Well hello there! This is my very first Swank Mom blog post. I felt compelled to create a blog after becoming a mom because I found that there is so much information out there and I wanted to make it simpler for new mamas to be able to get to all the info they need in one spot. I chose my breastfeeding story to be my very first post, because I feel like one of the biggest concerns that new mamas have about becoming a new mama is how you’re going to feed your baby.
If you are like me, you are a worrier! Worried that you aren’t going to be able to produce that miracle liquid. Some moms make it look SO easy… and some moms talk about how impossible it was for them. I didn’t know where I’d fall in that spectrum but I’m so proud to say that I figured it out, with some pretty major bumps along the road, and I look forward to sharing what I learned with you.
Now… since I’m a Digital Marketer, I know I need to break these posts down into simple and digestible bites. Here are a few links to my posts about breastfeeding, if you’d rather skip to the good stuff but continue scrolling if you want my full in-depth story:
Breastfeeding Quick Links: Swank Mom’s Favourite Resources and Tools for Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding Hurdles and How I Over Came Them
Low-Key Pumping: How to not end up with an oversupply but get out of the house once in a while while breast feeding.
If you’re up for the long haul… here’s the whole story!
My breastfeeding story begins when my cousin gave me my Medela Harmony Manual Breast Hand Pump at my baby shower. She had a successful time breastfeeding her three babies 18 years ago and knew that having a pump would be absolutely essential. It looked intimidating, I hadn’t leaked any colostrum yet and I wasn’t sure if I had the right size breast shield.
One night, after I was 32 weeks, I decided to give my pump a “go”. To my surprise I pumped out a tiny drip of colostrum. I freaked out! I was so excited. I didn’t want to induce labour so I stopped but I was so thrilled to see that little droplet.
Flash forward to me reaching my due date. I started to do some things to that were supposed to help speed things along (which did NOT work). I pumped with my hand pump and managed to get about half an ounce of colostrum. I freaked out again, stored the bottle in the fridge, and asked my mommy facebook group what I should do with it. Would I run out of colostrum now? Does this mean I will be successful at breastfeeding for sure?
I should have frozen that colostrum! I didn’t have my baby until 11 days past my due date and milk only lasts 5 days in the fridge.
It ended up being ok though! It turns out that you continue to produce colostrum until up to a few days past giving birth. I didn’t “run out” and managed to produce plenty for my baby once he was born.
Ok, so jumping back to when I did finally give birth. My baby needed to be looked at by a pediatrician directly after coming out, so I didn’t get to hold him straight away. I got myself ready, stripped off my nursing gown and said, “Hey! Can we get some skin-to-skin over here?” The doctors and nurses smiled back at me and my husband laughed because my baby was actually taking the biggest poop in the incubator. Once they made sure he was ok, and they cleaned him up a little, I was handed my beautiful baby boy. He quickly nuzzled in and tried to latch, making little grunting noises.
The nurse grabbed my boob and said, “You’ve got to make a nipple sandwich… you see?” she continued to squish my boob so my nipple came to a point and pulled it towards my baby’s mouth. She also took my other hand that was holding his head and showed me how to push my hand against his lower neck/upperback in order to get him to latch on and gulp down the colostrum.
She helped me go to the bathroom and asked, “Do you have fake boobs?” I do not. I was flattered at first, but I then found out that I have dense boobs and flat nipples and that would make for some pretty major challenges.
Thanks to a nurse’s advice at prenatal class I made sure that a Medela contact nipple shield was in my hospital bag. The hospital does not supply these, but they can be very important in contributing to how successful you are at getting started overcome the limitations of my anatomy. Despite my best attempts at making nipple sandwiches, my baby’s little mouth was having a really tough time getting hold of my nips. These shields came to our rescue and my baby happily fed throughout the night.
The next day the doctor and a resident came by to check us out. The resident had some previous lactation consultant training and showed me once again how to latch successfully without the shield and detected a slight tongue tie. The doctor said it wasn’t necessary to clip it just yet and to mention it at the next appointment if I experienced any issues because of it. My baby had lost less than 6% of his birth weight so at that point in time we were doing great.
We went home and I fed and fed but it was such a struggle in the summer heat. My baby kept falling asleep on the breast. My milk still hadn’t come it by day 4 and I called the nurse from the health unit to come in to weigh my baby. He had lost 10% of his birth weight and I was shocked! I thought we had been doing so well. The nurse sympathized that it must have been hard with all this hot weather but suggested that a bit of formula would probably be best. I had received a free sample pack from Nestle. I was devastated, and thought this was the start of my failure to achieve my dream of fully breastfeeding my baby. I sobbed and took a deep breath as my husband got the formula prepared and attached the Medela Calma nipple to the bottle.
I didn’t want to use that nipple on the bottle but it was all we had. I had read that babies learn to prefer the bottle if it’s too easy for them to drink. Sure enough, my newborn baby guzzled down the 1.5 ounces of formula in what seemed like 3 large gulps. I was shocked! My husband protested that it was fine, that the Calma nipples adapted to the baby at any age, and it was. He didn’t spit any of it up and was getting the food and hydration that he desperately needed. I had my husband go to the store and find a nipple that made it a whole lot tougher so that my baby would continue to prefer feeding from me. It turns out Medela also makes a low flow nipple but we used the Gerber brand. After my baby was finally calm and content, I knew that giving that bit of formula was the right choice. We had a good sleep that night, which I think actually contributed to me being able to relax enough to find success breastfeeding the following day.
The next day the hormones were at an all time high. My breasts were engorged to their absolute maximum and I was crying on the bathroom floor. I couldn’t figure out how to get the milk out and I called the emergency doctor-on-call in hysterics. She came to my rescue, made sure I wasn’t suicidal, and let me know that it sounded like I just needed to chill out.
I googled “How To Have a Let-Down” and found this awesome post.
I had a hot shower, massaged my boobs, smelt my baby’s hair, and practiced my yoga breathing and out came the milk. The colostrum was now a very white milk and my baby ate and ate. By the afternoon I was dripping in milk. I was pumping and topping up feeds from my Haakaa (more on what the heck that is here) and hand pump riches.
At the next doctor’s appointment, I met with a Lactation Consultant and the doctor.
Another thing that could have impacted my supply was the fact that I contracted Mastitis! The doctor and lactation consultant noticed I had a very red boob! I presumed that it was from pumping. The doctor asked if I was experiencing “flu like” symptoms. I had no idea, I was a brand new mom surviving off of very limited sleep and I was also taking Tylenol and Advil every 3 hours to deal with my post-labour pain so that probably had suppressed any fever that would have been the ultimate clue. It was very painful to feed my baby and my nipples were cracked and bleeding. The doctor gave me a prescription for antibiotics and that Mastitis was taken care of but the antibiotics did impact my supply. I continued to have nipple pain so the doctor then prescribed me Dr. Newman’s Triple Nipple Cream and I purchased some Medela Breast Shells and healed up within a couple days.
She also detected the tongue tie and recommended we clip it straight away. I realized I had never seen him stick out his little tongue and she pointed out that he had a heart shaped tongue that would add to additional challenges for him to be able to get a good latch. My baby slept through the clipping and immediately latched on after. He ate and ate. I showed her my feeding and pumping top up system and she was very impressed. She noticed he was also falling asleep rather quickly and not getting a full feed. He often fell asleep while eating so we had all sorts of tricks to keep him awake. I’d switch sides every five minutes, we set up a fan to rotate on and off of him while I fed, I’d tickle his toes and cheeks, click my tongue, and brush his hair. We’d spend a whole hour every three hours trying to get him to eat all he could.
Ethan went on to gain up to 65 grams per day. I cannot express how important it is to get your baby weighed and meet with nurses every few days to see how things are going. There were so many points in time that I could have thought I was just fine but was actually going through some very major struggles.
I slowly weened myself off of the shield, I don’t think I fully achieved this until about 6 weeks in. I’d start with it on and then try to get my baby to latch on for a bit after it seemed like he had mostly had his fill.
#SWANKMOMHACK: Tuck your shield into your bra when you’re out and about so you always have it on hand when your baby says it’s time to eat!
In conclusion here are some of my favourite tips to ensure you’re successful at breast feeding:
1. Consult professionals often and use all resources available to you.
2. Have some Tools on Hand to Help You Out.
3. Practice Relaxation Techniques.
I am so proud that I am able to tell you about my success and let you know that it does feel really good now to breastfeed my baby. If you’re fighting through those first few weeks of pain and endless feeding, know that it’s worth the struggle and that you will make it through. Until then, get all the help you deserve, eat your weight in cookies, stay hydrated, hunker down in front of Netflix, and snuggle that baby!
I recommend the following very relatable Netflix shows:
The Let Down
Ali Wong’s Comedy Specials: Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife
Did I cover everything for you? Is there another post that you’d like me to make? Let me know how I’m doing by commenting below.