A few weeks back The Honest Company gave me the idea to write my breastfeeding testimony. I thought that sounded like great writing fodder for sure! And now the day has finally arrived that I’ve been given the gift of quiet, alone time since I’ve somehow managed to get all the kids sleeping at the same time.
I can’t say I was excited about breastfeeding before babies came my way but I can say I was committed to making it my reality for any children of mine until at least age two. Why age two? Well, currently it is the recommended minimum for meeting your babies core nutrition and immunity needs.
Before Maisy was born the only breastfeeding book I needed to read was The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I know that because when Maisy was born my “I just labored for three days” brain had one instinct and one instinct only, to lay my naked baby vertically on my bare chest at breast level and let her hunt for the milk. My baby and getting her to breastmilk was my one and only thought. The tornado of busy nurses, doctors, and others that attended to my needs existed entirely outside the bubble of complete calm that enveloped me and my baby. I had thoughts for nothing else. I was amazed as I watched her wiggle her way over to sustenance and helped her along as she did so. That was it, she latched on and got to work.
My let down was and is forceful and my supply overflowing so my main problems were helping my baby keep up with the flow, solve her problem of regular projectile vomiting, and avoiding blebs and engorgement. My flow was so strong that my breasts stung every time I had a let down and that sting was followed by a coughing baby. After weeks of trying to get my flow to regulate by only nursing one side each session I gave into the pain and began a months long routine of pumping my breasts into comfortable slackness every morning and evening… resulting in 10+ ounces of milk each time.
There are several things about being a mama to my baby number two, my pretty Penny, that not only leave me feeling like I actually know what I’m doing but that also leave me loving this babyhood stage of life we are in. I can now say I love babies.
With my baby Maisy I could tell you I loved my daughter, but not that I loved babies. I certainly did live in the moment and enjoyed my squishy, smiley baby but I also couldn’t help but look forward to life with more sleep, less nursing, and the ability to do more than care for the sleep, eat, and poop needs of an infant. Little did I know that life with a baby could allow such things too! Penny is my dream baby: she sleeps nearly all night (even as a newborn), she nurses even better than Maisy (which I didn’t think was possible), and, instead of crying all day long, she uses her vocal chords for the sweetest baby chatter you ever did hear.
Before Penny was born I turned my brain off to learning anything breastfeeding. Why would I when the first time around came so naturally? I simply repeated what I did with Maisy. I delivered Penny into my own hands at my own house, sat back and watched my birth team get the cord untangled from around her neck, and held her face down as she fought for breath. Through all that emotional and physical chaos I would periodically offer the breast to Penny but each time it became obvious her breathing wasn’t ready to help her achieve success despite her loud longing to suckle. After what felt like an eternity later I offered my breast yet again but this time she could breath and suck at the same time. She had a perfect latch. In that moment I was pleased to experience, for the first time, what moms feels when they say they “love breastfeeding.” Maisy had a great latch, but from day one it tickled. That makes for an oddly sexually stimulating, and therefore awkward breastfeeding experience. Penny’s latch does not tickle, it does not hurt, it is wonderful.
Today I breastfeed my almost 2.5 year old and my 2 month old. Sometimes we even tandem nurse. Maisy’s latch still tickles awkwardly, Penny’s still feels awesome. This time around it is a nearly perfect experience. Whenever I’m feeling engorged I summon my toddler to empty me out until I am at least comfortable. Penny doesn’t struggle to keep up with the flow because I am not so perpetually overflowing with milk due to my toddler helping with the upkeep throughout the day. We have struggled with a few moments of projectile vomit but finally puzzled it out to two causes: too much foremilk and too much milk in general. Problem is now being avoided by nursing strictly on one breast through the duration of each wakeful period and by cutting her off when she starts to get uncomfortable and squirmy (her signs that she’s overfilling herself). So far I’ve been lucky to avoid common ailments like blebs, cracked and/or bleeding nipples, and mastitis all of which I can thank my better regulated supply and great latch.
The key to successful and painless breast feeding lies in three factors: wide mouth latch, tongue mobility, and milk flow. Problems may still arise but by consulting your local La Leche League you can trouble shoot everything from mastitis, to blebs, to bloody nipples without having to give up breastfeeding. Every breast can do it, it’s just a matter of working with what you’ve been given.