I knew breastfeeding was going to be a huge commitment, but I don’t think I was truly prepared for how big of a commitment it really is. I already wrote about my experience with breastfeeding with my first daughter that you can find here. If you read that post then you know that I was unable to breastfeed Scarlett. It was my goal to be able to breastfeed Charley. I’ve only been at it for six weeks, but it already feels like a lifetime. This will be all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of my breastfeeding journey so far.
Charley’s delivery was so much easier than Scarlett’s and I think that was a huge positive to having my colostrum and supply come in. She latched right away and we were off. I needed a lot of help from nurses to get proper latches, but as far as I knew she was getting colostrum and doing okay, which was completely the opposite case for Scarlett. When we got home from the hospital it became very difficult for me. I was a new mom when it came to breastfeeding and I struggled immensely with getting Charley to latch, after two days my nips were already black and blue and I had a full on open wounds on both of them. It started off that I was only able to nurse on my right side and pump on my left, and when the left side healed I had to switch because my right side had a deep wound the size of a kidney bean. I had to visit the hospital multiple times to get help from our lactation specialist.
I finally felt like we were getting the hang of it after getting help. We were exclusively nursing on the left side and her latches were so good. It wasn’t until we had a weigh-in for Charley that I became completely depressed. She was born at 7 lbs. 3 oz. and she left the hospital at 6 lbs. 9 oz. At her weigh in she had lost another 3 ounces weighing in at 6 lbs. 6 oz. I told the pediatrician what we were going through and she wasn’t worried that she had lost that much weight. She scheduled another weigh-in for the next week when we came up with a better game plan. This is when I broke down completely. I had felt like I was constantly feeding that there was no way she didn’t gain all her weight back, but she only got back up to 6 lbs. 9 oz. After finding that out my pediatrician thought I didn’t have fat content to my milk so she made the decision it was time to supplement. After finding this out, when I got home I decided to pump my left side and see how many ounces I got. I didn’t even pump a half of an ounce out. So I called the lactation specialist and talked to her about what she thought was going on. She came up with the conclusion that with my breast reduction and having scar tissue, Charley is unable to pull out milk efficiently, so it killed my supply because my body didn’t think it had to make that much.
With all this happening, my right side was in a lot of pain. The open wound I had was not healing and every time I pumped, I had a strong pulling in my back. One morning I woke up with aches and pains, I thought it was the flu, because we had a couple family members who had just had it. Later that night, I was up all night with the most intense flu-like symptoms, on and off fevers, chills and cold sweats. I was crying all night and was in so much pain, at one point I thought of mastitis and looked up the symptoms. I had pretty much all of the symptoms listed so I knew it was no longer the flu, but mastitis. Devin wakes up super early for work, so instead of waking him, I sent him a text telling him I had mastitis and I knew I was going to be unable to physically take care of our children because of lack of sleep and how I felt and if he could come home ASAP from work that would be great. I woke up and felt horrible. Before the girls both woke I tried to shower and legitimately almost passed out in the shower. I called Devin and he came home immediately to take me to the doctor. It was confirmed that I had mastitis, followed by the worst 48 hours I have ever experienced.
I recovered from that in a little under a week later and now I have just been working on getting my supply back and healing my open wound (which BTDUBS is still not healed). We were supplementing Charley on formula for about a week and a half when I noticed she started to become colicky. So three days before her next weigh in I decided to stop the formula and begin feeding her from my pumped stash of milk. I felt comfortable stopping the formula, because I knew exactly how much milk she was getting. Within a day she stopped being colicky and at her next weigh-in (her monthly appointment) she had jumped completely over her birthweight and weighed in at 8 lbs. 2 oz. I almost cried. I had put so much work into getting her to a healthy weight. I wanted to quit breastfeeding so many times, but I persevered through it all. I have never worked harder at anything in my whole entire life.
Now that she is at a healthy weight, my pediatrician told me I could stop formula since I had already done so and she was at a good weight. I have built my supply back up to be able to pump a total of 4 ounces per pump. I have a good stash in both the fridge and freezer so I am prepared to keep going. After some trials, I spoke with the lactation specialist again and we figured out Charley really could not pull enough milk out so I decided to stop actually breastfeeding and pump exclusively. I still put her to my breast every once in awhile, mostly to pacify. Pumping is so much work and I am on such a schedule.
So why do this? I feel like most people would quit at this point. I honestly thought I would. But for one thing I have come this far and went through so much I am not stopping now. I actually thoroughly enjoyed breastfeeding when I was able to do it, even with bad latches. I felt so bonded with Charley. I was the only person who could feed her and it just felt so special to me. It’s so beneficial to her as well. It’s also beneficial to our wallet. But honestly, I don’t know if that’s 100% the case. I have bought SO MANY accessories to help make pumping easier on me that it has to equal a good chuck of what formula costs. Now that I am pumping exclusively, I have some positives and negatives. I have to keep on a schedule with it, pumping every 2-3 hours, which sucks. I bought a car adapter and cooler so I can actually leave my house. I always feel engorged, which I feel like actual breastfeeding mamas eventually get regulated and don’t feel uncomfortable 24/7, but I do. But the competitive side of me loves it. I always try to out-pump my last pump and break my record. I also love hearing Scarlett say “mama pumpin’ nipples” all the time.
No matter how long I keep this going I am proud of myself and when my supply does eventually die, I won’t be upset. In the end fed is best, so as long as my girl is healthy I don’t care how she gets her food, especially after my journey. I know in my heart I have done everything to keep this going for as long as possible and I am so incredibly happy for the time I got.
Things that did or didn’t help my supply:
- pumping regularly
- Body Armor sports drink (I am not 100% sure this helped, but I seemed to always get good pumps after drinking them)
- Pink Drink from Starbucks (again not 100% sure about this one)
- water, water, water
- hand expressing (this one is huge, I can get another ounce out by just hand expressing)
- “lactation foods” such as; oatmeal, lactation cookies, flax seeds, chia seeds, etc… (I tried all the foods supposedly great for lactation and never noticed a jump in supply)
*photo credit: Kaitlyn B Photography