Day Twenty-Two | Anne's Journey | A Mama Tribe Story
Right after I gave birth to my daughter, we gave her the opportunity to crawl to the breast and find it on her own which was simply amazing to watch. Thankfully, my milk came in as expected, which was a surprise since I had a considerable hemorrhage following the birth.
Even with these positive events, the first few days were rough. Trying to learn how to work together, positions, slight pain and getting a good groove took a bit of time.
Since I have worked with many women who were unable to breastfeed, as a perinatal mental health therapist, I did not want to set a specific goal with breastfeeding my own daughter. I wanted to leave everything really open and not set any expectations that I may not be able to meet.
I'm lucky that breastfeeding has gone really well and I'm proud that my baby will be nine months in September and breastfeeding is continuing to go well. As long as breastfeeding is working for both me and my daughter, I'm going to keep going as long as I can.
Sadly, I had to go back to work only four weeks postpartum because my husband had recently lost his job and was still looking for work. In the beginning my mother assisted us greatly by accompanying me to work so I could breastfeed during breaks. Then slowly we transitioned to me pumping at work.
Thankfully, I had a pro-breastfeeding caregiver and husband who were both willing to drive her out to see me so I was able to breastfeed during my lunch hour three days a week until she was six months old. On the days he watches her, my husband still drives her out during my lunch hour when possible.
As far as how pumping has gone - I hate it - but it's a necessary evil to continue my breastfeeding journey. I'm really lucky that I work in a very supportive work environment where the biggest challenge is keeping track of whose breast milk is whose.
While I do despise pumping, I try to do self-care while pumping. As my family lives abroad my noon pump is a great time to chat with family or friends and I make myself a cup of tea with snacks. Keeping track on our shared app with the nanny how much little one is drinking when I am at work helps as well with motivation to pump. For a while, one of my close friends and colleague would even come and hangout in my office if our schedules overlapped.
I'll stop pumping when her nursing frequency no longer requires pumping. Although I do not like pumping, I feel so blessed that I am able to produce enough for her to eat. I think it's important to be honest that there are parts of breastfeeding that are not pleasant. For me pumping is slightly painful even on the lowest setting and after trying different pumps. I'm happy that I am a pretty quick pumper, but the sensation has not improved over time.
Early on, I did develop an oversupply which resulted in painful engorgement for me, and gas for my poor little girl. While nursing itself went really well for the first few months, she was having issues using the bottle to eat the breastmilk I was pumping for her. I often came home to a very unhappy and hungry baby as well as a stressed-out caregiver/papa.
After a consultation, a lot of googling as well as some taste tasting by a very supportive spouse (who was just as desperate to find a solution), we discovered that the issue was an overproduction of the enzyme lipase. Lipase alters the taste of breastmilk. We started scalding milk prior to freezing and she was much more willing to take milk from the bottle.
After shedding lots of tears about all the milk I had pumped at work that we would no longer be able to use, I was happy to find a mom who was looking for donor milk and whose baby did not mind the taste of high lipase. From here, I also worked with a lactation consultant to help lower my supply to a more manageable amount of milk. Mostly we accomplished this by block feeding and regulating how often and how much time I was pumping.
We were happy to find a solution to the issues created by having high lipase levels in my milk, but on those days where my partner and I both have long days, having to scald the milk on a daily basis plus the subsequent cleanup is a task that neither of us are very excited for! Especially the time my husband left the milk on the stove a bit too long and burnt the entire days production.
I have been very lucky to have, and find, a very large support system. We started with wonderful lactation education at Mountain Midwifery prior to giving birth. Postpartum, we received support from our midwives, doula, and my mother, who is an experienced mother and pediatrician. I also received lactation support from lactation groups at the Mamahood, the Family Room, and a lactation counselor in my neighborhood, as well as many friends and colleagues in the birth community.
Overall, I love breastfeeding. I love the bond with my baby. The special quiet moments in the middle of the night when it's just me and her (with my husband snoring beside me). Prior to starting solid foods, I loved seeing her little fat rolls and knowing that my body produced the nutrition required for her to grow.
My advice is to find your mama tribe! Never underestimate the knowledge, wisdom, and power of a supportive group of women! I hope women are kind to themselves as there is already so much judgement out there. I personally found support and guidance by repeatedly asking myself these three questions: Is it working for me? Is it working for baby? Does it feel good?
How has your nursing journey developed over time? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below. If you would like to share your full nourishment journey, contact me and we can start to plan the perfect session to help tell your story.