(Pictures taken 5/18/15, blog written 7/16/15. Originally published with A Breastfeeding Photographic Journey)
My whole pregnancy was all about research. Even before we were trying, I was researching. Researching what would be best to do during pregnancy, and researching what would be best for baby after he’s born. I already knew that breastmilk is the most perfect meal for babies, but the books I read further enlightening me on the subject. I knew when Ellis was born that I wanted immediate skin-to-skin contact to help us start breastfeeding right away.
I was 41 weeks and 3 days pregnant when we welcomed our sweet baby boy into this world. I had an unmedicated, all-natural birth at a birthing center with my husband, midwife and doula by my side. Nothing could describe how excited I was to meet our baby. Even between pushes, I was smiling at my husband and telling him how happy I was that we would get to meet our baby soon. And when I finally did get to meet him, and he was laid on my chest, I was over-the-moon. Love at first sight! And we were eager to get him fed. It was amazing to see him latched on, knowing what to do.
Unfortunately, he had taken a breath a little too soon during delivery and got some fluid in his lungs that had to be suctioned out. It gave us a little scare, but I knew he would be OK. It did cause his blood oxygen levels to be a little low, so they had to put an oxygen mask as he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. I had to wait at the birthing center a little bit before they could release me, so my husband rode with my son. He called a little later to tell me how it was going. It was only 3 hours after birth (and I had breastfed him already), and the nurses were already trying to shove formula at us, telling my husband they needed to give him a bottle. My husband declined, knowing I would be there within the hour. Hearing the story though, I nearly strangled the nurses through the phone when I heard the word “bottle.”
I got to the hospital, and Ellis was already off oxygen and getting his numbers up on his own. I breastfed him immediately, and he nursed for more than an hour, enjoying snuggles with his mama. When I was pregnant, I heard the horror stories of moms who were unable to breastfeed, had low milk supply, babies with tongue tie or lip tie, etc. I was worried that we would face similar issues, and I feared being unable to breastfeed and having to supplement with formula. I tried everything I could to give us a conducive environment for our breastfeeding relationship. And it paid off! I am proud to say that ten weeks later, he’s 100 percent powered by breastmilk.
Breastfeeding has not been without its woes, however. I had struggles with engorgement, clogged ducts, and just a little lip tie. There were times when I fought tears through the pain while he ate. There were times when I was up at 3, 4, and 5 a.m. unable to sleep because of the pain. Then I’d turn around and have to be up doing it again running on 3-4 hours of sleep. I remember showering and contemplating, “What if I stopped breastfeeding? I wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore and have this pain.” But I knew I could get through it, because it’s what’s best for my sweet boy. And I’m glad I worked my way through it. I visited with a lactation consultant for some pointers while we were at the hospital, and I went to a latch clinic when Ellis was just 12 days old to make sure we were off to a good start. When I was pregnant I watched a 3+ hour-long DVD on breastfeeding. When I ran into troubles, I did more research to help me get through it.
Our next big hurdle was my return to work. I would be going back to work full time at 6 weeks postpartum. The date approached, and I dreaded it. I pumped a few times to start a little stash before that date. I really, really despised my breast pump. When we were trying to get labor going, they had me on the breast pump, and it made contractions more intense. It also felt so awkward. I felt like a stupid cow hooked up to this machine. Since then, my aversion to the breast pump has lessened. I no longer dread it. I got pretty used to it when I got into the habit of pumping 2-3 times every day at work. A friend of mine told me that her company let her use a white noise machine to cover up the mechanical whirring of the breast pump. I thought, “What a great idea! Then it won’t be so loud and awkward.” I didn’t have one of those machines at work, so I thought I’d just play the white noise sound on my phone. Then I thought of an even better idea and played music instead. Getting to “blast” some of my favorite songs while I pumped certainly made the time go by quicker and made it somewhat enjoyable.
I’ve also done every trick in the book to ensure a good supply: I drink three liters of water a day, eat lactation treats, have overnight oats or lactation smoothies for breakfast, use coconut oil as pumping lubricant, and I look at photos and videos of my boy while I pump (I Insta-stalk myself lol).
Today at ten weeks postpartum, I’ve started a new journey. I got the amazing opportunity to work mostly from home. With the commute and working full time, I was away from Ellis about 50 hours a week. Now I’m working 30 hours a week mostly from home, giving me about 20 hours back into my life, and I get to spend more time with Ellis instead of having to find childcare for him. I am so happy! My husband has been taking care of him while I was at work, and he hadn’t had much luck getting him to sleep for more than 30-45 minute stretches during the day. I know when I was with Ellis, I’d get him to sleep just fine and take 1-3 hour naps after I breastfed him. I love feeding him as we lay in bed, letting him fall asleep snuggled up next to me. He is such a cuddler! I am so glad I get to feed him from the breast again instead of so much pumping/bottle feeding. There is something so special about breastfeeding, and I am just so glad that I can nourish my baby with my body. It is an amazing experience!