Our nursing story

Monday, June 22, 2015

Heyro lovebugs :) 
Before we get in to a seriously in-depth conversation about das boobies, I'd like to send a belated Happy Father's Day to all the amazing papas out there!! Especially you Josh, we love you so much and seeing you with our gals makes me the happiest mama in the whole world.

Here's a few pictures from our day yesterday...

Before I continue, I'd like to make it very clear that I am in NO WAY a doctor or a nurse or a lactation consultant or an expert on breastfeeding. All of this blabber below is just my personal account and our experiences. I hope our story will help you in some way, whether emotionally or physically, with your breastfeeding journey but ALWAYS talk to your doctor or a medical professional for medical advice. 

Now for the good stuff.


.......that produce milk and keep your baby alive.


I've been wanting to post about my experiences with breastfeeding Hadley, and now Nora, for a while and am excited to share the ups and serious downs we've had. When I was preparing to have Hadley I was so curious about what other women we're going through in regards to nursing their children, so I hope this post will provide some comfort and maybe even some tips that you haven't heard of before :)

So, what can you expect while reading this? Well, for one, there will be no photos of my ginormous tits because it would probably scar you for life. And I'm pretty sure my dad reads my blog. You're welcome, dad. 
I will use phrases like "cracked nipples" and "engorged breasts" so if you feel weird about that you may want to bow out now. 
I'm also going to make this real interesting by trying to think of all the different ways to say the word BOOBIES so lets see how weird this gets.

When I was pregnant with Hadley I was pretty much in the dark about breastfeeding. None of my friends we're pregnant or had babies. Neither did my sister or my cousins. So I turned where most do.. the internet. I began reading some other blogs and some of them briefly talked about the difficulties they had with nursing their babies, so I tried to keep an open mind. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but I also didn't want it to feel like the end of the world if, for some reason, it didn't work out. 

Luckily, once Hadley was born I had very little trouble producing milk (I have the opposite problem usually.. too much!) and Hadley was able to latch on right after birth. That girl came out sucking and I later learned that was not great news for my nipples. YOUCHIES.

The first two weeks after birth were difficult and painful with both Hadley and Nora. My mammies became SUPER engorged (AKA swollen) once the milk came in. I read it's common for the breast tissue to also swell after use of epidural and other drugs during labor, which is one reason many people choose the natural route. We had trouble getting the correct latch with both Hadley and Nora so my nipples cracked and bled in the first couple of days. Couple all of this with not getting enough sleep and you get a serious mommy meltdown.

Having a baby is hard you guys. Being the only one responsible for feeding her felt even harder to me. You should be able to produce enough milk, you should be able to latch them on correctly, you should be able to provide the nutrients they need to grow and build their immune systems, you should know the different positions, know when to pump, know when not to pump, know what to eat and what not to eat, don't confuse your nipples with pacifiers and bottles and blah blah blah, MY GOD. It's a lot! And it can be really stressful.

I've heard from some women who have absolutely no trouble latching their babies from the get-go and have never suffered a plugged duct in their life, and I always envied them. But after lots of reading, meeting with a lactation consultant and just some good-ole breastfeeding soul searching.. I've learned what works for us.

As the months went on with Hadley, things continued to get harder for us. I experienced more plugged ducts than I can count, 2 bouts of mastitis (infected breast tissue) and a yeast infection on both jugs. By 5 months, I tapped out. I couldn't do it anymore and I was embarrassed whenever anyone asked if I was still breastfeeding her. I felt like a huge failure.

We bottle-fed her the rest of the frozen breastmilk we had stored up and supplemented with formula until she turned one. She had some sensitivities to regular formula (like projectile vomiting sensitivities) so we had to experiment a lot until we found one that worked. We we're worried she might have food allergies since she had so much trouble with the formula but here we are, over a year later, and she has zero allergies to speak of. She's a healthy gal, and really, that's all that matters.

When we found out we we're pregnant with Nora, I knew I wanted to take some extra steps to prepare for breastfeeding her. I really wanted it to be a more positive experience so one day I could look back and remember enjoying such a special bond with my babies instead of just all the crying I did trying to pump the clogged milk out of my boobs.

I purchased The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League to read before she was born and as soon as she was here, we had a lactation consultant come help us out at the first sign of trouble. 

I had the same issues as before... engorged knockers and cracked nipples. But this time, I was determined to be proactive about getting these titties right. I read about home remedies for engorged breasts and tried the cabbage method. After applying cold cabbage leaves to my ginormous boobs (I have a picture of this but, really, I have to draw the line somewhere), the breast tissue swelling did go down and I was able to pump out much of the stopped up milk. Talk about SWEET relief. If you don't have cabbage leaves lying around (I sent Josh to get some at 5am, true story, thanks hunni!!!!!) then use a regular cold compress to try to reduce swelling. Hot compresses can help get your milk flowing as well but I've read that too much heat for too long can tell your body to make more milk so tread carefully!

On Nora's 3rd day out in the big ole world, I switched to exclusive pumping so that I could try to heal my poor nipples and soften my ta-tas for easier latching. Even making that decision to bottle feed her that early on was hard for me because there are SO many things out there telling you what to do and what not to do. In the end, all that matters is what works for you and your baby.

 I only had to exclusively pump for a few days (thank god because pumping and cleaning all those parts that many times a day is not fun) before we we're able to see the lactation consultant and get her back on the fun bag. Even after bottle feeding and giving her pacifiers, Nora has done really well latching back on the breast so don't let all those haters scare you! You do you!!!!

We requested an at-home appointment through the Breastfeeding Center in Washington, DC and they we're able to get someone out to us within 48 hours. She was a former labor and delivery nurse who was pregnant with her 2nd child and I wanted to cry tears of joy the second I saw her. She helped Nora and I perfect our latch and showed us a couple of different positions to try. She showed me how to feed her laying back so there wouldn't be so much strain on my back and assured me she could still breathe even while her face was completely smushed into my swollen melons. Did you know newborns have smushed noses just for this purpose? HOW COOL IS THAT?

She also suggested a few other helpful things.. I had a rash on my hooters when she was visiting that she said was from the disposable breast pads I was using. She said to apply some hydrocortisone cream to the skin and switch to cloth breast pads. The rash cleared up in a few days and I love these washable nursing pads by Bamboobies. I also used to use Lansinoh lanolin nipple cream for my cracked nipples but I didn't like how thick it was when I had to use it so frequently. Our consultant suggested using coconut oil instead and it worked like a dream. Plus, it smells so good!

Once we had seen the lactation consultant, I felt much more confidant when nursing Nora and working through issues if they cropped up again. I did have to see my OB/GYN about another bout of mastitis. When I suffered the infection with Hadley, I was visiting friends in New York City and didn't even know what mastitis was. I had a 102 degree fever for a few days and felt like I wanted to die. My breast was tender to the touch and had a large red spot on it. I kept trying to pump out what felt like a clog but did not feel any relief. It finally went away on it's own and I thought that was the end of it. I had no idea I needed antibiotics from my doctor!!!! When I felt the same symptoms this time with Nora, I went straight to the doc. The antibiotics cleared it up quickly and I haven't felt that kind of pain since. 

If you do suffer plugged ducts often like I do (which can lead to an infection), I suggest a really hot shower to try and break things up. I heat the affected area under the faucet and then try to hand express the milk out while still in the shower. Check your nipple for any white spots (dried milk clogging your ducts) and if you find one, peel it off to release the milk. If you're having trouble expressing milk, lean over and let gravity help you out a little. Nurse or pump immediately afterwards to drain your gazonga. I also read about nursing on all fours while your baby lays under you on their back. This will help drain all areas of the breast. You'll feel completely ridiculous doing it but I swear it helped us!

When it comes to nursing in public, I've become much more bold with Nora than I was with Hadley. I used to really worry about people seeing my ginormous watermelon of a boob so I'd either try to hide under a nursing cover or I would bring bottles and just pump later. For one, I fuggin' hate a nursing cover. I tried to use it again with Nora and threw that thing away shortly after. It's impossible to see what you're doing down there and it just kept getting in the way, getting us both frustrated. And nothing is worse than being in a restaurant, half exposed with a screaming, starving baby fighting against your titty. It is just the worst.

I found that wearing a nursing tank with a loose shirt over top is our best bet. I can easily pull up the shirt and either put it over her head to completely cover us or just cover my breast a bit while she feeds. Button downs are also super convenient and kimonos are perfect for throwing across your shoulder for more privacy.

I also attribute feeding Hadley so many bottles while out in public instead of just nursing her to many of my plugged ducts. So instead of worrying about other people and causing myself physical pain.. I just pull out my boob ALL the time. And it feels GREAT. Many places are now providing private rooms for breastfeeding, which is awesome! There's an app you can get called Moms Pump Here which will pull up the closest private locations for pumping or breastfeeding based on your location on GPS. You can also rate and read reviews of these spaces by other moms in terms of how comfortable and accessible they are. GENIUS.

And my last piece of breastfeeding advice? If you haven't mastered the laydown position for late night feedings it is a GAME CHANGER. 

^^^Breast shields double as great megaphones

When it comes to pumping, I've used the Medela Pump in Style since we had Hadley. Honestly, I wanted to burn it after I was done nursing her. The thought of strapping that contraption back on my chest was enough to make me sob. I still use it for when we're traveling but I really prefer the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump while at home. It's so much easier to pump a few ounces here and there versus having to plug everything in with the in style. Hand-pumping definitely isn't for everyone, especially those who do big pumping sessions frequently while away from their baby, but I recommend trying it if you loathe that machine as much as I do.

For those of you who are exclusively pumping or pumping at work, I also found this handsfree bra to be much more convenient than the Medela zoro mask . It's nice because it converts into a regular bra so you don't have to change throughout the day. As for nursing bras and tanks, I LOVE the Bravado body silk nursing bra and their tank . The material is so soft and it's so comfortable I could sleep in it (and often do). The tank has clasps that are a little difficult to figure out at first but easy to do one-handed once you get the hang of it. For sleeping, I often use comfortable tanks I found at Target or these Lamaze cotton spandex bras .

If you are exclusively pumping or looking for a great app to track your milk production, I think the Milk Maid app offers the best features. You can track how much milk you've pumped, where it is being stored, set pumping reminders and alerts, track how much your baby has consumed and see statistics. If you're looking for an app to help track your baby's breastfeeding schedule, I like Baby Connect for all our baby tracking needs. You can see my whole post on our favorite pregnancy and baby apps here.

WHEWWWWW, HOLY HELL that is a lot of info!!!!
I hope this was comforting and helpful for you mamas out there who are working so hard to keep your babies fed and healthy. Whether you are breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, supplementing or exclusively using formula, just know you are the only one who knows what is best for you and your baby and we all just gotta do the best we can!

In the end, they all end up pooping in our tubs, throwing tantrums and loving us just the same :)

PS - there's a song about 99 ways to say boobs. Who knew?!
PPS - thank you, Urban Dictionary, for supplementing my boob synonyms. I forgot how wonderful it is to call them "fun bags".

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