Day Twenty-Eight | Tevin's Journey | A Bonding and Donating Story
I wanted to breastfeed because I knew I wanted to do what I could to give the best start that I was able to my child. The decision was easy. I am a firm believer in "Fed is Best", and I felt so privileged to be able to breastfeed when I know how many women struggle with it and feel pressure to do everything “correctly.”
The day my son was born, everything went great. One of the nurses, though, thought that he may be a little bit jaundiced. Every other nurse, and even the pediatrician that came in to see him didn't notice. He was tested and his bilirubin was high, so they made him stay under the lights for about 3 days until his counts come down.
During that time, I could only hold him every 3 hours for about 30 minutes at a time, and I was having difficulty with my milk coming in. I relied on donor milk to help supplement, so we could get him to pee, and expel the extra bilirubin. I had to pump at the hospital, which gave me a terrible oversupply, and I was forced to pump every couple of hours on top of nursing a newborn. There were times for the first couple of months that I was in absolute, toe curling pain. I would just cry every time we had to nurse or I had to pump.
In the beginning, pain management was hit or miss. Warm showers and massaging helped, but the tough part was how bad my nipples would hurt. Ice and gel packs became my best friends, and I didn't wear a bra for a couple of months.
Eventually, the new pain of nursing went away, and after about 6 months, I was able to start managing how much I was pumping and slowly taper down. To cut down on pumping, I just listened to my body. I pumped when I needed to, and if I felt like I could wait without pushing it, I would. It is so important to listen to your body, it really will tell you exactly what it needs!
If there was one good thing that came out of it, it was that I was able to donate to about 4 different moms, and their babies, and "spread the love!" I ended up donating over 5,000 oz to other children, and that is pretty incredible.
I was so blessed to connect with so many amazing women in a couple of different Facebook groups that really helped me navigate the growing pains, gain confidence in myself, and make healthy choices to continue with our journey.
Pumping was definitely a labor of love. It was difficult for me because of how much I had to pump to avoid getting clogged ducts or mastitis. At one point, I had about 6 or 7 pumping sessions a day on top of cluster feeding and being a stay at home mom. Keeping the parts clean and sanitary, while having to buy bags, replacement parts, new flanges, etc, the cost and time really started to add up. After about 6 months, I was able to get down to 2 pump sessions a day: one in the morning and one before bed. Things got a lot easier after that!
I decided to donate the milk because I was sitting on hundreds of ounces of frozen milk, and I was running out of room in my freezer! There is this thought that you need to keep of so much on hand "just in case" and I finally realized that it wasn't true.
In one of the facebook groups that I'm in, one of the women suggested trying to donate my milk through Human Milk 4 Human Babies (a facebook group). I gave it a try, and was able to donate super quickly through putting in an offer there. It is incredible how many moms are willing to help, and really inspiring to see what some moms are doing to get what their child needs. There is a need for donated milk, as it is often unobtainable through the milk bank due to the outrageous prices that they charge per ounce. I felt privileged to be a part of these women's journeys in motherhood.
Donating through milk banks is a lot more difficult, and since I had the milk, I was able to link up with a friend who needed some, and after the first couple of donations, I started donating exclusively to one person. I absolutely fell in love with her spirit, and her little boy, and I became determined to give them as much as I could. I am so privileged to still be in contact with her, and call her my friend - all because of milk donation!
My first goal with breastfeeding was to make it to 6 months, and when we achieved that, we set the goal for a year. A year has come and gone, and here we are at 20 months with no signs of stopping yet! Mostly by his choice rather than mine. But I do still love it. I plan on letting him self-wean for day feedings, I would love for it to come to a natural end. Most people have been very supportive of our choice to continue! It really makes a world of difference for a mother to have that kind of support.
My advice to other moms is that if breastfeeding works for you, stick it out. It is hard, and it is laborious. It will take so much out of you, but if you can make it through that, it is so, so worth it. However, don't put too much pressure on yourself to do what you think everyone else wants you to do. Do what is best for you and your little. There is no right or wrong answer! We are all doing the best that we know how, and we are all in this together.
What have you made it though to continue to breastfeed? Leave a comment below about your story or some encouragement for this lovely mama. If you would like to share your story, please contact me and we start to plan your perfect mama and me session to go with your story.