t be the last.
During our time in the hospital, the staff was very helpful… yet overwhelming. It seemed that there were doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants constantly coming in the room and my husband jokes that at one point there were no less than 5 sets of hands on my breasts! But every time they left, and it was just the three of us, Penelope would latch on and nurse just fine. Her and I quickly discovered that we needed peace and quiet to establish our rhythm. From that point on, we had a “Do Not Disturb” sign on our door.
The first few weeks of being home with our baby completely revolved around breastfeeding, something we were prepared for. She was nursing every 3-4 hours round the clock and after a few days, we established a routine of nurse, sleep, diaper change, nurse and so-on. My postpartum hormones were completely bonkers during this time, something I was NOT prepared for, and I often refer to this time period as my leaky phase (gross, I know). Just think, uncontrollable tears, sweat and breast milk. 24-hours a day. It was very overwhelming (literally), but of course the thing that helped balance my hormones the most was to breastfeed! Nursing was also helping with the pain and recovery of my C-section and I was up and moving around pretty soon after being home.
In between the hours upon hours of nursing, I’d catch up on sleep, eat ravenously (I kept an entire basket of snacks on my nightstand for nighttime feedings) and I started to pump and store milk. I wouldn’t be returning to work for a while, but I wanted to have a reserve and I also wanted to have a glass of wine! I was understandably neurotic at first with timing nursing-to-pumping-to- drinking so that I didn’t have to dump any milk, but as the feeding times started to spread out and I became more in tune with my body, this became easier. That is of course until we visited family one weekend and I brought everything the baby and I could possibly need - extra clothes, more diapers than necessary, baby bottles so I could enjoy that wine - everything except my pump! Let’s just say I spent the better part of one night in a warm shower hand expressing milk down the drain to relieve the hot pain in my chest. Lesson learned! (Editor's note: luckily, pumping and dumping is usually not necessary! Read all about alcohol while breastfeeding to learn more!)
Since I’m a photographer and primarily work from home, I was fortunate to schedule work around P’s feeding times. Wedding days did become a little longer and trickier because as any photographer knows, you rarely have time to eat or go to the bathroom, much less take multiple breaks to pump. But I’m so grateful for my understanding and loving clients who allowed me to squeeze in pump breaks to the schedule, as well as the supportive photographers who took the reigns while I was on short breaks. Of course not everything goes as planned and there are two working-while-breastfeeding moments that are forever etched in my memory. The first was when I was second shooting for another photographer at a venue I hadn’t been at before. I was wearing a one-piece jumpsuit and only had a hand pump, when the lights went out while I was in the bathroom stall. I’m talking pitch black, my outfit is around my ankles, and my hands are filled with full milk bags and a pump. LUCKILY, I learned the lights go on and off with a sensor so as soon as someone (finally) came in, I could breathe again. The second was during a wedding that I had to travel for so I brought the hubby and baby along with me. They came to the reception so I could nurse her directly rather than pump and in true dedicated-working- mom fashion, I nursed her while still wearing two of my cameras. I looked ridiculous but I was ready for anything!
When we started introducing bottles and solid foods, I’d wean off feedings until we were down to just her bedtime feeding. Right after Penelope turned one year’s old, I thought we were both ready to wean off that final feeding so I just stopped one day! Boy was that a bad idea. She was completely fine with it, but I started to develop what I can only describe as a mild depression. My body, my intuition, and my hormones were telling me that I was not ready yet. I reintroduced the bedtime feeding and began to better prepare myself for a final wean. I spent even more time with P, especially skin-to- skin and baby-wearing time, and instead of Matt or a grandparent giving her a bottle before bed (which I originally did, because “Yay I’m done breastfeeding and I can have a little bit of time to myself!”), I gave the bedtime bottle. Also, a prolonged bedtime routing with extra snuggles, kisses and then sneaking into her room no less than three times just to look at her sleeping, helped!
All in all, I feel lucky to say that I didn’t face any major challenges with breastfeeding. It was such a sacred part of my life and connected my baby and I in a way I never imagined possible. I know they say you’re not supposed to fall asleep when holding your baby, but as she got older and bigger, I’d often nod off as I was nursing because it was just so relaxing for me. Just like the joy being pregnant with Penelope phased into the joy of her presence here on earth, the love I felt while breastfeeding has turned into a new kind of love as I see her try new foods and develop a healthy appetite.