I would like to start off this Mama Bird Monday by saying that I understand how sensitive the topic of breastfeeding is for mamas everywhere. It seems like the mommy-wars wage on regardless of how we choose to feed our babies. Here on m y [ t w e e t ] l i f e I promise to never shame another mother’s choice or parenting decision. I will recount personal experiences and will share my opinion. I will identify dangerous or unsafe behaviour. But I won’t shame you. If you choose to formula-feed your baby, you are still welcome here! But this is my breastfeeding journey, so if reading about breastfeeding upsets you or makes you uncomfortable, maybe this isn’t the post for you! Please keep in mind, also, that I am writing this as a first-time mama bird and NOT as a registered nurse. Only my patients get my professional advice! ;)
So speaking of being a registered nurse [RN], that is where my breastfeeding journey actually begins. As part of my nursing education and training for the Maternal-Child Health unit where I work, I learned a lot about breastfeeding. A 20-hour course, to be specific. Not to mention the innumerable hours of hands-on experience teaching and supporting other mama birds to breastfeed. I was hopeful when I found out I was pregnant, that breastfeeding would come easily, at least from my end.
I was right, sort of.
My immediate postpartum period didn’t exactly go as we had hoped. [Links to my birth story will be available at the bottom of this post!] I was lucky to experience about 45min of skin-to-skin immediately postpartum. After that, baby bird was taken for initial assessments and weight before being returned to me. I was flat on my back then sshhaakkinggg like a leaf, and still somehow my baby bird managed to latch right on and eat for 18 minutes. That’s actually how she got her nickname – she would peck around my chest independently until I guided her to latch or she found my nipple! I had very little to do with her first latch but I was very proud of both of us.
I was hoping that, after that, I’d have another chance to breastfeed her when I was transferred from Labour & Delivery over to the floor where I work. I was actually really excited to sit up and try a ‘proper’ feeding session. Unfortunately, baby bird was frantic and crying as I was being prepped for the OR. I requested that she be given formula from a bottle while I was taken to the OR. Breastfeeding needed to wait while my co-workers saved my life.
When I arrived in recovery my husband and baby bird were waiting for me! Turns out she guzzled quite a bit so she wasn’t really very hungry. After a few ‘checks’ and some skin-to-skin though, we were breastfeeding again! I don’t remember much about that time but I remember being so thankful. Thankful that when SO MUCH had gone horribly, at least something was going well. My baby bird was healthy and she was an awesome breastfeeder!
It would be a never-ending post if I went from there and described every breastfeeding up and down! But I can give you the short version of the last six months. She continued to do well in the hospital, feeding well and sleeping in between. Christmas Eve we were discharged and it wasn’t a great day. She wasn’t getting much colostrum and she was getting impatient! Christmas day I spent the whole day on the couch back-to-back cluster feeding while my little baby bird tried desperately to bring my milk in! We were begging God, and Santa Claus – PLEASE BRING MY MILK IN! I ended up giving her 10mls of formula that night to make us both feel better. Luckily by morning the milk was flowing!
Que the oversupply! Funny how it’s almost as if your breasts try to make up for the last 3-5 days of ‘barely a drop’ by squirting everyone and everything in sight and gagging your poor baby! I remember soaking breast pads, tank tops, sweaters, and more. And crying while I massaged my breasts and hand-expressed in the tub or shower! Thank you warm water! Even while baby bird was eating, milk would be running down my breast onto my stomach or clothes! So messy! I’d need to tuck a facecloth underneath my breast while feeding in public just to save my clothes. I was pumping in the evenings when I had a chance and freezing the bags in our deep-freezer. Other than one small bout of a blocked duct/mastitis (thank you, you know who, at the MBC!), things were ‘flowing’ along nicely.
Our biggest breastfeeding challenge was definitely baby bird’s hospitalization. Due to the location and nature of her abscess and IV, it was almost impossible to feed her on the right breast. To be honest, she still prefers the left to this day [it’s the breast I use at bedtime]! For the first 24-30hrs of her stay as an inpatient, I fed her on the left breast and pumped the right. After a while the pump just wasn’t cutting it, and we worked for a LONG time to figure out a way for her to latch to the right that would be comfortable for both of us. Three cheers for side-lying position [with a few modifications..]! And hey – at least I had a little stockpile of milk in the hospital freezer!
At about 3-4 months old, I could tell that my milk supply was levelling out. I knew this because baby bird was growing and doing well but I was only able to pump about 1-2oz at any given time – even in the early morning! Normally I wouldn’t have been worried but I was trying to build my freezer stockpile for my return to work. I started really trying to eat well, drinking a TONNE of water all day and night, and taking Fenugreek supplements. [**Please speak to your MD or LC before beginning or stopping any medications!**] This, along with more frequent pumping after feeds, helped to increase my supply just enough that I could feed baby bird and manage to freeze 4-6oz each day.
Now, at 6+ months old, baby bird is eating purees and solid food as well as breastfeeding. When my husband gives her breastmilk in a bottle, I pump and either freeze it or put it in the fridge for mixing with cereal/giving a bottle. Now, breastfeeding is simple and convenient and I can pump about 6-10oz a day in addition to feeds. Surprisingly, I get the most milk just before bed! Breastfeeding is no longer messy (most days) and I’m so thankful for the chance I’ve had to nourish my daughter! Even with our slight hiccoughs, I am well aware how lucky we are! Seeing patients as well as other mamas online go through such hardship and challenges in regards to breastfeeding really puts things in perspective!
Going forward, I plan to breastfeed as per usual on my days/nights off of work, and then pump so my husband can bottle feed while I’m at work. Until when? Only baby bird knows for sure..
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If you have any questions about our breastfeeding journey so far, feel free to ask in the comments! If there is something specific you’d like me to write more about, include that too and you might see it in a future Mama Bird Monday post!
Click [HERE] for my birth story, part one.
Click [HERE] for my birth story, part two.