My Favorite Breastfeeding Resources

25 Jul

When I reflect on the advice and guidance I was given as I struggled to successfully breastfeed my first child, I feel a mix of appreciation and frustration. I had some excellent lactation consultants on my side but more frequently, some real uneducated idiots. My daughter’s pediatrician among them as I’ve mentioned in past posts.

Honestly, as I page through the book pictured above, I want to beat someone senseless for some of the contradictory things I was told. More than anything, I want to slap myself a few times because everything I needed was in there. But would I have known what I didn’t know back then though? I don’t think so.

I think the biggest breastfeeding myth is that it’s this natural thing both you and your child will instinctively know how to do.  It’s true that babies will bob around and find the breast, but what happens from there, speaking from my own experience, I can only describe as animal savagery.

It was like a ravenous, colostrum-thirsty vampire/banshee was on my chest. The banshee part is because when the stars didn’t align and my infant daughter couldn’t latch onto my unfortunately ill-shaped nipples, what followed was usually a lot of wailing – both hers and later, as my cracked and bleeding nipples would have it,  me. In my firt week home, i probably cried through most feedings as I nursed through the pain as I was advised to do by the same pediatrician who told me matter of factly that “breastfeeding hurts.”

What I came to realize now that I’ve struggled through the tough early infant days with my own two daughters is that breastfeeding success entirely depends on you, the mom, and how much you educate yourself.  It doesn’t seem right that there is so little proper education offered to help mothers learn what we need to learn (imagine stacks of encyclopedias here people) to make it work.

And “make it work” is the right phrase. I was at home and able to nurse on demand with my first child. Now? I’m away from my second child for 3 hour chunks of the day while I work a part-time job. It’s in the afternoon when she usually naps, but still. Should I pump while I’m away? Time feedings to before and after I go and come back? How do I prevent my supply from being affected? What’s oversupply?

If I can ever find the time, I’m dying to put together a YouTube series about everything I’ve learned in my struggles with breastfeeding so I can help other moms better prepare for it because I can sincerely share that it’s more than just really great for your baby, it’s such a wonderful thing for you. My daughter Caroline is just a month old, but nursing her in the side-lying position is just about the most amazing thing ever. It’s peaceful, I can relax and the way she snuggles into me after she has finished is just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. I find myself constantly thinking: SAVOR THIS! They grow so quickly and it’s easy to pull out your phone and catch up on Twitter, but staring at my daughter’s beautiful little nose, well… there is limited time for that.

But, I digress. I’ve been lucky to find a lot of wonderful resources in my struggle to breastfeed successfully so I thought I’d compile them here. If I had to offer one bit of advice to expectant mothers, it’s to read up, watch and learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before baby is here. Now is the time. Forget about taking a “breastfeeding class” because most are absolute garbage and show the bare bones basics. Read. Watch tutorials on YouTube. And talk to moms who breastfeed about their experiences.

I read somewhere that breastfeeding used to be something moms just did, so girls grew up having seen their mothers and aunts doing it, no big deal. But once it went out of vogue, where did you learn? This is one reason I’m really vocal and open about nursing. It could be something that comes back and having had such a wonderful experience with nursing my first child, it’s something I’d love to help more women be able to feel confident enough to experience too.

Some of my favorite breastfeeding resources
(updated 2017)

– The Leaky Boob — here
(their Facebook page carried me through my first year of nursing)

– The Boob Group podcast — here

LOVE this podcast! Only discovered it recently.

– Overactive Letdown — here

– Surviving a Nursing Strike — here

– 14 Ways to Hack Your Pumping Routine — here

 

Caroline: Week 4

18 Jul

IMG_2909

We’re starting to feel more settled into life with two kids and I am definitely feeling like a whole new person now that I’m more on top of nighttime sleep and have healed even more. Caroline has had a few nights of cluster feedings that wiped Brian and I both out, but otherwise, we’ve been really lucky with her sleep so far. This past weekend, we even ventured out for our first, post-baby event: a family wedding down in CT. My mom and brother Kevin bravely offered to take on the girls for us and thankfully, all went smoothly, save for a little touch of “witching hour” fussiness on Caroline’s part.

 

IMG_2880
My mom has now experienced what Brian and I had only just started to make note of to each other in the 3 to 4 week period home with our sweet Caroline, which is that she’s a girl who needs her rest and has eyes that are definitely bigger than her stomach. After a 5-6 minute gulping session at the breast or bottle, she needs to be propped upright immediately and oh-so-gently burped or all hell will break loose. Otherwise? The girl is the sweetest, most mildly tempered little angel I’ve even snuggled. Truly. She is such a good baby.

IMG_2917

She’s been pretty consistent since birth with the 3, 4, and 5-hour stretches and I’ve tried really hard to time her last feeding before bed to be right around 11 PM. The past week or so, I’ve been particularly drained since I’ve been back at work part-time since last Wednesday so I’ve been trying to get to bed by 9:30 or 10 in order to get a good stretch of sleep in before that 11:30 PM feeding I mentioned. I’d hoped to be sleeping 9:30-3:30 or 4 AM, but so far, we’ve only managed to do one 11:30 bottle and it was very early last week, when I snuck up to the guest room for some desperately needed rest. When I think of how exhausted and spent I felt just a week ago, it feels like a lifetime ago. It’s amazing how much of a difference a good night’s sleep makes.

In the past week, the near-smile spottings have increased exponentially. We really think you’re close to giving us a big smile very soon. We do a little tummy time here and there, more when I think it might help soothe your gassy tummy and you are an expert at lifting your head. Your neck strength has always been excellent from the day you were born. You continue to track us with your eyes and in particular, your  big sister, Emilia. You love her SO much already.

IMG_2865on my first day back to work – waaaa

IMG_2997Mom + Dad’s first time out without the kids

She takes a bottle really well – though she does still gulp it, just like she is at the breast, so I think my supply may still be evening itself out and I think my letdown is on the “overactive” side, so I’ve tried to be better about nursing on demand and not letting myself get too full between feedings. I don’t want her to gag each time she nurses. That’s also how you get yourself set-up for a nursing strike which I really want to avoid! (Emilia had one and it was brutal.) I’ve pumped a bit to take the edge off too which has helped.

Speaking of which, one kind of hilarious, but also kind of not funny at all thing that happened while we were at the wedding was that my mom accidentally melted my Medela pumping parts. The new parts. The most important and expensive parts. Yup. I can laugh now, but when I saw them, I truly thought I would sob for eternity. Pumping is such a bitch and cleaning and sanitizing a million little pieces is enough to drive a sleep deprived mom over the edge, so when I saw three melted valves, I nearly lost my mind. They’re like $11/each to replace. It was tough to handle because I’ve been meaning to buy a few extras to help minimize the frustration of not having enough cleaned and sanitized and at the ready and now I not only need to replace what was melted, but I still need to buy the damn extras! Gah. But, I’m laughing about it now. No big deal. I found new parts that are all one piece which might be more handy and less frustrating to clean. We’ll see!

 

 

 

Caroline: Week 2

4 Jul

Our second week home with our sweet girl has been wonderful. We took Caroline to her 2-week checkup and learned that she’s already gained back what she’d lost in the hospital; she’s 8 lbs, 2 oz already. I know I sound like such a mom to be so thrilled by this, but when you’re breastfeeding, weight gain is such a victory since it’s difficult to always tell if your baby is truly getting enough.

I wasn’t too concerned because Caroline nurses and sleeps like a dream and has all the diapers to go with it — but the 4 and 5 hour stretches of napping can be worrisome when you haven’t had quite that same easy experience with your first child.

Something I’ve taken more to heart this time around than I did with Emilia was to really take care of myself and remember that the exhaustion, sleeplessness, nursing around the clock and general confinement to the house will not last forever. I tend to be a “go-go, get stuff done, always busy” type of person. Not because I’m Type-A and have a list of chores to attend, but rather, I have a million creative pursuits and project and interests that I want to devote attention to, so it’s hard to make myself lay down to nap when both kids are sleeping (I KNOW. I’ll stop bragging). But the difference since I’ve done just that has been incredible. There was one afternoon last week when I honestly didn’t think I’d survive the day if I couldn’t lay down and not nurse for an hour. I took a Motrin, applied some APNO, popped the Lansinoh gel soothies from the fridge and slapped them on, and lay down in my cool, dark bedroom. I remember thinking that our sheets had never felt softer or my pillow more comfortable and this wave of relief washed over me to finally not be upright. Post-delivery recovery is no joke.

Without oversharing, my recovery finally took a turn for the better around day 10. Until then, I was basically hobbling around the hose, gingerly sitting on a boppy and trying not to wince with every latch on my left side which was pretty severely damaged while in the hospital, before we had C’s tongue tie diagnosed. Something I have to mention for posterity: At our two-week check-up, when I mentioned to my dear, beloved male pediatrician that we’d gone ahead with the frenectomy, he matter-of-factly replied that it’s a very controversial procedure still and that it’s not certain that they’re really necessary. This is the same man who advised me to use Neosporin instead of APNO when I called to ask for a prescription to be sent in as soon as I left the hospital without it because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to survive another latch without it. Further, this is the same doctor who recommended I nurse through the “toe-curling” pain if I could tolerate it with my first daughter.

I’m laughing as I describe all this now because I actually do love this pediatrician, but it’s amazing to me that so many health care providers can still not be in a place where they know how to truly support breastfeeding mothers. I make it a point to nurse in front of as many people as possible and I’m really vocal about what it’s like and how much I struggled with my first child. Breastfeeding is painted as this beautiful, instinctual thing your baby just knows how to do, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. More on that in another post though.

Anyways, to get back to our second week home with Caroline, her two-week checkup went really well. The pediatrician joked: What are you feeding her?! when he heard her incredible weight-gain and commended me for my nursing. He also joked that we shouldn’t brag to friends and family about how fortunate we are with her stretches of sleep. She only wakes once per night around 3 or 4 for a quick nurse before giving us another 2-3 hour stretch of sleep and it doing great sleeping in the rock and play beside our bed. It’s not ever turned on to rock! This is a huge win as far as helping us get a leg up on sleep training her for the crib in a month or two. Made that mistake with E and we will not be repeating that this time. We’ve learned.

Something else I implemented while still in the hospital was the use of white noise. We didn’t know nearly enough about infant sleep our first time around, so we’re utilizing ALL the tricks. White noise has been amazingly useful in helping stretch Caroline’s sleep cycles. I also read something really useful in a packet I got while still in the hospital: it advised to not move your baby from the breast (or from a snuggled position on your chest, rather) until about 15-20 minutes after she’d popped off the breast and fallen asleep. Infants enter a light, dreaming stage of sleep (REM sleep) first before moving into the deeper phase of sleep for the next 30 or so minutes. So if you move the infant too soon, she’ll likely wake before getting into that deeper sleep. I can promise you, this works and is probably the reason we got some rest before we left the hospital. And things have only improved and stretched into longer resting periods since we’ve gotten home.

In the second week, nursing also took an improved turn with far less pain at latching and Caroline definitely improved, skill wise, as far as her ability to nurse. I received excellent refresh tips in the hospital from Mickey about holding her in cross-cradle (I’d forgotten how important it was to have both an arm and leg sitting on top of my supporting arm as I hold her, and to mirror the same below my arm, with my supporting hand resting gently right on her upper back). I do find it’s still so hard to make myself rouse her to continue nursing after she dozes off while nursing, but I try to remind myself that shorter, less filling nursing periods only result in more frequent wake-ups, so it’s better to just get a really great feeding in than letting her graze on me, on and off for hours with light snoozing in between.

Only toward the end of this second week did I realize I might be suffering from something called overactive letdown. When C nurses, she gulps and wheezes and often seems like she is practically choking the milk down. Initially, I thought she was just a really fast, effective nurser, but since I’ve started to research, I think what we’re experiencing is more aligned to overactive letdown which may also be related to oversupply.

She’s also incredibly “burpy” and spits up more than Emilia ever did which is another symptom. I eventually just packed the burp cloths away for Emilia because she never needed them! Initially, I assumed my milk supply was still adapting to and I might need to pump a bit if she slept too long between feedings, but I’m starting to wonder if this might require some professional guidance since incorrectly managing overactive letdown, or introducing a bottle too soon as a result of it, can lead to nursing strikes, nipple confusion and self-weaning too soon. I also read that babies whose moms have overactive letdown often don’t nurse for comfort, which just about broke my heart. Some of the best memories I have of nursing Emilia were just that — when she’d nurse just to be comforted, snuggled into me, calm and cozy.

I absolutely abhor pumping since it requires so much stuff. I have to make sure everything is washed and sterilized and then, as if that’s not enough of a pain, I have to make sure I time when I pump so it’s an hour before or after a feeding so I’m not caught dry when she’s hungry. Also, timing it just based on time of day is huge since production is so much better in the AM hours. I’ve definitely noticed this one — on the fourth of July, after not eating much all day and having ONE glass of Sangria, I was nearly not producing by about 9 PM. That was a brutal evening and not something I’ll make the mistake of doing again anytime soon. We ended up giving two bottles and I ate and drank as much as I could late in the night in the hope of stimulating production. I keep reminding myself to just keep putting her to the breast as much as I can these first few weeks so my supply is well-established. I don’t want to encourage her to overstimulate production, but one of the biggest reasons women struggle with supply is because they don’t know that the window just for developing your future supply is really determined in these first few weeks home with your baby. The past few morning for example, I’ve woken at 3, 4 and 5 am, painfully engorged. I should have gotten up and pumped to take the edge off, but it’s such a fine line since you don’t want to actually stimulate production. (Do I sound like a lactation consultant yet? Because I’ve read and studied this to the point that I feel like I may as well be. I swear, new moms should be given week-long, intensive training in breastfeeding because the sad, 2-hour class I took where I was shown two “holds” and taught about the importance of a “deep latch” doesn’t even BEGIN to cover what I’d later be Googling at 2 AM.

Things like “overactive letdown” and “nursing strikes” begin to enter the new breastfeeding moms vocabulary by about month three when it’s your first, and by then, you’re so on your own. If I hadn’t been in an excellent mom’s group and been active in The Leaky Book breastfeeding support group on Facebook, I don’t know that I’d have survived nearly 22 months of nursing with Emilia.

But, I digress. Again.

Caroline is nearly ready for size 1 diapers and I’m finding some of the newborn onesies are already getting a bit snug, so baby girl is definitely growing well. From day one in the hospital, she’s had excellent neck strength, often holding her head up to look up at me while she’s belly down and snuggled on my chest. She’s also able to turn her head from side to side while on her tummy for tummy time. During her wakeful periods, I love to watch her eyes track me as I slowly move my face side to side above hers. We do a lot of singing and chatting and she always pays rapt attention — very much like her sister. So far, smilies have only come as she’s drifting off after a good nursing, but they still make me melt. I can’t wait for the real thing around 6-weeks. Her little fingers and toes just slay me as well, they’re so long and delicate — even her nail beds. I’m thrilled to report that she definitely takes after me in this respect, and not her dad. Although I wouldn’t call my fingers or toes long, unlike her sister who inherited daddy’s boxy little “hobbit feet” as we lovingly refer to them, Caroline’s feet are very slender.

We were lucky to celebrate Caroline’s 2-week birthday on the 4th of July, and hosted a very, very casual get together with my family in our backyard. It was really fun and nice to celebrate with everyone and I was especially excited to be able to stage a holiday-themed weekly photo shoot. They’re a lot of work, but I’m determined to keep up with them since I gave up so early when I attempted to do them for Emilia. Fingers crossed.